If a co-worker tests positive for coronavirus, can you refuse to go to work?

Every day across the nation and here in Idaho, new cases of COVID-19 are reported, and while those individuals are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days, what does that mean for the people who work with them? 
“The devil's in the details and it depends on the situation,” said Dan Williams, a partner at Jones Williams, Fuhrman Gourley Law Firm.
Williams specializes in employment law. He said the employer needs to have a policy in place to deal with that scenario before it happens. 
“The key really is the communication between the employees and employers about what should happen if that situation arises, but there's no automatic right to refuse to show up to work simply because someone has symptoms or are worried about possible exposure,” Williams said. 
He added that, from a legal standpoint, an employer would have the right to fire a worker if they failed to show up for work.
“Just because of the circumstance each individual is not suddenly their own CDC and their own workplace enforcement agent, you have to work with your employer to make sure things are done safely, but also reasonably so work can get done,” Williams said.

KTVB also reached out to Grady Hepworth, a junior partner, at the Hepworth law firm.
“Employment law in Idaho is a really difficult industry because it is an at-will employment state and in most cases, an employer has a lot of rights to do and run their business as they would like,” Hepworth said. 
He explained that an employer’s right to fire someone not only depends on the situation but also the industry the employee works in, as well as the size of the company.
“An employee that works for the city, state, or local municipality is going to have different rights from an employee working in the private sector for an employee that has 500 employees,” Hepworth said. “We in the legal community are just doing our best to keep up with the shifting laws that are being enacted on a weekly, monthly basis.” 
Something echoed by Williams. 
“It's an evolving, somewhat murky area,” Williams said.“Before you get to rights and lawsuits and lawyers, I recommend that people sit down and have an action plan that's reasonable, makes sense and based on science.”  
Both legal experts stress the importance of communication between the employer and the employees when it comes to this subject matter.
When in doubt, check out CDC guidelines, which provide a road map for employees and employers.

Hepworth told KTVB, the law firm also offers free telephone consultations if anyone has a question.
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