COVID-19 Legal Resources

woman putting paperwork into box, a protective mask is down around her neck

Learn about key federal workplace laws protecting social workers during the current pandemic. Many of these laws have a state-law corollary, and certain areas, such as workers’ compensation and unemployment coverage, are primarily governed by state rather than federal law.

This information was prepared at the request of NASW and its Ohio Chapter by Jonathan Wentz, Esq. and Sarah Ingles, Esq., attorneys at the law firm of Barkan Meizlish, LLP.

Workers' Rights During COVID-19

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment law is primarily state-based, so individuals will need to review the unemployment provisions in their own state to determine eligibility. However, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, provides enhancements to state unemployment benefits, if the state has entered into an implementing agreement with the federal government. 

Worker's Compensation

Worker’s compensation law is primarily state-based, although most jurisdictions share certain common elements. The information below is general in nature and may not apply in every jurisdiction. Individuals must review the provisions in their own state to determine whether and to what extent this information is applicable to them. 

Sick and Family Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires that employers with less than 500 employees provide two weeks (10 workdays) of emergency paid sick leave. However, employers with less than 50 workers may opt out, with Department of Labor (DOL) approval, if the sick leave payments “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” In other words, if the employer fears that paying the benefit would help drive it out of business, then it is exempt.  

Health Insurance

Learn about furlough, what happens if a social worker is quarantined or contracts COVID-19, COBRA Insurance during lay-off and special enrollment on federal exchange. 

Occupational Health Rights

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) provides a measure of protection for refusing to work in hazardous conditions.


The information in this website is provided as a service to members and the social work community for educational and information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice . We provide timely information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. Its transmission is not intended to and does not create a lawyer-client relationship between NASW or the authors, and you. You should not act based solely on the information provided in this website. Laws and court interpretations change frequently, and applicable state laws are not addressed. Legal advice must be tailored to specific facts and circumstances. Nothing reported here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Telemental Health: Legal Considerations

With telemental health, social workers must make sure they are practicing legally and ethically; following state licensure regulations; and adhering to state and federal practice guidelines and payer contract agreements.

Learn about telemental health legal considerations

COVID-19 and Immigrant Workers

AFL-CIO provides a summary of where things stand for immigrant workers with the federal COVID-19 response, and identifies priority issues to address in ongoing state and federal negotiations.

Read the AFL-CIO fact sheet