Protecting Employers Since 1985

Covid-19 and Refusal to Work

We are receiving phone calls with increasing regularity asking about a variety of issues generally described as refusals to work. Most frequently these scenarios involve talk, but sometimes outright threats to walk off the job. There are a whole host of fact patterns here which impact a legal analysis.

Is there a union contract? Is it an individual or a group? What are the issues being raised? The general rule is that with a union contract, a no-strike provision will most likely make a walk out illegal. In a non-union environment, it is not protected, concerted activity unless more than one person is involved. Yet to be determined, of course, is how the current national emergency might play into this. So, you can see that a legal analysis is quite dependent on the specific facts of each situation. But, the reality is that a legal analysis or lawsuits generally are not the route an employer wants to go. Most businesses see legal action as a last resort and are far more interested in practical solutions and preventive measures. Here are some thoughts.

  • Be up to speed on various governmental guidelines on safety, sanitation, social distancing, etc.
  • Have some sort of an employee engagement plan. Regular communication is critical. Exactly how you handle this should be in keeping with your corporate culture.
  • Top management should be visible on the production floor.
  • Be empathetic and flexible. The best advice is to avoid being defensive. Don’t lecture. Listen and take employee concerns seriously. By all means, don’t argue.
  • Suggestion boxes are regularly seen as a good method of communication.
  • Respond to concerns promptly.
  • Train your front line supervisors in how you want employee concerns to be handled.

Give us a call if you want to discuss specific situations. Contact attorney Richard Wessels in our St. Charles office at (630) 377-1554 or by email at

COVID-19 Resources

Stay up-to-date about developments in the Midwest


Contact us at any of our four Midwest locations

Schedule your confidential consultation

Contact Wessels Sherman if you would like to speak with one of our experienced labor and workplace attorneys, contact any of our four office locations and schedule a consultation.