If you do this over the holidays, you could actually get fired

The holiday season is here and with Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start planning your trip back home to celebrate with families.

Of course, this year is going to be different. The coronavirus pandemic has discouraged unessential traveling due to the spread of the virus. Cities like New York City are flirting with the possibility of another shutdown, with indoor dining curbed earlier this week.

While the holiday season can sometimes pack in a little bit of needed cheer at the end of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to get in the spirit of the season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages small family gatherings or holding a virtual celebration with guests. That means celebrating with people in your household, which excludes college students returning home from campus or others leaving the city to visit their parents.

Can workers get in trouble for holiday travels?

For workers, it’s a tricky landscape to navigate when considering if it’s worth visiting home, not just from a personal safety standpoint but also job safety. Could you boss actually tell you to cancel your upcoming trip home or even fire you?

It’s up for discussion.

In Florida, where employment is at will, employees could be fired for any reason as long as it doesn’t violate contract, civil rights or anti-discrimination laws. As WFLA reported, that means if your company has laid out a policy regarding coronavirus travel, it means you could be fired if you don’t follow the company police.

Employment attorney Terin Cremer told the outlet that it depends on the work situation, but ultimately a company holds power to prohibit you from traveling during the pandemic.

Here’s a snippet of the conversation, via WFLA:

“They could of course say, no it’s not approved anymore because we’re concerned in traveling home, you’re going to bring back COVID,” said Cremer.

Your employer can ask to be notified if you are going to be traveling.

“Can they tell you, you cannot travel?” asked investigator Mahsa Saeidi.

“They can’t tell you not to travel, but they can say that they will not allow people who travel to return to work,” said Cremer.

If that makes you do a double-take about your holiday travels, rest assured: for the most part, you’re OK to travel within the US and elsewhere during the pandemic.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, wrote a column for USA Today back in October answering a question about employee travel during the pandemic. In his response, Taylor echoed that an employer could establish “firm safety policies and protocols” within the workplace that would require employees to self-quarantine after traveling elsewhere or notifying the employer of travel plans.

He says employers cannot prohibit employees from traveling.

“You can – and should – encourage employees to remain cautious and mindful while traveling. It could be a simple reminder, or, you could go so far as to advise against nonessential travel to known COVID-19 hotspots. After all, it’s not just about this one employee, but the rest of the company and perhaps your clients, too,” he said.