A pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of individuals. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected individuals is not a pandemic.
At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the world observed the disastrous trajectory of the Sars-Cov-2 Coronavirus, which infected thousands of people in the city of Wuhan, China, and spread to several provinces in that country, and then around the world.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Health published, on February 3, 2020, Ordinance no. 188/2020, which declared a Public Health Emergency of National Importance, due to Human Infection by the new Coronavirus.
On February 6, 2020, Law no. 13.979/2020 was published, containing measures for countering the ESPIN, due to the outbreak of the virus. The Law has suffered subsequent changes.
On March 11, 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the existence of a pandemic, resulting from COVID-19, motivating the Brazilian National Congress to establish a state of calamity, until December 31, 2020, through Legislative Decree no. 6/2020. A series of Provisional Measures were issued in order to counter the pandemic.
One of the MPs was no. 936, converted, on July 6, 2020, into Law no. 14.020/2020, which created the so-called Emergency Program for the Maintenance of Employment and Income, and provided, in article 1, for complementary measures to combat the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.
When MP no. 936 was converted into Law 14.020, article 17 was introduced, which prohibits the unjustified dismissal of disabled persons while the state of calamity persists. This category of employees was not singled out in the texts of the MP or of Law 13.979/2020 and its subsequent amendments.
It is an undoubted fact that persons with disabilities deserve differential treatment, in order to provide them with protection and ensure their inclusion in society and in the job market, as in Law no. 8.213/91, which provides for the mandatory hiring of these persons, pursuant to a pre-established quota.
Note that the social security legislation imposed, on a permanent basis, an obligation on the employer to hire a certain number of persons with disabilities, unlike article 17 of Law no. 10.020/2020, which guarantees protection to this group of employees only for the duration of the state of calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the state of calamity, which is the subject of Legislative Decree no. 06/2020, was not extended by the National Congress and, furthermore, Justice Ricardo Lewandowski of the Federal Supreme Court, when hearing Direct Unconstitutionality Action no. 6.625 MC/DF, maintained the validity of a number of articles of Law no. 13.979/20, but made no reference to the provision dealing with persons with disabilities. From this standpoint, there would be no question of stability of employment for this category of employees.
On the other hand, termination, on December 31, 2020, of the validity of Legislative Decree no. 6/2020, to which Law no. 13.979/20 is linked, unfortunately did not put an end to the state of calamity and the hardship imposed by the Sars-Cov-2 Coronavirus, reported on a daily basis by all the media. On the contrary, Brazil still faces great difficulties in combating COVID-19, which takes the lives of hundreds of people every day, and incapacitates many others.
This fact was stressed by Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, in the decision rendered in ADI no. 6.625 MC/DF. He considered that it was prudent and advisable that the exceptional measures contained in Law no. 13.979/2020 be maintained to combat the pandemic. The STF also ruled that the States may, through their Legislative Assemblies, decree the maintenance of the state of public calamity, as done by Minas Gerais, Paraná and Tocantins, besides several Brazilian municipalities.
Another question comes up. In view of the state and/or municipal decrees, which extend the state of public calamity, is it possible to maintain the employment of persons with disabilities, as provided for in item V, article 17, of Law no. 10.020/2020.
The exclusive competence of the Federal Government to legislate on Labour Law, provided for in art. 22, I, of the Constitution of 1988, prevents state or municipal governments from doing so. However, in this specific case, the federal law exists and may be applied, in theory, since the state of calamity remains.
The discussion on the subject is still far from over, and, little by little, lawsuits are reaching the Courts seeking the reinstatement of persons with disabilities dismissed after the enactment of Law no. 10.020/2020.
We suggest caution, therefore, when dealing with this issue, taking care to verify possible collective rules issued during this period and that may have regulated the matter in a similar or even wider manner than the law under comment.