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Guidance During COVID-19 Pandemic

We all want to keep illness out of the workplace for the sake of all of us! In these times of illness and uncertainty, employers want to stay on the right side of the law, and employees want to know what to expect as the situation unfolds. I thought that a collection of employer-specific resources prepared by several government agencies enmeshed in key aspects of the workplace would be helpful. I, personally, love having resources handed to me in a nice little collection, and I hope you find this assemblage useful.

Let’s start with the EEOC, which has issued guidance for dealing with COVID-19 and other similar illnesses in the context of ADA compliance. The EEOC has provided Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

OSHA has put up a web page dealing with COVID-19 issues and has issued Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. The OSHA resources also provide industry-specific advice because one-size does not necessarily fit all where different risks factors exist.

As we all know, dealing with time off due to illness can become a compensation puzzle, too. The DOL Wage and Hour Division has issued two helpful resources: COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Fair Labor Standards Act Questions and Answers and COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are full of little twists and turns, so these guides are good starting points.

The CDC has also issued suggestions for businesses that provide useful information and ideas. Take a look at these resources: here, here, here, and here.

From a practical standpoint, here are several important, proactive subjects to consider right now:

  1. How can you best to encourage ill employees to self-identify and stay home?

  2. If you suspect someone is really sick – no, not “just allergies” – what can you permissibly ask and do?

  3. Is remote work for healthy employees feasible?

  4. Should you curtail travel? Cancel participation in large gatherings?

  5. Is there value for you in creating policies allowing more paid sick leave for ill or quarantined employees? More unpaid leave? Will you relax absenteeism standards to accommodate periods of illness or quarantine?

  6. Do you have a few employees who really do need serious lessons in hand washing and covering their noses and mouths if they feel a sneeze coming on? Nasty Ned’s coughing into his hand and then using the community copier and office coffee carafe can no longer merit just eye rolls. (Stop Nasty Ned now!)

  7. Do you need strategies mapped out for our employees to use in dealing with sick clients/customers?

  8. Let’s hope you don’t need them, but should you develop lay-off plans? Plans for reduced work hours?

If you need assistance preparing employee notices, updating inadequate sick leave and absence policies, or deciding how to handle perplexing issues relating to compensation, accommodation, or FMLA, please contact me or another friendly employment lawyer. Doing things right the first time can spare you a headache (or other illness!) down the line.


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