Addressing Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Workplace
Experts and commentators now predict that the coronavirus will spread throughout our state and nation. Employers stand at the forefront of efforts to contain the illness.
The United States Department of Labor has issued several alerts and advisories to guide Employers. These can be found at:
- General Information on workplace issues: COVID-19, including useful “Medical Information” about the virus and “Control and Prevention” information including industry-specific links.
- Comprehensive OSHA “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”
- Prevent Worker Exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- COVID-19 and the FMLA
- Fair Labor Standards Act COVID-19 Q&As
A few key points in connection with the above authorities include:
- The OSHA “general duty” clause, as a reminder, requires the employer to provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
- Consider limiting the opportunities for at-work contacts involving large groups of workers or where “social distancing” is not feasible.
- Workers who contract coronavirus or must remain at home to care for a covered family member who is incapacitated are FMLA eligible provided they meet normal eligibility criteria.
- Workers are not entitled to FMLA leave to avoid exposure.
- Educate your workers about personal hygiene, safe work practices and other safety measures.
- Consider issuance of personal protective equipment.
- Provide sanitizers and supplies near all work stations.
- Encourage use of sick leave and isolate and send home workers who exhibit symptoms while at work.
- Be cautious not to violate other anti-discrimination provisions in selecting workers for lay-off or similar work reductions.
Fraser Trebilcock expects that given the unprecedented scope of the challenge, employers who seek to limit situations where the virus may be spread will be less likely to have those proactive decisions second-guessed than employers where modest or no action is taken.
Due to the scope of the impact of the health and employment issues, and individual workplace circumstances, we urge you to consult your Fraser Trebilcock Law Firm Employment Lawyer for specific advice.
Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Dave Houston has over 40 years of experience representing employers in planning, counseling, and litigating virtually all employment claims and disputes including labor relations (NLRB and MERC), wage and overtime, and employment discrimination, and negotiation of union contracts. He has authored numerous publications regarding employment issues. You can reach him at 517.377.0855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.