Protecting Your Business’s Employees, Relationships, Operations and Value.
During the unprecedented outbreak, all California Businesses should evaluate their readiness for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Company's are also challenged with adapting to rapidly changing Laws, complying with evolving Workplace Rules, following Medical Privacy Regulations and preserving relationships with customers and suppliers. Company's should also evaluate their Business Interruption coverage, Savings Clauses (exceptions and defenses to performance) in Contracts--and Strike a Balance between Employee Safety and Preservation of the Company’s Viability and Value. A COVID-Business Checkup is the right prescription.
Work-From-Home, Sick Leave and Telecommuting Policies.
This is the time to review and revise Workplace Policies to comply with new/evolving Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and State, Federal and Local Laws. New Workplace Policies should be distributed to employees right away. The New Policies should address Stay-At-Home Policy for Employees exhibiting Flu-Like Symptoms, use of Paid-Time-Off, accrual of Paid-Sick Leave (minimum of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked), and flexible Telecommuting/Work From Home alternatives when appropriate and Social Distancing at all times. To protect your Company, it is essential to carefully implement Work-From-Home (WFH) arrangements and comply with Wage and Hour Laws, Employment Benefit Rules, Medial Privacy and Data Security rules.
WFH arrangements should include guidelines to motivate productivity and ensure legal compliance including:
● Minimize Distractions.
● Dedicate Ergonomic Workplace.
● Adopt Saas Platforms to integrate/manage workflow, e-mail, IM and video conferencing
● Regular Communications
● Monitor Wage and Hour Law Compliance Including Time, Meal and Rest Reporting.
Medical Privacy Compliance
Though employers may wish to check-in on the well being of their employees, they must be careful to respect their medical privacy, which may include compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), California Constitution, HIPAA, and/or relevant state and local laws. These laws restrict employers from inquiring about their employees’ medical history, specific medical conditions, and sharing an individual’s confidential medical information.
The EEOC provides guidelines for Employers for an Influenza Pandemic. The Guidelines include:
● Send employees home with “Flu-like symptoms” (ie fever or chills AND a cough or sore throat)
● Ask employees about Flu-like symptoms, or if Returning from Travel through CDC identified “At-Risk Area”
● Treat all medical information confidential, separate from personnel files
● Comply with EEO, CDC, and HIPAA guidelines for Employee Medical Information
● Limit inquiries to the extent practical and keep medical information confidential.
● If Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19, should notify CDC and other employees.
Avoid Discriminatory Application of Policies
As a starting point, Company's should circulate updated Workplace Policies that includes reminders of the Company’s stand against harassment and discriminatory policies. Document, investigation and address discrimination or harassment complaints. Document all inquiries (and responses) made to employees regarding Symptoms or Travel to At-Risk Areas. Consistently apply any policies Company-wide. In Operational Shut-Down becomes necessary, make sure to Compensate Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees Correctly. For Exempt Employees, continue compensation unless their work stopes for an entire workweek. For Non-Exempt Employees, hourly workers are paid for time worked only, at least a one-half day.