Employers are scrambling to determine what they should be doing now to prepare for the very frightening and growing threat of the coronavirus.
And that massive challenge comes at the same time as this influenza season, which is well on its way to being the worst in a decade.
The impact of these viral illnesses will ripple through every workplace, regardless of location or industry, cautions veteran labor and employment attorney Dr. Jim Castagnera.
Employers are taking a serious look at how they can keep their businesses operating and protect employees.
And, with state and federal government agencies telling most employees to stay at home, the number of people working remotely is exploding, raising policy issues and potentially creating very real employment law concerns.
Coronavirus and compliance issues
Potential compliance issues include:
- Permitted employer actions under the ADA, FMLA, Title VII and other federal and state statutes and regulations
- The important ADA concepts of “disability-related inquiries,” “medical examinations,” “direct threat,” “undue hardship, and other similar terms
- Leave policies and FMLA requirements
- Acceptable teleworking arrangements to protect employees
Taking effective action will require advanced planning and strategic management decisions, according to Castagnera.
And, while these are clearly extraordinary circumstances, many of the issues raised or exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic will reverberate long after things begin returning to normal, said Castagnera.
COVID-19 workplace questions
For example, employers need to understand what they can ask a worker who calls in sick during this crisis.
Are you allowed to check temperature and send employees home if they show symptoms of COVID-19 or other influenzas?
Similarly, it isn’t completely clear if you’ll be able to demand a doctor’s certification for an employee before they can return to work after contracting COVID-19.
Meanwhile, OSHA is telling employers they must track any COVID-19 infections confirmed to have occurred in the workplace and employers may be on the hook for workers’ compensation related to the illness.
And some experts are even pondering whether employers need to immediately update job descriptions to accommodate the new remote work reality.
For more compliance information
The Premier Learning Solutions webinar, Coronavirus & Influenza: Obligations Under FMLA, ADA, Title VII & More, on Tuesday, March 31 at 1 PM, provides the answers you need to these urgent questions.
Please join Dr. Jim Castagnera, labor and employment attorney with 36 years of experience, as he explains what employee-related actions the ADA, FMLA, and other relevant federal regulations permit employers to take before, during, and in the aftermath of an outbreak.
Join Premier Learning Solutions for these additional workshops:
Coronavirus & Remote Work: Pivoting from Bricks to Clicks, on Monday, March 30 at 1 PM. Join internationally-recognized business consultant Michelle Coussens to get tools and information to help your organization make the leap from having employees work in the office to working remotely from home – while minimizing downtime and anxiety and maximizing productivity.
Coronavirus in the Workplace: Employers’ Duty to Protect Employees, available on demand. Join Adele L. Abrams, Esq., a nationally recognized authority on Occupational Safety and Health law for this 60-minute program explaining what OSHA requires from employers, and steps you can take to protect workers.