The coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across 16 states in the U.S. with at least 150 confirmed cases and eleven deaths. The spreading epidemic is a wake-up call for employers to review their current policies and procedures in place to protect employees from infectious diseases in the workplace. Here are four things all employers should do immediately to prepare for and respond to the spread of the coronavirus.
1. Protect employees from exposure.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that employers take several steps to control employees’ exposure to the coronavirus. These steps include frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, routinely cleaning commonly touched surfaces, shielding coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow, or shoulder, and encouraging employees to stay home or leave work if they have symptoms of the virus. Symptoms
2. Review and update PTO and sick leave policies.
The spread of the coronavirus also presents an opportunity for employers to revisit their existing sick leave and paid time off (PTO) policies. Such policies are critically important in a pandemic because they reduce potential exposure and spread of the virus at work by allowing employees to take off without fear of being penalized. It is also essential to review leave policies to ensure they are consistent with federal, state, and local law. Employees suffering from the coronavirus may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave under the FMLA. A temporary non-chronic illness like the coronavirus is not a disability under the ADA; however, the ADA
3. Maximize employees’ ability to work remotely.
Another way for employers to combat the spread of the coronavirus is to adopt policies permitting employees to work remotely or telecommute.
4. Creating an infectious disease outbreak response plan.
For questions or additional guidance about how employers should respond to the spread of the coronavirus, please contact one of the listed Roetzel attorneys.View PDF