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COVID-19 AT WORK—RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES

Covid 19 - Workplace

My employee has exhibited signs of Covid-19, has been around others who have, or has tested positive for COVID-19—Now What?

As the House re-sends a slightly re-tooled emergency COVID-19 Bill to the Senate, many Employers are left wondering, “How do I deal with employees in the workplace who have come in contact with a COVID-19 person, who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19.”

First of all, please remember that your Human Resource Department along with frontline Supervisors, Managers and the like should re-familiarize themselves with the company’s plans and policies concerning PTO, sick pay, vacation time or any company benefits impacted. While, as of the writing of this article, the nation has no federally required emergency amended FMLA, paid sick leave or other time off, a company may want to implement its own emergency plan to address employees being absent from work. This may include relaxing parameters for how and when employees may use the existing company provided benefits. For example:

  • In Arizona, employees under the state mandated paid sick leave may not be able to use such sick leave until their 91st day of employment. Perhaps the employer may want to relax this requirement in an effort to persuade new employees, who may feel financial pressure to keep working, to stay home.
  • If your company policy for vacation time allows it to be used only for vacation and not sick time, perhaps you decide to make an allowance in this environment that any time off accrued can run afoul for what it was originally intended.

These are just but two examples of how companies can incentivize employees and build morale, within its own company issued benefits to keep employees at home and its workplace healthier in this unprecedented time.

But what does a company do if an employee suddenly falls ill [who has been at work] or informs you that he/she may have come in contact with a COVID-19 infected person or, tested positive for COVID-19? A company may want to consider any or all of the steps below:

  1. Instruct that employee to stay home for at least the recommended quarantined time of 14 days and encourage them to contact a qualified health professional
  2. Ask the employee when he or she first noticed symptoms
  3. Determine an approximate window prior to the first noticed symptoms identified in #2: a 14-15 day window prior to the date the employee indicated any “first” symptoms.
  4. Ask the employee to recall his or her movements at the company from the date the window in #3 establishes to the date he or she was mandated to stay at home by the company. Those areas of the company should be disinfected.
  5. Ask the employee to recall employees and/or clients he or she may have come in contact with from the date the window in #3 establishes to the date he or she was mandated to stay at home by the company.
  6. Contact the employees identified in response to #5 WITHOUT DISCLOSING THE INFECTED EMPLOYEE’S NAME. Advise them of the situation and have them stay home for a 14 day self- quarantine as well as encourage them to reach out to a health care provider to be tested.

To the extent possible, and if not already considered, all employees that have the capability to work from home, should be working from home in this type of environment. Also remember clear, concise and open communication to calm the workplace is needed.

Guest Blog Editor:  Spognardi Baiocchi LLP, is a law firm dedicated to partnering with companies of all sizes to find solutions for labor, employment, human resources, and general business needs.  www.psb-attorneys.com.

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