With experts indicating the inevitable spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) across the United States, many employers want to know how they can best prepare their workplaces.
1) Make a plan before before you need a plan.
Decisions made in haste can expose companies to liability. A reasoned, fact-based, plan will help your company navigate the outbreak.
- Develop a business continuity plan for use in the event of mandatory closures or local infections.
- Identify key business functions and personnel and plan for how the company will continue to operate during a closure.
- Consider your crisis communication plan and ensure that information can be communicated quickly to your employees.
2) Review your existing sick leave and remote work policies.
- Consider whether your organization is able to expand remote work options.
- Under New Jersey and New York City paid sick leave laws, the closure of a business or a child’s school is a permissible reason to use paid sick leave.
3) If you’re sick, stay home!
- Emphasize the availability of sick leave to your employees.
- Encourage employees who are under the weather to stay home.
4) Post and circulate information on proper hand-washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and other preventative measures.
- The Centers for Disease Control have issued guidance relating to the prevention of COVID-19 and proper handwashing.
- Consider limiting non-essential business travel during the outbreak to minimize potential exposure to employees.
5) Be mindful of state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
- Avoid making decisions based on an individual’s race, nationality, or other protected status.
- Remember that employees’ medical information must remain strictly confidential.
- If you have questions about any specific situation that may arise, consult with counsel.
6) Furloughs or Layoffs.
- If layoffs or furloughs become necessary, you should consult with counsel to ensure that those decisions are made and implemented in a manner that complies with all applicable state and federal laws, and regulations.