Businesses have been operating under the unprecedented conditions resulting from COVID-19 for the last ten weeks. Now, businesses have the added challenge of charting their course through reopening and sifting through new federal laws, state and local executive orders, CDC and OSHA guidance, landlord requirements, and the added threat of legal risk. The only certainty in this challenging process is that it will be uncertain.
Despite this uncertainty, there are steps that every employer can take to provide not only structure for the gradual reopening process but to reduce risk. Although businesses will need to customize and adapt procedures and policies to their specific workplace and location, all employers should consider implementing the following:
- COVID-19 specific Employment Policies. Employers will likely need to modify existing employment policies, provide temporary changes to existing policies, and adopt new policies to best fit operations in the time of COVID-19. This functions as an extension of the employee handbook specifically in response to COVID-19. Most importantly, this document should include instructions as to the steps employees should take in response to the different risks of contracting COVID-19. For example, the policy should explain what employees should do, who they should contact, and how access will be restricted when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, has symptoms, comes into close contact with someone who has tested positive, etc.
- Operating Policies. This is perhaps the most important document for employers since it is critical that employers adopt rules and guidelines for their workplaces that are compliant with the law, provide for the safety of employees, and permit the business to take steps towards more robust operations. This can be combined with the Employment Policies in one document that employees should receive and acknowledge.
- Remote Work Policy. If employees are working remotely, employers should have a policy in place that addresses both the employment and technical aspects of remote work. This policy should also make clear that, at least in part, it is specific to the current crisis. For example, eligibility to remote work may be specific to a current phase of a reopening plan.
- Employee Access Questionnaire. Employers should take reasonable steps to guard against the risk that employees with COVID-19 are entering the physical workplace. While some employers may elect to scan temperatures upon entry, at a minimum, employers should require employees to answer screening questions every day that they come to the workplace that can be used to limit access. Employers should also implement procedures for securing these documents.
- Visitor Access Questionnaire. Likewise, businesses should take steps to mitigate the risk that visitors to the workplace may expose employees to COVID-19. Businesses should require visitors to complete a screening that will allow the business to limit access. Again, these documents should be maintained consistent with the law.
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) Leave Request Form. If a business is subject to the FFCRA, in addition to including an FFCRA policy in its Employment Policies, it should also have a form available so that its employees can request the paid leave. This form should also require the employee to provide the information needed for the employer to obtain reimbursement from the federal government.
While not necessarily exhaustive or applicable in all cases, implementing these policies will not only provide a framework for addressing and responding to the myriad COVID-19 issues but will also help businesses reduce their risks.
Join labor and employment attorneys Russell Berger and Sarah Sawyer as they discuss what specific policies businesses should implement while operating in the pandemic.
ABOUT RUSSELL BERGER
As an accomplished labor and employment attorney and Practice Group Director, Mr. Berger provides business counsel to employers on employee matters and is well-versed in litigating in both state and federal courts. Russell Berger is the trusted legal counsel every business owner needs to feel confident in their decision-making and secure with their assets. As a Practice Group Director at Offit Kurman, Mr. Berger has direct experience with managing other managers, which he draws from in advising his clients. He is a pragmatic problem-solver that works efficiently and tirelessly to present his clients the best possible solutions to their most complicated issues. He represents employers, businesses, and professionals in employment disputes across the nation.
ABOUT SARAH SAWYER
As an experienced business advisor and litigator, Sarah works with business owners to implement policies and practices that keep their businesses running smoothly, helps them avoid expensive legal battles, and fights for them when litigation arises. Sarah focuses her practice on providing her clients with general business advice, drafting and analyzing employment documents ranging from employment agreements and severance agreements to employee handbooks, and litigating all aspects of general civil and commercial disputes.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the United States. With 14 offices in seven states, and the District of Columbia, and growing by 50% in two years through expansions in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, Offit Kurman is well-positioned to meet the legal needs of dynamic businesses and the individuals who own and operate them. For over 30 years, we’ve represented privately held companies and families of wealth throughout their business life cycles.
Whatever and wherever your industry, Offit Kurman is the better way to protect your business, preserve your family’s wealth, and resolve your most challenging legal conflicts. At Offit Kurman, we distinguish ourselves by the quality and breadth of our legal services—as well as our unique operational structure, which encourages a culture of collaboration and entrepreneurialism. The same approach that makes our firm attractive to legal practitioners also gives clients access to experienced counsel in every area of the law.
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