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Publication Details

Labor & Employment News: May 2020

by A. Jack Finklea, James H. Hanson, Sara L. Pettinger, David D. Robinson, Donald J. Vogel

May 29, 2020

As government shutdown orders begin to ease, and as employees are invited back into the workplace, employers need to give careful thought to a wide variety of employment issues that are sure to arise. To aid these considerations, we urge employers to take advantage of business resources and recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and state and federal OSHA offices, as well as guidelines and orders issued by state and local governments. In addition to those resources, we believe the following may serve as a useful starting point for your return-to-work planning:

Who will be returning? 

As employers consider the possibility of staggered returns, they must give thought to a strategy for handling the differing employee attitudes regarding a return. This will likely require employers to consider: the possible relaxing of attendance requirements for a period of time; the possible need to accommodate employees with underlying health conditions; the possible application of paid sick leave or paid family leave benefits under company policy or under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Also, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued guidance making clear that discrimination liability could result from prohibiting or restricting employees from returning to work based on age or an underlying health condition.  

Develop and Publish a Comprehensive Plan

Given the myriad issues involved with a re-opening, employers should develop a comprehensive plan to ensure uniform messaging on the expectations of everyone in this unique environment.

Screening Procedures

Returning employees should be required to participate in a daily screening procedure involving body temperature checks and questions regarding symptoms. At least in the short-term, body temperature checks continue to be permissible.

Cleaning and Social Distancing Protocols

In a sense, the return-to-work stage places employers back at the point immediately before shutdown orders went into effect – when we first began focusing on personal hygiene, surface disinfection, and distancing. Those cleaning efforts should be intensified now and the distancing requirements more strictly enforced.

As mentioned above, there are a number of resources that may be helpful in the development of a comprehensive return to work plan. Along these lines, the Firm has developed a detailed infectious disease protocol to assist clients in navigating this next stage of the COVID-19 response. 

If we can be of assistance in your preparations, please feel free to contact Jim HansonDavid RobinsonJack FinkleaDon Vogel, or Sari Pettinger.