Employment and Labor Laws in the Coronavirus Crisis- Is Your Business Ready?

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has brought workplace safety, employee accommodation, business security, and wage & hour tracking issues to the forefront for many companies. To avoid serious legal challenges and liability, businesses have to be aware of several factors.

According to Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney Esq., an attorney and labor law expert, these are the most important factors for business owners.

Addressing Workplace Safety Concerns

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As always, keeping a healthy and safe workspace has remained a priority for all employers, but this has become more difficult in many industries as exposure to COVID-19 may seem unavoidable. In most cases, wherever it is safe for businesses to be open, following the most recent safety protocols and precautions and holding the highest standards is the best way to keep employees safe.

In order to minimize risk of exposure among employees, employers should make their best effort to completely follow CDC, OSHA, and state guidelines wherever available. Providing employee safety training and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) may also be a worthwhile investment. Businesses that implement these safeguards and policies will have a very strong defense against the transmission of the virus, and will also reduce potential legal liability.

Watching Out for Hourly-Wage Issues

As the use of remote work has increased because of the coronavirus, unusual new liability issues and consequences have become commonplace. In order to avoid liability, hourly and nonexempt employee’s hours should be carefully recorded, including any time where an employee is working after business hours. Even seemingly trivial tasks such as answering phone calls and responding to emails should be kept track of.

Accommodating Your High-Risk Employees

It is also very important to accommodate any workers that may be at higher risk (or inherently more vulnerable) to COVID-19. Employees with underlying conditions, especially those that are recognized by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or other laws, may have special protections legally when it comes to the provision of reasonable accommodations.

It may be your businesses responsibility to engage with any at-risk employee about making reasonable accommodations, such as providing PPE, offering a remote work position, or even possibly a leave of absence for some cases. Your company could be liability if there is no recorded engagement with the employee, or if no reasonable accommodations are made.

Managing Employees Working Remotely from Home

It is important to consider that employees working from home are still covered by general Worker’s Compensations policies. Employees working remotely that are using their own devices, internet service, and phone plans may warrant reimbursement for some or all of those costs, in cases where these tools and services are an essential requirement for their work. Additionally, for the greatest control and coverage of employee hardware, some companies may consider providing separate work computers and cell phones that can have data backup and access monitoring software installed.