EMPLOYER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HANDLING NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (“Coronavirus”) has now reached Colorado and Governor Polis has declared a state of emergency. Colorado employers are wondering how best to protect their employees while also respecting employee rights and maintaining a normal workplace environment. This blog post briefly discusses the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) recommendations for handling Coronavirus at the workplace, which the EEOC has approved in its own guidance. For detailed information, employers should visit the CDC’s website.
How to Identify Coronavirus
It is important for employers to aid employees in identifying possible exposure to or infection of Coronavirus, while at the same time ensuring that stigma and discrimination regarding the spread of the disease do not occur (employers must be especially mindful of this in light of anti-discrimination laws). Signs that an employee may have the Coronavirus include: fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, and shortness of breath.
The CDC has issued Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus, which encourages employers to take the following steps:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay at home;
- Separate sick employees from healthy employees;
- Send sick employees home;
- Encourage “respiratory etiquette” and “hand hygiene,” including covering mouths when coughing and washing hands frequently, providing tissues for each employee work station, and providing hand sanitizers to employees;
- Perform routine cleaning, particularly of frequently touched surfaces in the workplace;
- Advise employees who have work-related travel of the company’s policies on becoming ill while traveling; and
- Develop a plan for dealing with employees who develop Coronavirus or who live with someone who does.
In addition, the CDC reminds employers that they also must be vigilant to abide by OSHA laws and standards, although OSHA has not yet set forth particular guidance specific to the Coronavirus.
In addition to the above, the CDC recommends that employers perform Coronavirus risk assessments, including identification of and information regarding employees who have high risk regarding Coronavirus, the severity of the disease as it progresses across the United States, and the potential impact to the company. The CDC also recommends that employers have a plan in place for responding to a Coronavirus outbreak, including telecommuting policies, implementation of FMLA, paid sick leave, altered work schedules, and allowing high risk individuals showing no sign of infection to work from home.
Employers should consult with an attorney to implement Coronavirus-specific policies per the CDC’s recommendations while also ensuring compliance with EEOC guidance and anti-discrimination laws.
Davis & Ceriani’s COVID-19 Employment Law Team:
Valeri Pappas, Managing Partner
Jennifer Tiedeken, Special Counsel