As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads domestically in the United States, employers should take proactive action to address employee concerns regarding COVID-19, plan for the potential impact of its transmission at the workplace, and be ready to take action in the event of suspected or actual virus exposure at work.

Centralized communication and planning: Employers should ensure they have a centralized leadership team to address workplace communications regarding COVID-19. In addition, a COVID-19 taskforce should review employer policies in the context of virus outbreak.

  1. The COVID-19 taskforce should consist of members of operations, security, HR, legal, and IT.
  2. Employers should instruct supervisors to refrain from questioning employees regarding suspected illnesses. Further, employers should direct supervisors and employees to route all concerns regarding COVID-19 to specifically identified members of the employer’s COVID-19 taskforce.
  3. The COVID-19 taskforce should prepare communications to distribute to the workforce describing:
    • The steps the employer is taking to respond to COVID-19 to ensure a safe workplace.
    • The sources employees can consult for information regarding COVID-19 (e.g., the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, and the local public health department).
    • Actions employees can take to reduce exposure risk (e.g., washing hands)
    • The employer’s leave, sick, and telecommuting policies.

Contingency plans: Employees may be absent from work not only due to illness, but also in the event of self-quarantine or to care for dependents who are ill or at home due to daycare and school closures. As a result, employers should plan now for how their businesses will continue to operate in the event that a large portion of the workforce is absent. Employer contingency plans should identify key personnel and duties, and provide for cross-training of personnel on duties that are essential to continuous operation of the business.Continue Reading Action items for employer task forces responding to novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

As discussed in our client alert addressing the growing COVID-19 crisis, U.S. employers face a number of complicated legal issues as they prepare for the possibility that their workforces will be impacted by the current emergency. In support of that effort, employers should begin preparing to address the following issues.

Before turning to those issues, as mentioned in our previous client alert, employers should strive to make the guiding principles behind all employer responses in this area a combination of compassion for employee impacts and reasonable flexibility. State and federal laws provide many minimum standards, but the best thing an employer can do in the midst of this growing epidemic is to take care of its people. Doing so is not just the right thing to do, but it also encourages employees to be reasonable in return and it mitigates the risk of future conflict with employees or legal exposure.Continue Reading Employer planning focus points for U.S. impacts of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)