Employers have a responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to maintain a safe workplace. While there are confirmed cases in both Oregon and Washington state, the risk of exposure for the average worker is still relatively low. However, many employees may feel uneasy about coming to work or interacting with the public at large due to increasing media attention.
Consider the following best practices in response to the outbreak:
- Stay current with local and national health agency recommendations: Employees want to be confident that their employers have a handle on the situation. Notify employees that management is apprised of, and carefully monitoring the outbreak. Any shared education or information on the virus should be brief, and reiterate information from official sources. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website includes up-to-date information regarding the spread of the disease, risk assessment, and guidance for travelers. Oregon employers should monitor the Oregon Health Authority website for updates, while Washington employers should consult the Washington State Department of Health website.
- Follow normal flu season protocol: Provide hand sanitizer, handwashing stations, and facial tissues; encourage employees to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Limit travel to affected areas: Implement travel guidelines and procedures that require approval for travel to affected areas, and consider cancelling all work-related travel to affected areas where employees may be exposed.
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home: According to the CDC, coronavirus is most contagious while an individual is exhibiting symptoms. It is crucial that employees be sent home or refrain from coming into work if they have any symptoms of the virus.
- Offer telework to potentially exposed employees during the incubation period: If an employee recently returned from a known affected area or was potentially exposed to the virus, you may want to offer remote work as a precaution during the virus incubation period. Further, some employees may have preexisting medical conditions which make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, making telecommuting during an outbreak a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Employers should be mindful to include telecommuting employees in all normal work functions (meetings, decisions, projects, etc.) where possible so as not to isolate them during the incubation period.
- Mitigate litigation risk: If telecommuting is unavailable but an employer would still like an employee who is not exhibiting symptoms but may have been exposed to the virus to stay home for the incubation period, the employer should consider paying the employee while they are required to stay home.
The appropriate response to the coronavirus outbreak requires thorough consideration. This is a dynamic situation that implicates numerous state and federal laws. Employers should be cognizant of their company’s needs and consult legal counsel as needed.
For questions about managing the threat of coronavirus in the workplace, contact Sean Ray or Daniel Walker at 503-228-0500, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Electronic Alerts are written by Barran Liebman attorneys for their clients and friends. Alerts are not intended as legal advice, but as employment law, labor law, and employee benefits announcements. If this has been forwarded to you, and you would like to begin receiving Electronic Alerts directly, please email or call Traci Ray at 503-276-2115. Copyright ©2020 by Barran Liebman LLP.
Las Alertas electrónicas son escritas por abogados de Barran Liebman para sus clientes y amigos. Las Alertas no son proveídas como asesoramiento legal, sino solo como anuncios de leyes de empleo, leyes laborales y beneficios de empleo. Si esto ha sido remetido a usted y quisieras empezar a recibir las Alertas directamente, por favor mándanos un correo electrónico o llama a Traci Ray al 503-276-2115. Derechos de autor ©2020 por Barran Liebman LLP.