The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire country by storm, forcing many people to shelter in place as small businesses close temporarily, protecting people from the biggest public health crisis in 100 years. Now, many employers throughout the country are planning to reopen. As operations resume, it is important to note that CIVD-19 is still here and that cases could spike. It is important for everyone to stay safe in the workplace. There are a few key issues to consider as businesses reopen.
First, remember that states and localities are starting to amend their executive orders along with their reopening plans. This means that many states are going to have phased reopening plans that will include safety and health requirements for anyone opening their doors again. It is important for employers to watch for any requirements when it comes to employment law. Employers need to follow these orders and make sure that anyone who is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 is protected. There are also going to be issues surrounding child care, as schools will likely remain closed. Employers need to provide reasonable accommodation to those who show symptoms of CIVD-19. Understanding these issues is going to be a key part of employment law.
Also, employers must remember that employees are going to be covered by whistleblower protection laws, particularly when it comes to COVID-19. This means that employers are not allowed to retaliate against people who file complaints with regard to the virus. Furthermore, employers also have a duty to address any of the concerns that have been raised by employees, particularly as it pertains to OSHA requirements. Finally, these types of reports are also considered protected conduct under state whistleblower laws. It is illegal for any employer to retaliate against an employee who reports an unsafe working condition, particularly as it pertains to COVID-19.
Finally, many employers have an obligation to provide paid time off (PTO) for COVID-19. Anyone who needs to take sick or family leave as a result of COVID-19 should make sure they understand the obligations of their employer. For example, employers who have fewer than 500 employees are subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FCRA), which requires employers to provide paid sick time for qualifying reasons to anyone who has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Employers must be cognizant of their continued obligations as it pertains to paid sick leave. Often, this includes employees who have a sick child or other family members who might fall ill. Some operations might even be required to shut down temporarily in the event that someone tests positive for COVID-19. Employers must make sure they comply with all relevant regulations.