As a continuation of our previous blog on critical COVID-19 compliance, let’s explore some additional questions pertaining to quarantine, handling positive cases within your workforce, and how to balance the privacy rights of employees with the precautions needed for overcoming this pandemic!
Which compliance exceptions should be on your hourly workforce radar?
Each state is handling coronavirus in its own unique ways, including mandates on quarantining, reporting COVID-19 cases to the appropriate agencies, and even providing protected leave or furlough to employees. Here’s a list of each states’ current COVID-19 legal summaries.
Federally, however, your business could be subject to COVID-19 recordkeeping requirements under OSHA. Coronavirus can constitute a recordable illness or injury if the employee contracted it from performing their work-related duties. In April, OSHA clarified that employers need not concern themselves with determining whether the infection was “work-related,” unless there’s either:
- Incontrovertible evidence of it being work-related (multiple employees who work closely together getting infected)
- Or strong evidence from workers’ complaints or day-to-day management.
Can “high-risk” employees be asked to stay home or accept furlough?
It’s best to refrain from requiring specific groups of individuals to forgo work or from being on site as it could be received as discriminatory. Under federal law, employers cannot target employees over 65 or pregnant employees for furlough or layoff based on their “at risk” status. That said, you are permitted and encouraged to allow employees over 65 or who are pregnant to work from home so long as the rest of your employees can do so as well.
Can you request that employees refrain from traveling?
No, you cannot prohibit employees from traveling on their personal time, regardless of location or capacity. That said, you can ask your employees where they intend to travel to or where they have been visiting – especially because travel increases exposure risks exponentially during a pandemic.
Since the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission remains in full effect, take extreme care with your word choice during these types of conversations. Consider creating a temporary or interim policy on how travel will affect employees’ return to work. That way, your workforce knows exactly what to expect.
What is the ideal process for alerting employees about a COVID-19 case in the workplace?
It is up to you to finalize your business’s response procedure, but you can use these four-steps as a reference:
- Isolate/Quarantine Confirmed Employees: Infected employee should remain at home until permitted to go back to work by a physician or public health official. If a medical note releasing the employee is unavailable, follow the CDC guidelines on when an employee may discontinue self-isolation.
- Inform and Isolate Employees Working with Infected Worker(s): Ask the infected employee to identify those who have been working directly with them for prolonged periods of time (within six feet for 10 to 30 minute intervals or longer). Send these individuals who worked closely with the infected employee home for 14 days under CDC guidance.
- Clean and Disinfect the Worksite: Follow CDC guidelines for disinfecting your workplace, including closing operations to do so if possible. Furthermore, ensure workers are trained on the chemicals being used to clean their workplace and maintain a written guide in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard.
- Notify Remaining Employees: Notify the rest of your workforce of the situation without revealing confidential medical information (except if the employee has signed an authorization to disclose their diagnosis). Inform your workforce of the actions you have taken, including requiring exposed employees to go home, the sanitization efforts taking place, etc. Failure to notify employees violates OSHA’s general duty clause, which requires all employers to provide employees with a safe work environment.
Does disclosing information about infected employees violate confidentiality under the ADA?
Although you can inform your workforce that another employee has contracted COVID-19, do so without sharing the identity of the employee to any unnecessary individuals. Widespread disclosure of an employee’s identity risks direct non-compliance with the ADA.
Furthermore, you are not obligated to share that a worker is on medical leave or working from home due to coronavirus. Even if employees figure out who it is due to being a smaller operation, you are still prohibited from confirming or revealing the employee’s identity.
At EPAY Systems, we address industry needs directly – including those related to the health of your workforce. Check out our full COVID-19 resources page as well our unified human capital management solution for maintaining control during a pandemic. Our workforce management system even includes a mobile app so you can transform smartphones and tablets into handheld time clocks to make social distancing that much easier. Request a free demo today!