While the world transitions towards a post-COVID era, employers continue to face costly setbacks and ongoing changes to industry standards. In a recent study conducted by the Integrated Benefits Institute, researchers estimated that the pandemic has already cost employers more than $23 billion due to these changes. As a result, compliance remains the primary obstacle for managing an hourly workforce operation at this time- especially when it comes to the unprecedented landscape arising around COVID-19.
As you assess your new strategies for compliance, be sure to review these costly pitfalls first. This quick guide will help you avoid the five most common mistakes related to COVID-19 litigation.
5 COVID-19 Litigation Pitfalls to Avoid
- Face Coverings: While all COVID-19 guidelines are important to follow (especially those related to social distancing, partitions, and hand-washing practices), enforcing face mask regulations is the most critical for compliance. You need to make sure your employees fully understand your face mask policies and the consequences of failing to comply with them. If an employee refuses to follow your prescribed guidelines, you could be held responsible and are therefore within your rights to send the individual home. However, be sure to hold a dialogue consistent with the ADA to identify if the refusal is due to medical reasons and can be accommodated.
- Temperature Checks and Employees’ Personal Information: Monitoring the health of your workers is the best way to minimize the spread of the virus at your facilities, but maintaining temperatures checks and symptom documentation comes with compliance risks as well. Depending on the technology you use, you may have additional compliance areas to manage related to privacy laws on employee data, biometric laws for thermal-scanning technology, and more.
- Targeting “Vulnerable” Employees: Like all good employers, you want to protect the health of your employees at all costs, especially those facing greater risk from advanced age or pre-existing health problems. However, according to the ADA and EEOC, you are prohibited from singling out “high-risk” groups (or those with perceived disabilities) and must avoid making assumptions about the health conditions or risk levels faced by your employees. Instead, engage in ADA-compliant dialogue on an individual basis to evaluate potential accommodations as the best course of action.
- Managing Sick/Family Leave: Given the widespread impact of COVID-19, many of your employees may need the continued support of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA provides employees paid leave to take care of themselves or a family member affected by COVID-19, as well as to manage childcare during school closures, etc. Employees may raise claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for denial or miscalculation of FFCRA leave pay. Ensure your human capital management solution maintains consistent calculations and documentation related to individual leave pay, as well as proof of agreement with affected employees.
- Furloughs, Layoffs, and Backpay: Employee layoffs, furloughs, or other staff reductions can lead to minimum wage and overtime violations if you aren’t careful. In addition to backpay, you could be held liable for unpaid retirement contributions, pre-determined bonuses, unused vacation time, and taxes under the FLSA. Take the time to thoroughly calculate and regulate all relevant payouts before carrying out changes to your workforce. That way, you are fully prepared to explain the numbers to each employee and address any concerns they have right away.
COVID-19 Resources for Compliance
At EPAY Systems, we address hourly workforce needs directly – including those related to the health and safety of your operation. Our workforce management system can adapt to your fluctuating needs and even includes a mobile app so you can transform smartphones and tablets into handheld time clocks to make things like social distancing that much easier.
Check out our full COVID-19 resources page for more timely guidance and see how our unified human capital management solution can help meet all your compliance needs. Safeguard yourself against litigation and request a free demo today!