To help businesses deal with COVID-19 related issues, I have put together the below COVID-19 Q&A. With the fall season upon us and COVID-19 cases beginning to rise, businesses need to be mindful of these issues and how to handle them. Having policies in place to address COVID-19 related matters is very important and including them in a new or updated employee handbook is essential.
Not having COVID-19 policies in place is very risky for businesses. At this point, businesses are just trying to do the right thing based on their individual interpretation of the Coronavirus laws and recommendations that have been put in place by the DOL, CDC, and OSHA, along with state and local governments. COVID-19-related litigation will soon spike and, as a business, you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a costly lawsuit.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having an employee handbook, even if you only have three employees. Marzano Human Resources Consulting can put one together for you. The handbooks have been reviewed and approved by a national law firm endorsed by the Society for Human Resource Management. They can be tailor-made to your business.
For most small businesses, Marzano Human Resources Consulting can have a handbook prepared for less than $1,000. When you consider that a wrongful termination claim averages $80,000 at settlement and over $1 million if it goes to a jury trial, why would you even think twice about having an employee handbook?
Please review the below Q&A. These are questions that have been posed to me by my clients, but they only scratch the surface on issues of which employers should be aware. Trying to maneuver through the maze of today’s employment laws is a risky proposition. Don’t try and do it on your own.
You have worked hard to build your business. These are unprecedented times. Let Marzano Human Resources Consulting provide you with the guidance you need to not only survive, but prosper.
If an employee takes FMLA leave for his or her own serious health condition related to COVID-19, is the employee eligible for this new category of paid FMLA leave covered under the FFCRA (Family First Coronavirus Response Act)?
The new paid FMLA leave entitlement under the FFCRA is for one reason only—to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose caregiver is unavailable due to COVID-19-related issues.
Such an employee would, however, likely be eligible for the paid sick leave provision of the FFCRA, which requires employers to pay up to 10 days of emergency paid sick leave if:
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
The 50-employee exemption is not available for the paid employee sick leave provision.
Can I tell employees if a co-worker has tested positive for the coronavirus?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) privacy rules restrict employers from sharing personal health information of an employee. Employers should inform employees that possible exposure has occurred in the workplace without disclosing any identifying information about the individual who tested positive.
May we ask an employee to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to work, especially when they are showing symptoms?
If the practice is applied consistently, an employer may ask an employee to be tested for the virus that causes a COVID-19 infection before allowing the employee to return to the workplace.
This is where having COVID-19 related policies in effect can help the business mitigate risk
Can an employee be terminated for not wearing a mask in the workplace?
If the employer has a clearly worded Health and Safety Policy which requires all employees to wear a mask. The policy should make it clear that if an employee refuses, they will be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.
Should an employer decide to use progressive discipline instead of termination, the company should have a progressive discipline policy in place.
Progressive discipline occurs when an employee fails to correct a recurring problem, despite being given reasonable opportunity to do so.
In short, an employee who refuses to wear a mask can be fired in the same way that any other employee could be fired for not following company policy, including health and safety guidelines.