As an employer, what can you and what should you do to address employee concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 and other emergency situations such as earthquakes and other disasters? There are several steps employers can take now to inform their employees and protect their business.
- Develop or Update your disaster/emergency contingency plan. The plan should discuss emergency contact with all employees, what steps are vital to the continued operation of the business, is the business prepared for an emergency on business premises, and how will business records and other necessities be preserved/protected?
- Employers should be careful not to seek private employee information in violation of California and federal law. For example, the EEOC created an ADA compliant form for employees to complete in anticipation of a pandemic risk. In addition, it published a preparedness piece for employers. These documents can be found at: https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html.
- Employers with 25 or more employees must permit employees to take up to 40 hours of time off to address school emergencies due to a natural disaster (i.e. fire, earthquake, flood) when their child cannot remain in school. (Labor Code section 230.8.)
- Employers may want to initiate communication with employees now as a method of protection and prevention. We recommend something as follows:
The news is full of stories about a fast-spreading Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Scientists around the globe are racing to learn more about the virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes the immediate risk to the American public is low right now, but they’re asking everyone to help reduce the risk of infections spreading.
How to protect yourself and your family:
- Check the CDC website (see link below) for up-to-date information, especially if traveling.
- The CDC is issuing new travel guidance regularly as developments occur.
- Visit the CDC Travel Page (see link below) for all travel-related updates.
- Get a flu shot to prevent the flu. While the coronavirus is different from the flu virus, the flu is still a serious illness.
- Practice good health habits.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when washing isn’t an option.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you’re sick. That includes staying home from work, school, errands and travel.
- Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as phones, keyboards and doorknobs.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, drink lots of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Please access the following link on Flu prevention in the workplace: https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/workplace/employees.html
Please direct questions to JoLynn M. Scharrer, head of Hunt Ortmann’s Employment Law Group.