Creating a Coronavirus Response Plan: What You Need to Know Now

Lawline Staff | April 15, 2020

The recent program Creating A Coronavirus Response Plan: A How-To Guide for Employers, led by Epstein Becker Green’s Susan Gross Sholinsky and Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper, lays out critical steps for employers to respond swiftly and effectively to COVID-19.  The pair then joined Lawline for an update to the program in a Non-CLE webinar to address all the paid leave changes that have come into play. Here are the top takeaways: 

 

  • There are immediate steps and future steps when dealing with an outbreak. Using this framing will help prioritize what steps to take. For example:  
    • An immediate step might be to remind employees about handwashing, and to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to essential employees on the front lines. 
    • A future step might be to implement reduced-hour schedules or temporary furloughs if the incoming revenue will not cover business costs in the short term. 
  • There are steps you can take and steps you must take.  For example: 
    • Steps you can take include: 
      • You can take temperatures of essential employees who are still coming to the workplace, but you must create a universal policy around it. There must be consistency across the board on the temperature requirements and the instruments used, and no employee should be put in danger of exposure when going through the process. 
      • Under the ADA, you can ask employees who took sick leave to share if they tested positive for COVID-19.  However, this information must remain confidential between the employee and employer. You may share with other employees that someone in the workplace tested positive for the virus, , but you cannot identify the employee.    
    • Required steps are those that employers must take on account of government guidance and new laws that have been put in place.: 
      • Following the rules laid out in H.R.6201, which is intended to provide relief to workers and additional economic benefits in response to COVID-19.  There are two specific pieces of legislation that employers need to account for in their company policies during the pandemic (penalties for non-compliance apply):
        • Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“EPSLA”), granting two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. This applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, though some small (<50) employers may be exempted from certain requirements by the Secretary of Labor. 
        • Emergency Public Health Leave (“EPHL”) under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), wherein employees may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for a child whose school or daycare is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of a public health emergency.  

There is a lot for law firms and companies alike to consider during this unprecedented, stressful time.  Remember to take a step back, breath, and be mindful of your company, your employees, and your clients during this time. Stay safe and healthy, encourage your employees to do the same, and tune in to Lawline CLE and Lawline Free Resources for ongoing updates during the pandemic.  

 

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