As each state reopens nonessential businesses at their own discretion, employers of businesses large and small will need to have a plan in place for how they will adjust to the “new normal”. This includes identifying factors such as safety and legal requirements as well considering the time it will take workers to readjust.
Legal & Safety Requirements
Each state, county, city, and individual business will have its own set of safety and legal guidelines when it comes to how companies will be conducting business as they return to the office. Some states may leave the decision up to the discretion of the county, and some counties may incorporate their own stages and safety measures as they see fit, and so on.
Recently, the CDC published guidelines for employers to consider as employees return to work. As of May 6, 2020, the CDC provides updates to the following information:
- Updated strategies and recommendations for employers responding to COVID-19, including those seeking to resume normal or phased business operations:
- Conducting daily health checks
- Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
- Encouraging employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
- Improving the building ventilation system
- A table outlining the engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers may use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
According to the CDC, as an employer, if your business operations were interrupted, resuming normal or phased activities presents an opportunity to update your COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plans. The CDC recommends talking with your employees about planned changes and seeking their input and collaborating to effectively communicate COVID-19 information.
In terms of safety, OSHA COVID-19 guidance provides more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures. Employers should keep in mind that their plans should consider that employees may be able to spread COVID-19 even if they do not show symptoms. Employers will also need to strategize how they can help decrease the spread of the virus and lower the impact in their workplace.
Additionally, employers should be mindful to observe the expanded laws related to sick, medical, and other leaves for employees, along with the long-established laws related to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
Showing Compassion & Sensitivity to Employees
Legal and safety regulations are important considerations for employers returning back to work, but we must also factor in the toll that our “new normal” may have on employees. Employers can be mindful during this time of adjustment by incorporating “T.O.C.”:
- Open Communication
With so much uncertainty, employees will be looking to their employers for guidance and clear information regarding plans and expectations. Employers must be open to communicate and keep their employees informed as new guidelines are incorporated.
Employers should also prepare to approach this adjustment with compassion and an understanding of what employees are currently going through. They need to consider how they are engaging with their workers and that they treat each one with fairness and respect. With so much uncertainty, we all have a right to our feelings toward this pandemic, and should not invalidate emotions of fear, apprehensiveness, or other feelings that would make one feel uncomfortable while returning to the workplace.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and workplace/Title IX investigator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues. She is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on and provided commentary with such media outlets as Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA, KPCC Airtalk-89.3, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, and Essence Magazine.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.