Getting Back to Work & The Labor Laws That Apply – Webinar Recap
May 12, 2020 | BY admin
With businesses across the country preparing for a reopening, Roth&Co’s HR director Chaya Salamon held a joint webinar session with employment attorneys Joel Greenwald and Jessica Shpall Rosen, of Greenwald Doherty LLP, about recommended practices to keep our employees safe and protect our businesses from liability. You can view a recording of the webinar here.
Below, you will find a recap of our discussion. Please keep in mind that this is informational only and not legal advice. In addition, the laws and guidance both governmental and health authorities are in flux.
With conditions changing every day, it is important to take the time to make considered decisions and consult your advisors, employment attorneys and accountants as necessary. This is a prime environment for plaintiffs’ attorneys on the lookout for potential lawsuits ‐ the last thing an employer needs at this time. Here are some considerations that our panelists discussed:
Track Time Carefully
Tracking time accurately may be difficult at this time, especially with non‐exempt employees working remotely without access to their usual timecards and oversight. However, it is essential to make sure they keep precise time records to ensure they are being paid for all time worked. In addition, there may be employees who are no longer exempt from overtime due to a decrease in wages below the minimum salary threshold, which means they will have to adjust to tracking their time.
Rehiring Furloughed & Laid‐Off Employees
While bringing back furloughed employees a relatively easy process, recalling laid‐off employees is, essentially, rehiring them. When rehiring employees, keep in mind:
- New employee documentation should be completed and signed once again (for example, arbitration agreements, restrictive covenant agreements, immigration forms, and legal notices).
- Depending on their policy and applicable law, employers may need (or want) to restore paid time off balances upon For example, some jurisdictions that require paid sick leave ‐ like New York City – have specific requirements when an employee is rehired.
- Try to be as objective as possible in deciding who to bring back, to avoid an appearance of For example, base your choices on objective factors like length of service, high billings and sales numbers, and run these by counsel.
Health & Safety Recommendations
Employers should ensure the work environment is as safe as possible. This can be accomplished through measures such as:
Organizational Changes, for example:
- Appointing a Chief Safety Officer or This could include the CEO, HR and other stakeholders who will take responsibility for health and safety.
- Stay up to date on CDC, OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and local and state guidance and standards of
- Implement strong, clear, safety standards and policies (not just guidelines).
Personal Preventive Measures, for example:
- Make sure that masks, gloves and hand sanitizer are available for your
- Implement screening measures and return‐to‐work measures that are appropriate for your workforce (such as taking temperatures and testing), with guidance from counsel, as the laws and regulations in this particular area are changing
- Monitor symptoms and send home employees exhibiting symptoms of COVID‐19.
- Keep individual records tracking testing, symptoms or
Employment Infrastructure, for example:
- Ensure social and physical
- Stagger shifts so fewer employees are on site at one
- Suspend large, in‐person meetings or extracurricular activities such as birthday
- Allow employees to work remotely whenever feasible, particularly those who are high‐risk.
- Establish common area
Physical Changes to the Workspace, for example:
- Create more space around workstations to maintain social distancing
- Erect walls and barriers among employees and clients
- Update cleaning procedures to ensure regular disinfecting
- Hang signage informing employees and visitors of new practices
- Make stairways/hallways one‐way
- Install hands‐free door‐opening
Responding to Illness, for example:
- Report to health agency
- Enact contact tracing
- Disinfect office spaces
Business Changes, for example:
- Establish rules regarding visitors, vendors and delivery
- Cancel all non‐essential travel.
Requesting or requiring employees to disclose personal health information leaves you open to claims of privacy and HIPPA violations. On the other hand, if you don’t collect this information or take proper safety measures, you are at risk of an employee contracting COVID‐19, and potentially, facing a wrongful death suit. It is also unclear whether workers’ compensation insurance would cover employees who get sick with COVID‐19. Employers will need to weigh all these risks in consultation with counsel.
Be careful not to assume that employees are too feeble to work because of age, disability or illness. Doing so can leave you open to discrimination claims. Allow employees to approach you with their concerns, at which time you should engage in an interactive process to determine whether and how to reasonably accommodate their needs.
The foregoing is a summary of the laws discussed above for the purpose of providing a general overview of these laws. These materials are not meant, nor should they be construed, to provide information that
is specific to any law(s). You should be aware that these laws are changing rapidly. The above is not legal advice and you should consult with counsel concerning the applicability of any law to your particular situation.