Since the coronavirus has halted daily life throughout the United States, businesses, such as senior housing operators, are going to need to step up and prepare to protect themselves as well as the employees.
But they need to exercise caution when doing so to avoid risking a violation of the U.S. Disability Act or becoming a defendant in a liability action.
As the severity of the pandemic becomes more apparent, these and other questions from other employers are the subjects of a webinar hosted by Littler Mendelson, a law firm in San Francisco, California, on Friday.
If an employee’s coronavirus test is positive, they should take immediate steps to mitigate the spread of the virus. Little Special Adviser Melissa Peters said this also established a timetable for when the virus was found in the workplace.
The timetable documents how employers are responding to findings when state and local public health authorities are notified. Measures are taken to clean workplaces to ensure they are no longer exposed to viruses. If they do not eliminate the danger, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may refer to employers, and employers may face legal action if the virus spreads.
“The tricky part is knowing when hazards are present or likely to occur in the workplace,” Peters said.
The company should not disclose the identity of infected workers to others in the office. As they discover more cases, they should also send those workers home, and those who cannot work from home should take sick leave or leave.
Employers should also hire a qualified, dangerous goods removal company to clean up as a further precautionary measure and increase the level of responsibility. Workers at these companies have received appropriate training on how to wear masks and other protective equipment, reducing the risk of further exposure.
Employees showing signs of coronavirus exposure who have not been to a hotspot recently should be encouraged to provide a timetable to inform those they have contacted as this is a sign of a second exposure.
Gray Area for Workers’ Compensation.
An employee who is diagnosed with a coronavirus may be exposed during a business trip if a colleague or a visitor at the workplace is exposed at work, Eligible for workers’ compensation. Peters said.
Coronavirus is not normal pandemic influenza, but Peters recommends that workers positive for coronavirus make a claim if they believe they have been exposed to the virus at work.
They should also report the hospitalization of all employees should. OSHA requires inpatients to apply for admission within 24 hours, but the window is shorter in some states, especially California.
Littler shareholder Emilie Hammerstein said employers must adhere to ADA guidelines when dealing with workers of different abilities.
The ADA prohibits an employer from asking about disabilities, and they cannot require an employee to take a medical examination. However, there are exceptions in certain circumstances or if they are work-related and meet business needs.
The ADA also defines programs during a pandemic influenza outbreak. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local or state public health authorities find that a virus is similar to H1N1 flu or just seasonal flu. It does not pose a direct threat or cannot prove disability-related inquiry and physical examination.
Conversely, if pandemic influenza is considered to be much more severe by health officials, it could pose an immediate threat.
Here, employers should note the latest assessments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state health departments.
Littler Of Counsel Alka Ramchandani-Raj said employers also need to strengthen communication with employees if it has not been done already. This involves providing a background to the coronavirus without cause for direct concern. Still, given the pandemic, companies are taking precautions.
Communication should emphasize the safety of all employees as a top priority and inform employees of travel restrictions on business travel and the executive responsible for the company’s action plan.
Raj said that employers cannot control the personal travel of employees, but can stop it. Especially if workers go to hotspots of coronavirus activity according to CDC guidelines.
“Any travel is risky at the moment,” she said.
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