News about the spread of the Coronavirus has created workplace anxiety and given employers reason to think about employee safety, both domestically and with their global workforces. Our friends at Proskauer have put together a brief overview of what you need to know and how you can address concerns with your employees. The following information was taken from their Law & Workplace online publication which you can read in its entirety here.
- What is the Coronavirus & How is it Transmitted – Experts are still researching the origination of the virus but now believe it is a virus spreading from human-to-human when an infected person coughs or sneeze similar to a cold.
- What are the Primary Symptoms of the Coronavirus – Affected individuals have reported mild to severe respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases in China the virus has led to pneumonia and kidney failure.
- How can the Spread of Coronavirus be Prevented? There is no vaccine available so the CDC is recommending standard precautions to avoid the spread of respiratory viruses, such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick. Also be cognizant to disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Employers whose Employees Travel to/from China:
- Consider whether to limit business travel to affected areas
- Provide relevant safety information to employees
- Understand that employee travel may be interrupted
- What to do if an Employees Has Recently Traveled to Chine or Otherwise may have been Exposed to the Virus – Employers should remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places certain restrictions on the kinds of inquiries that can be made into an employee’s medical status. That being said employers should keep the following in mind:
- Employers do not need to wait until an employee develops symptoms to inquire about exposure to the Coronavirus when an employee returns from travel from an area where the virus has spread.
- Under certain circumstances employers may require employees who have traveled to areas affected by serious health threats to stay home.
- Other Things to Think About:
- Employers may and should send employees home if they exhibit potential symptoms of contagious illnesses at work.
- Determine whether FMLA or other leave laws may apply.
- Consider whether OSHA requirements may apply.
- Communicate with employees to let them know you’re thinking about things that they are thinking about to help alleviate worries and stress in the workplace. Letting them know you have plans in place to address workplace health will assure them you’re looking out for their best interests.
*The information contained herein should be used as a guide only. Employers are encouraged to contact their own legal counsel for complete details related to this matter as well as specific circumstances related to their unique needs.