As the potential spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States becomes a very real possibility, employers should prepare to address the condition and concerns in the workplace. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued guidance on steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In light of this guidance, employers should consider implementing certain policies and procedures to continue to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

The policy can be temporary in nature, but should include reference to:

  • Practicing appropriate coughing and sneezing etiquette, hand hygiene, and routine cleaning of workstations;
  • Strongly encouraging any employees who exhibit acute respiratory illness symptoms, such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, to stay home from work until the symptoms subside;
  • Reserving the right to send employees who come in to the office while exhibiting these symptoms home;
  • Requiring employees who have traveled to COVID-19-affected areas to remain home for the duration of the incubation period, currently assumed to be 14 days—this requirement should also apply to any employee who has been in contact with someone who may be infected with COVID-19;
  • Advising employees about where to get information on their options to take leave or work remotely; and
  • Committing to inform co-workers as soon as possible if an employee has been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 while maintaining the infected employee’s confidentiality.

Employers should revisit their remote work policies and develop an emergency plan should a significant number of employees be absent.

Having a plan to address the spread of illness in the workplace will provide your team with confidence that the company is proactively addressing employee concerns and prepared should COVID-19 continue to spread.  We invite you to visit the firm’s “COVID-19 Client Resource Center” to access resources that will help employers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Firm Partner Nichole Atallah co-authored this Client Alert with Associate Sarah Nash. Both are members of PilieroMazza’s Labor & Employment Law Group.