About a week ago, there were reports that the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention was about to release this interim guidance to help businesses reopen. But, it never saw the light of day.
Late last week, however, the CDC released some flowcharts to assist various types of businesses (schools, workplaces, camps, childcare programs, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants) in making (re)opening decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially to protect vulnerable workers.
These are guidelines, not rules. But, let’s take a look at the “workplaces” flowchart and see what’s up.
The flowchart contains three steps to reopening.
Ultimately, businesses must follow the reopening rules that states and localities create. Indeed, Step One ensures that the state/locality in which you operate must give the green light to reopen. Plus, your business needs to be prepared to protect those who are at higher risk of COVID-19.
Then, your business can advance to Step 2.
You’re going to need to promote healthy hygiene practices, such as handwashing and masks. Your business must clean and disinfect the workplace often. Social distancing is vital too, with an emphasis on telework. And you should train employees on health and safety protocols.
If you can complete all of these tasks, then your business can move to Step 3.
The focus here is on ongoing monitoring:
- Develop procedures for checking for signs/symptoms of illness upon arrival.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home, and be prepared to send others home who appear ill during the day.
- Regularly communicate developments with local authorities.
- Monitor employee absences and have flexible leave policies.
Satisfy all of these steps, and you are ready to reopen.
What stands out?
- There’s nothing in the guidance about COVID-19 tests or antibody tests. It’s silent about taking temperatures too. Consistent with past CDC guidance, taking temperatures is optional. Although, some states have made them mandatory in certain situations.
- The CDC emphasizes flexible leave policies. The CDC has more on that here. Among the specific suggestions, permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member or take care of children due to school and childcare closures. Provide advances on future sick leave and allow employees to donate sick leave to each other.
- While protecting at-risk workers is essential, be careful about stereotyping. For example, it’s ok to offer vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees, if the worker agrees to this. Conversely, forcing an older or pregnant employee to stay home could invite a discrimination claim.
The CDC also recommends that you review human resources policies to make sure that your policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and with existing state and federal workplace laws. Speaking of which, Jeff Nowak and I spent a little over an hour on Friday discussing one of your favorite federal workplace laws: FMLA. If you missed our Zoom session, head on over to The Employer Handbook YouTube channel — make sure to subscribe while you are there — and watch the video.
Also, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 1 PM EDT / 12:00 PM CDT, you can join me and a top-notch panel of legal experts for a “check-in” of notable developments at the three major labor and employment federal agencies—the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board. Our discussion will highlight (1) Areas of agency focus including how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted each; (2) Enforcement strategies and practices; (3) Practical guidance on compliance issues that have emerged with the Covid-19 crisis; (4) Employer best practices and common pitfalls. It’s free to attend.
You can register here.