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Coronavirus and the Workplace

March 2, 2020 Employer Policies Labor & Employment Blog

With fears of COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease mounting, businesses and employers should not only understand how the disease could affect their workplaces but also take steps to minimize any possible impact. To assist with this objective, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Interim Guidance for businesses and employers in non-healthcare settings. Other guidance directed at specific industries, such as healthcare, airlines, and ship industry have also been issued.

Below are several strategies that employers can implement now:

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home, especially those with symptoms of acute respiratory illness, until free of fever (100.4˚F or greater) and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note to validate the illness as medical facilities may be extremely busy and unable to provide documentation timely.
  • Anticipate employees may need to stay home to care for sick family members.
  • Send homesick employees upon arrival or when symptoms appear.
  • Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees.
  • Provide tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and soap and water.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning, including frequently touched surfaces, like workstations, desks, countertops, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, and telephones.
  • Advise employees before traveling to check CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices.
  • Adopt additional measures to respond to employees or their family members who have COVID-19:
    • Notify employee’s supervisor.
    • Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure.
    • Refer ill and exposed employees to a CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment.
    • Maintain sick employees’ confidentiality as required by Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Design infectious disease outbreak response plan.
  • Prevent discrimination in the workplace—do not make determinations of risk based on race or national origin.

Gail E. Farb