The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is creating challenges for employers and employees alike. While employers should prioritize the safety of their employees and work to provide the continuity of their operations, they also need to be aware of the legal issues that may arise during a significant public health crisis.
Federal agencies have issued helpful guidance on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
To prepare employers for the potential disturbances created by COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have distributed guidance to assist in responding effectively and legally to this crisis.
The EEOC has stated that during a pandemic, employers can rely on the latest CDC and state or local public health assessments in determining appropriate measures in the workplace and has adopted the CDC’s interim guidance for businesses and employers. The CDC suggested taking the following steps:
In addition, the CDC suggests that employees who are feeling well but have a family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
The EEOC recently republished its 2009 Pandemic Flu Workplace and ADA Guidance as applicable guidance for the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ADA, which protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination, is relevant to pandemic preparedness. Significantly, the ADA requires employers to maintain the confidentiality of employee disabilities. For example, the CDC suggests that if an employee at a work site is confirmed to have COVID-19, the employer should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure in the workplace but maintain the confidentiality of the employee who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Among other guidance, the EEOC stated that during a pandemic:
Additionally, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) published guidance regarding workplace preparedness and the U.S. Department of Labor issued FAQs on the Fair Labor Standards Act and COVID-19 and the Family Medical Leave Act and COVID-19.
Charles R. Bacharach
410-576-4169 • firstname.lastname@example.org
James D. Handley
410-576-4201 • email@example.com
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