We have compiled some helpful information for employers in regard to the correct response of businesses to the coronavirus. For the most recent updates, the DOL has a specific page related to COVID-19: https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus.
We also encourage you to use the free subscription to www.HR360.com that we provide our clients. They have HR updates and Alerts that are tracking the latest updates from the DOL and other government sources. If you do not know how to access your account, please let us know.
Additionally, we have put together information on how your Health Insurance will cover coronavirus related expenses here: https://ga-health-insurance.com/coronavirus-covid-19-and-health-insurance-in-georgia/
Department of Labor FAQ on Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued Q&As on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act in the context of COVID-19 and other public health emergencies. Under the FMLA, covered employers must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, which may include the flu where complications arise. Employees on FMLA leave are entitled to the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms as before they took leave.
The Q&As include the following key points, among others:
- The FMLA provides leave for an employee’s serious health condition or to care for a family member’s serious health condition;
- The FMLA does not provide leave for avoiding the workplace out of fear of contracting a disease.
- The FMLA does not require leave for employees caring for dependents who have been dismissed from school or child care.
- Employers requiring a doctor’s note should consider that healthcare resources may be overwhelmed during a pandemic, making it difficult for employees to obtain appointments or verification that they are no longer contagious.
Many of the DOL’s answers encourage employers to consider flexible leave policies for their employees. The Q&As also address the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to employee leave issues.
Deal Reached on Coronavirus Aid
The White House and U.S. House of Representatives have reached a deal that would involve several billion dollars in federal spending and provide free medical testing, paid leave, food assistance for poor families, and other aid for people affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The deal was announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 13.
The House was expected to pass the bill, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, following the announcement. The bill would then move to the Senate for a vote on Monday.
The announcement came just hours after President Trump declared a national emergency due to the growing spread of the coronavirus.
Dealing with COVID-19 in the Workplace
As the number of reported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace.
Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but they are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers from discrimination. Compliance issues to consider include:
- The general duty to provide employees with safe workplace conditions imposed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act;
- Protection against disability discrimination (including disability-related inquiries and medical examinations) under the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- Requirements set by federal and state employee leave laws; and
- The compensation of individuals who miss work due to COVID-19.
Federal and state governments are actively publishing information on this development. Reliable resources include the materials listed below:
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
- World Health Organization (WHO): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Safety and Health Topics: COVID-19
Additional resources and information can be found on this page.
Action Steps for Employers
To address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should:
- Closely monitor the CDC, WHO, and state and local public health department websites for information on the status of COVID-19;
- Proactively educate their employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention;
- Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace; and
- Consider measures that can help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like working from home.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to call or email us!