Business Law and Employment Law go hand-in-hand. Given this coronavirus disease, COVID-19, spreading faster than a speeding bullet or a raging fire, if your business does not protect itself and its employees from these and other health risks, your business can end up in the courthouse ICU.
The following basics will provide your business with the triage needed to minimize or avoid legal contagion.
Your emergency preparedness plans must recognize that the internal spread of disease can wipe out your workforce, employee productivity and possibly include your clients and customers.
Plan the fight and fight the plan. Your management must have in place a plan of action to minimize or avoid health risks. Your key employees should be knowledgeable of this plan and be trained to put it into action. This way, if there is a health risk which could affect your business, your team will already know what to do, how to do it, and most of all, how to protect your employees, the public and your business.
Know what you are up against. While most employers are not typically doctors or hospitals, it is critical that employers understand the illness to respond properly. How the disease is spread, symptoms and incubation periods are all important things to know or knowledge to obtain in order to fend off risks and liabilities.
Policies should be in place to require immediate notification to management of any infected employee. Thereafter, employees, staff and any other possibly affected person should be promptly notified of not only the possible risk, but also the plans and protocols in place that are being acted upon by management. A well informed business staff will together be able to calmly and efficiently contain any issues which may arise.
In certain situations, an employer can require a medical exam or health certification to confirm an employee’s illness, just as it can with any other Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disability. However, employers must proceed with caution here. Mere suspicion of a communicable disease is not enough and the employer must at all times maintain medical privacy. Employers must not provide names of those infected or whether anyone is on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave or is receiving any ADA accommodations, unless there is a business need to provide this information. Some diseases may be reportable under federal, state or local regulations such as OSHA or to the local health department. However, it is not required in some instances that the employer report the name of the individuals infected.
Be healthy and be safe!