Mar 20, 2020 | COVID-19, Workforce Solutions

Last Updated: April 5, 2020

Navigating Through The Chaos of Covid-19

A*This post was updated to include new information regarding the Department of Labor Emergency (DOL) Sick Paid Leave and Expanded Family Medical Leave.

ave.The COVID-19 landscape is changing by the hour, and next week will be VERY different. We are living in a gray area, where nothing is black and white. CEOs, leaders, human resources professionals, and business owners will need to be flexible and adaptable EVERY day. The only thing that is certain is that the environment will continue to change.  

Leaders and business owners should be mindful that employees are experiencing significant family stresses with school and daycare closings, caring for elderly parents, uncertainty of consistent paychecks, potential business closings, etc. 

Entrepreneurs will need to take calculated risks and make tough decisions, but avoid knee jerk reactions. We advise to focus on the following:

  1. Identify which jobs and business operations are absolutely essential to keeping the doors open.
    • Determine if critical jobs can be done remotely. If so, establish expectations for working remote. Work with your information technology department to ensure employees have what they need to perform their job.
    • If operations continue to be performed at a worksite, business owners must follow all public health guidance as well as the following:
      • Determine how to socially separate employees. Pay attention to common areas such as breakrooms, bathrooms, etc.
      • Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when possible. 
      • Consider providing all staff with gloves and masks during work hours. Remember that it is required to provide new gloves and masks for each shift.
      • Hand sanitizer should also be available throughout the building. 
      • Consider establishing a routine schedule for handwashing (i.e. every 30 minutes). Use products approved by EPA for COVID19, which is listed on their website at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
  2. If remote work is not possible, business owners will need to use creativity about how work can be done differently. Restauranteurs, can you utilize curbside pick-up or drive-thru only? Dry-cleaning owners, can you deliver to a customer’s cars so they are not entering your business? Manufacturers, can you separate employees via staggered shifts? Establish protocols to make sure employees, customers, and the public are safe and all employees are following them.
  3. If work is not available or the business owner is forced to close, layoffs may be anticipated or structured furloughs may be necessary.  If layoffs are necessary, employees are eligible for unemployment (even if they are working reduced hours). Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act may not apply due to exemptions such as natural disasters or unforeseeable business actions.  If employees are laid off, business owners should provide them with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) website for guidance.
  4. Draft and implement revised policies, practices, and communicate updates with employees. Create or update your Infectious Disease Control Policy and impose a 14 day quarantine for employees who have recently traveled out of state. Prepare to update your FMLA policy to include time off for an employee to care for a family member who is adhering to a requirement of a quarantine or to care for a child if the child’s school or daycare is closed. The proposed bill establishes only a 30 day waiting period from hire date to be eligible for these types of leave.
  5. Establish an internal process if an employee cannot work due to being exposed to COVID-19, contracting the virus, or if a family member has been exposed or contracted the virus. Allow the employee the recommended time off to self-quarantine. If an employee had contracted the virus, require them to provide medical certification clearing them to return to work when they test positive for COVID-19.
  6. Be cognizant of the myriad of employment laws that may be involved such as FMLA, DOL, OSHA, ADA, NLRA, and WARN. All of these laws may come into place, however, we are in unprecedented territory.  For example, can employers take an employee’s temperature? Yes, if it is a safety issue; but how they do it may violate privacy or ADA laws?

Workforce Solutions can provide assistance for business owners through these employment laws and the tough decisions they will need to make. For guidance and support, please feel free to reach out to one of the following Workforce Solutions HR Consultants: 

Please be assured that we will continue to follow the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and keep you informed of the ever-changing updates and recommendations. Please note that the information contained in this document is preliminary, and we will be providing frequent updates as additional information becomes available. We strongly encourage all business owners to review publications from trusted resources on a daily basis, we’ve provided the following links: CDC COVID-19 Home page | World Health Organization | Department of Homeland Security | New York Times Wall Street Journal.

*March 30- Update

New Interpretation by the DOL for Emergency Sick Paid Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave:

  1. Are employees entitled to emergency paid sick leave due to Governor Ever’s Safer At Home order?

An employee is not entitled to leave if the employee is not essential  and cannot work or telework. However, the employee may be eligible for unemployment benefits.   

2. If our business is closed due to the Safer At Home order, are our employees entitled to emergency sick paid leave?

No, your employees are not entitled to emergency sick paid leave if your business is closed due to the Safer At Home order.

3. Are employees entitled to paid sick leave if the employer reduced their work hours due to lack of business?

No, employees are not entitled to paid sick leave if hours are reduced by the employer. The employee may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits due to reduced work hours.

4. Does our business need to provide emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave on an intermittent basis.

Your business is not required to provide paid sick or family leave on an intermittent basis. However, employers may choose to offer intermittent leave.

5. Can an employer allow an employee to supplement one-third of the employee’s salary with accrued paid time off (while the employee is receiving two-thirds of the employee’s salary for paid sick leave or family leave)?

An employer may allow an employee to supplement the two-thirds pay with available paid time off.  But, an employer cannot require the employee to use available paid time off to supplement income.

*The information contained herein is in no way intended to be legal advice.