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Re-opening Strategy Recommendations

As America begins to open, it is important that all organizations have as much information about their responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for their employees, customers and visitors. The following is a summary of some of the best practices we recommend as you prepare to open your facilities.

  • Review all employee policies to make sure that they are up to date. This includes any written policies you may have on teleworking, use of vacation time, taking sick leave and the reporting of illness. In addition, make sure that you are familiar with the new FMLA laws and Family First act that are part of the federal governments COVID-19 guidance.
  • If your company is planning on employing COVID 19 testing; COVID-19 testing should be done by an outside reputable source. Most COVID-19 testing apparatus available on the Internet will not be sufficient to meet the requirements for safe and accurate testing.
  • An employee who refuses to follow work rules, including the need to be tested, can refuse to do so and can be asked to go home and use paid time off.
  • Employees with high risk exposure to COVID-19 should have accommodations made for them so that they can remain at home to perform their jobs. You can make the judgment to allow high risk employees to remain home while at the same time mandating that others report back to the office to work.
  • Be as flexible and accommodating as possible with your employees. It is worth your consideration to employ flex-hours, split shifts etc. as you begin to open your office.
  • Consider phasing in your opening by functional group, as an example, bring accounting back first, marketing second, sales third.
  • If one of your employees test positive for COVID-19, you should make a good faith effort to ask the employee, who tested positive, who they were in contact with in your company. You can then inform those employees who were in contact with the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 that they have been in contact with somebody who did in fact test positive. Most importantly, you cannot divulge the name of the individual who tested positive for COVID-19. Most employees will be able to figure out who that was but you under no circumstances can confirm that the employee was in fact the one who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Some companies as well as some of your customers may choose to use questionnaires, temperature screening devices and other vehicles to ensure that employees and visitors returning to work are healthy enough to do so. Remember that all information that is gathered on questionnaires and temperature screening devices or any other vehicle that relates to recording health information is subject to all HIPAA law enforcement. So, keep this information confidential and secured.
  • Employees with temperatures over 100.4 degrees can be asked to return home. If this occurs this information must also be kept in HIPAA compliant security.
  • One individual in your company must be held responsible for developing and documenting your COVID-19 return to work policy’s and ensuring that they are enforced.
  • At a minimum, you are required to show through documentation that you made a good faith effort to ensure that your facility is sanitary, cleaned and disinfected.
  • Maintain social distancing.
  • Observe a ten-person limit to any meeting.
  • Consider closing lunchrooms and if the weather permits, have employees take breaks or eat meals in suitable outdoor environments. 
  • Most states, counties, and even towns have their own policies for COVID-19 practices. Your company’s responsibility is to follow the most restrictive of these policies. This therefore requires that you become familiar with all of the policies in your jurisdiction and enforce the most restrictive of these policies.
  • You may choose to develop more stringent work rules regarding things like cleanliness, the use of gloves, masks an appropriate proximity of employees to each other that are more restrictive then the COVID-19 policy’s in the jurisdiction your company operates within.
  • Employees who are currently using unemployment compensation and the additional $600 from the federal government may choose not to return to work if the compensation from these two combined benefits is greater than what they were earning prior to the arrival of COVID-19. The additional $600 from the federal government ends at the end of July.  You do have then right to replace these employees if you ask them to return to work and they refuse to do so. Some employers have chosen to match the employee’s unemployment benefit and federal government benefit, rather than replace them, until the end of July to satisfy the forgiveness caveats of the PPP program. This is an acceptable practice.
  • Should you choose to replace the employee who refuses to return to work in favor of collecting unemployment benefits; you should inform that former employee that they  are needed back at work, (document that conversation) and if they do not return, let them know that you will exercise your right to replace them and that they no longer will be employed at your company.
  • On a daily basis, review CDC and State and Local COVID 19 updates to ensure your company remains compliant.