Part I: Beginnings
As states, cities and municipalities start assessing and planning for how and when to lift pandemic-related restrictions and how to re-open their economies, employers must also begin to consider how to address the myriad issues that will certainly arise during this process, including re-starting, shrinking or growing operations, bringing back remote and furloughed employees, and carrying out any new national, state or local requirements, all while protecting employees and customers.
This planning must begin now. Getting a head start on these issues will allow employers to be better prepared to face these new challenges and to adjust to whatever new workplaces may look like.
How employers lead through this process is important. Employers must balance the economic need to re-open with the legal, practical and personal implications to re-opening the workplace. Employers should make a concerted effort to identify and understand all of the issues facing their employees returning to the workplace and work with them to ensure that personal concerns and safety are addressed while balancing business needs and requirements.
In addition to planning for how and when a workplace can re-open, employers should also plan for who should be returning to work and when. Should your workplace re-open in phases? Will all employees be asked to return at once? Should return to work be optional? Can an employer require employees to return to work? What about employees with preexisting or underlying health conditions or those who are considered to be more vulnerable to coronavirus infection or complications. Employers will continue to be required to address new Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA requests, primarily with regard to those employees with school-aged children.
One-size-fits-all, across-the-board policies and guidance do not exist. As has been demonstrated over and over during the past two months, there are nuances and consequences to all workplace decisions, as well as differing guidance across states and within government agencies. Employers should anticipate varying employee requests and situations and many employment-related decisions will continue to be fact specific, each situation potentially unique and different.
Our team at Manning Fulton will provide support so that employers are prepared to consider who can return to work on an individual basis, while giving special consideration to any needs for accommodation, including novel and unique ways those accommodations may manifest.
We are working to identify the primary considerations that employers should begin to evaluate when determining how and when to re-open operations. We are developing a series of practical steps that should be taken now, along with preparations that should be made and precautions that should be taken once the current restrictions begin to lessen. Please note that all guidance given on when and how workplaces can re-open depends primarily on state and local orders and guidance.
NOTE: We expect to see numerous changes nationwide, and in local and regional orders and guidance as prior workplace restrictions begin to be lifted and new restrictions are issued governing workplace re-openings. We will continue to monitor developments, and update our advice and information accordingly.
We welcome you to review our upcoming blog posts – this is the first in a series of five – to obtain more detailed advice and guidance on many of the issues concerning COVID-19 and its effect on your business, and to contact Jennifer Weaver, Will Cherry or your Manning Fulton relationship attorney for assistance.
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