Life as we know it is changing daily, thanks to the novel coronavirus. Cities, states, and the federal government are taking draconian measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. Companies also have had to take measures to prevent workplace exposure and protect employees from the risk of COVID-19.
To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, employers should not make determinations of risk based on an employee’s race or country of origin. They should also maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19.
To ensure a safer workplace during the COVID-19 outbreak, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following strategies for employers:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home and not return to work until they are fever free and symptom free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or symptom-altering medication.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance.
- Do not require a doctor’s note for employees to return to work. Doctor’s offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and unable to provide this documentation in a timely manner.
- Employers should be more flexible with employees who need to stay home to care for a sick family member.
- Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately.
- Encourage hand hygiene. Provide soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rubs in several locations throughout the workplace and ensure these stations are maintained.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning, especially frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, like countertops and doorknobs.
- Explore whether the company can establish flexible or remote worksites (telecommuting), flexible work hours, staggered shifts, or increase physical distance among employees.
If you think you have been a victim of workplace stigma or discrimination, or have been exposed to an unsafe workplace, it is important to seek the immediate advice of an employment lawyer. Contact Larry Golston, Lauren Miles or Leon Hampton, lawyers in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section.