COVID-19 Client Alerts:
Employee Health and Safety
If you have a sick employee during the COVID-19 crisis, what should you do? The CDC and Cal/OSHA recommend that employers encourage sick employees to stay home. Your sick leave policies should be flexible as to how these absences are treated. In particular, do not require a note from a doctor or health care provider for employees calling in sick. Remember that certain employees are entitled to take paid sick leave under existing California law and under the new federal sick leave taking effect tomorrow if they cannot work due to a government isolation order. This means that California employees can take sick leave, even before they have symptoms or feel sick, if they are unable to work due to the isolation order.
If an employee is suspected to have or is diagnosed with COVID-19, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing reminds employers not to identify the employee to others in the workplace. Also, do not confirm the health status of any employee to others. But employers can notify other employees who may have been exposed to the sick employee, so long as those notices do not infringe on the affected employee’s privacy. The DFEH’s Employment Information on COVID-19 provides suggested language to use in a notice to employees:
We have learned that an employee at [office location] tested positive for [or was diagnosed with] the COVID-19 virus. The employee received positive results of this test [or the diagnosis] on [date]. This email is to notify you that you have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and you should contact your local public health department for guidance and any possible actions to take based on individual circumstances.
Employers should also advise all potentially exposed employees to self-monitor for symptoms. Generally, symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, sore throat, and cough.
Finally, you should also implement the most current public health guidelines for cleaning the facility affected.
When an employee has been out sick and wants to return, you may follow the CDC Guidelines. In general, for sick employees who were not hospitalized, the CDC Guidelines for Discontinuing Home Isolation permit a sick employee who has not been tested to end self-isolation when both of the following conditions are met:
- At least three days have passed since recovery. Recovery means the fever is gone (without use of fever-reducing medicines) and respiratory symptoms have improved (i.e., coughing and shortness of breath).
- At least seven days have passed since the symptoms first appeared.
General Guidelines for Protecting Employees’ Health and Safety
For general guidance on protecting your employees’ health and safety, check the CalOSHA and the CDC websites. Be sure to implement Social Distancing Guidelines and provide supplies and information for respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. Place informational posters in high-visibility areas.
Perform regular cleaning and sanitizing. Review the EPA’s list of disinfectants for COVID-19 cleaning.
Also consider monitoring employees’ health in general. The DFEH allows employers to ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough, or sore throat and taking employees’ temperatures daily. For detailed guidance, review the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s Employment Information on COVID-19
Copyright © 2020, Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP. All rights reserved. Please be assured that we make every effort to make certain that the information contained in this alert is current at the time this email was delivered. Because laws and legislation are constantly changing, please contact us if you are unsure whether this material is still current. Nothing contained herein should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended to be for general information purposes only. We assume no liability in connection with the use of the information contained in this article. Given the rapidly evolving nature of legal and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, unfolding events likely will supersede many of the issues discussed in these updates. We encourage you to contact our lawyers directly for the most current information and counsel regarding legal and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact us to answer any questions you may have.