by Jonathan T. Hyman, Esq.
COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) is not yet in Ohio, but it is only a matter of time before it will be. As of the time of writing, there are over 200 cases nationwide, covering 13 states, double the number of cases just 24 hours ago. Coronavirus impacting Ohio isn’t an “if” issue, but a “when” issue. The question your business must be asking itself, then, is whether you are prepared for it, and, if not, what steps will you take to become prepared. Because once an employee becomes ill, it is too late.
Here are 10 action items that we recommend you consider as part of your coronavirus preparedness and response plan.
- Actively encourage all employees to practice good hygiene. Instruct employees to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol. To further this goal, make sure you have sufficient supplies on hand.
- Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms at work should be sent home immediately.
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F or greater using an oral thermometer), and have no signs of a fever or any other symptoms, for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
- Review attendance, leave of absence, and Family and Medical Leave Act policies to ensure that they are up to date to account for COVID-19 related absences.
- Flexibility is crucial. Consider relaxing attendance policies to account for employees’ own illnesses or those of their immediate family members.
- If you have a telework or remote work policy, now is the time to make sure it is up to date. If you do not have one, now is the time to draft one to minimize disruptions as best as possible.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning around the workplace, including all frequently touched surfaces such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.
- Travel plans must be reevaluated. No employee should be traveling to China, South Korea, or Northern Italy under any circumstances. Other travel should be permitted only with the approval of senior management and/or human resources.
- Consider quarantining employees who return from an area with confirmed coronavirus cases, or who otherwise might have been exposed.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, fellow employees should be informed of their possible exposure. Keep in mind, however, that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers maintain a certain degree of maintain confidentiality.
Your mantra in handling COVID-19 should be “prepare, don’t panic.” And the time to prepare is now.
For specific questions about what your business should be doing to prepare, contact your Meyers Roman labor and employment attorney at 216-831-0042, or by email – Seth Briskin firstname.lastname@example.org, Jon Hyman email@example.com, or Lester Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org.