In short, stay calm and be prudent. Right now, an employer needs to treat this seriously because the last thing any employer wants is for their workforce to be out sick from the coronavirus. The government and employers are currently trying to prevent spreading the virus by not having large groups of people get together. The size of those groups have typically been around 200 people. Many employers have cancelled non-essential business travel.
Depending on the size of the workforce. Many employers are instituting telecommuting from home. Telecommuting can be an excellent way to protect your staff from getting sick, but there are a few situations that employers need to think about:
- Architecture to make sure your companies technology can handle telecommuting. There is a chance that employees will need to be able to work from home whether they get sick or quarantined. So employers will need to have a system ready to handle telecommuting situations.
- Companies needs to sit down and figure out what positions can telecommute, suspend or come in. Allowing your employees to telecommute is perfectly fine, but you will need to be smart about which specific employees can do so. Allowing everyone in your business to telecommute can open many doors that can affect your day-to-day operations after the coronavirus is gone. You do not want to make a subjective decision over who can work from home, who cannot, or if everyone can. It just takes one employee to take advantage of that system to hurt the culture of the business.
- Employers need to be able to justify whatever decisions they make based on objective factors. These decisions should not be made based off personal feelings for specific employees. Everyone needs to be held accountable. There should be an objective factor included into each position as to why or why not that specific employee can or cannot work from home.
It is unclear when the Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act may be affected by the coronavirus. What’s going to happen to an employee that was on a cruise ship that was quarantined for two weeks? What if that employee is no longer on the ship, but is still quarantined back home? The FMLA and ADA didn’t anticipate this situation, but employers need to be careful on how strictly they enforce it. The coronavirus is an anomaly that could be taken into account in court or it may not. There is no way to tell at this moment. Employers should stick with a safe approach to provide the most fair way to compensate their employees as they can.
Every workplace is going to be different. Ever industry, every employer, and everyone will be affected differently. The smartest employers will be the ones that will act prudently and quickly. Hopefully this gets better quickly, but no one is sure yet. I wouldn’t commit to a quarterly strategy of tackling this yet because we cannot predict what will happen. Call us at The Crone Law Firm, and we can give you a Legal Coaching Session to help you deal with this situation. Alan also appeared on WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, Tennessee discussing the coronavirus. Check it out here!