By: Blake Brookshire
After six-weeks navigating the treacherous journey of COVID-19, many of you may find yourself asking, “(Dad) are we there yet?” Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Governor Kay Ivey’s press conference made clear “[t]he threat of COVID-19 is not over.” With this in mind, employers beginning to reopen their businesses should consider the on-going, and potentially long-lasting issues, that COVID-19 presents. See the latest from the governor’s office using this link.
Employers should be mindful of how their return to work policies may create or exacerbate existing obligations under OSHA regulations. Employers may create significant obligations on themselves by simply requiring face protections in the workplace as opposed to merely permitting voluntary face coverings. OSHA enforcement procedures will likely create a source of significant heartburn for many inattentive employers in the wake of COVID-19.
Families First Act
Although many businesses are beginning to reopen and more are expected to reopen in the coming weeks, employers should be mindful that the Families First Coronavirus Act remains in effect until December 31, 2020. Thus, employers may have an obligation to pay employees for two-weeks sick leave due to COVID-19 related issues and/or pay for up to 12-weeks of paid leave under the expanded FMLA leave. Like other federal employment statutes, an enforcement scheme accompanies the Families First Act, which may lead to costly litigation down the road.
Americans With Disabilities Act
Employers must remain mindful that employees returning to work may create employer obligations under the ADA. These obligations may require employers to engage in the interactive process and search for a reasonable accommodation to assist those employees that are disabled under the ADA.
Title VII & Discrimination
Employers considering a staggered reopening to allow certain employees to return to work should do so in a manner that does not violate or create any presumption of violating Title VII’s ban on discrimination in the workplace. Employers must insure that their re-opening plan does not discriminate against individuals based on sex, gender, race, color, nationality, religion, or any other federally protected characteristic.
If you have questions about what to do with your business or company during the COVID-19 pandemic, call Capell & Howard at 334-241-8000 and ask for one of our employment lawyers: Christopher Weller, Barbara Wells, Brooke Lawson, Carla Cole Gilmore, Mai Lan Isler, or Blake Brookshire. Or, visit our web page at www.chlaw.com for contact info and the latest alerts.
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