What are a company’s legal obligations surrounding the coronavirus?

The coronavirus (COVD-19) is top of mind, affecting not only our personal life but our professional life.  Whether you are a business owner or employed by a company, understanding a company’s legal obligations surrounding the coronavirus is vital to abide by the laws and to ensure everyone’s safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protects employees, so if an employee becomes infected with the coronavirus at work, the employer may face penalties if certain protections are not put into place.  The general duty clause states companies, “shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Though OSHA has not addressed specific rules regarding the coronavirus, you can read their Guidance on Preparing Workplace for COVID-19.  See link here:  https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf 

As an employer there are a few things you can do:  

  • Stay up to date on the facts regarding the coronavirus and the government mandates on businesses.
  • Educate your employees on keeping safe from the virus and recognizing any symptoms. 
  • Restrict attendance at work.  If you are an industry not affected by the closures, then consider restricting non-essential workers from coming into work.  Provide guidance in setting up remote offices for those essential employees.
  • Review benefits for employees and consider offering paid leave during this time. 
  • Protect the privacy of those employees whom you think is infected but do share when and where the employee was affected to determine who may have been exposed.

Being knowledgeable regarding the laws and implementing best practices that abide by them is critical to avoid legal repercussions while ensuring the coronavirus is contained or minimized.  If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. 

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