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Employer COVID Toolkit

As employees come back to work and employers operate “mid-COVID” in the “new normal,” employers must update their Employee Handbook and related employment policies. BMD has put together an Employer COVID Toolkit to supplement an employer’s existing Employee Handbook and policies to ensure compliance with the Department of Labor guidance, OSHA, FFCRA, the CARES Act and state law. 

The return of the workforce brings a renewed set of documentation requirements for employers, particularly those employers with fewer than 500 employees and any companies who received PPP funds. With the ever-increasing rules, orders, interpretations, employee questions, and customer expectations, it is imperative that businesses have the necessary documents in place.

What are the necessary documents? Companies will want to have policies and forms in place to minimize the risk of liabilities and to best manage the workforce. Because of the uncertainties around the spread of COVID-19 and its testing, treatment and tracing, companies are more at risk for an extension of liability or a regulatory intervention.

What do we specifically need? And why? Keeping in mind the volatility of the laws, rules, and regulations, the safest practice is an Employer COVID set of forms and policies to include:

Return to Work Notice and Form
With furloughs, terminations, PPP loans, and expansive unemployment, employers must track which employees are refusing to return to work, as a best practice, and to extinguish any continuing obligation to the employees. Additionally, under PPP forgiveness exception rules, businesses must maintain a written record if an employee rejects a good faith return to work, the employee was fired for cause, the employee voluntarily resigned, or the employee voluntarily requested a reduction of hours.

Waiver of Liability
The state orders regarding workforce and workplace requirements can create additional duties owed to business invitees. A Waiver of Liability for customers, while not foolproof, will provide an important line of defense to frivolous lawsuits alleging COVID-19 exposure at your business.

COVID-19 Testing Consent Form
As an established precautionary measure, employers will want to engage in some testing or results review for their employees to prevent an outbreak in the workplace. For healthcare providers, this is a recommended best practice with respect to obtaining patient consent and informing patients of the risks associated with COVID-19 when seeking treatment. A Consent Form will set out the necessary parameters for testing by both employers and healthcare providers.

Childcare Leave (Summer Vacation) Form
Under the FFCRA, employees may be eligible for Emergency Paid Childcare Leave.  However, that leave is only applicable to school and care closures due to COVID-19. It does not apply to school closures due to Summer Vacations. During the summer months, employees will need to provide supplemental information regarding their requests for Childcare Leave.

Workplace Policy on COVID-19 Safety and PPE
A top question we receive from employers is “What do we do if an employee refuses to wear a mask, wash hands, keep distance, etc.?” The Workplace Policy will address the mandatory requirements and the potential for disciplinary actions.

OSHA Standards Policy
More and more groups are calling on OSHA to implement COVID-19 safety standards beyond the General Duty Clause. As OSHA introduces federal requirements, employers must be able to implement and adapt through an OSHA Standards Policy.

Internal COVID-19 Reporting Form
When two or more employees raise a concern about workplace safety, they are arguably engaging in a “protected concerted activity” protected by the NLRA. The number of retaliation, whistleblower, and public policy claims are on the rise. It is prudent and imperative for employers to have reporting policies and procedures in place, document and investigate any COVID-19 concerns of the employees and prevent retaliation to avoid the potential claims.

Away from Workplace COVID-19 Policy
This is another major concern for employers. Even if employees are monitored at work, what can stop them from engaging in risky behaviors away from work? An off-duty conduct policy isn’t fail-safe, but it will help set expectations for employees’ actions away from work that may affect the workplace. If employees travel to hot-spot areas, or party with large groups of people, that creates risk for the employer and coworkers, and this Policy announces the employer’s right to restrict the employee from returning to work until safe from exposure.

If you need assistance with any or all of these recommended Employer COVID Policies and Forms, please contact Jeffrey C. Miller at 216.658.2323 or jcmiller@bmdllc.com or Amanda L. Waesch at 330.253.9185 or alwaesch@bmdllc.com or your attorneys with Brennan Manna & Diamond. An Employer COVID Toolkit will be offered to existing L+E Advisory and Healthcare Advisory clients.

Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA”) Under Attack

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or “the Act”) went into effect on April 1, 2020 followed closely behind by the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule on the Act which, collectively, describe the obligations of employers as well as the rights of employees under the FFCRA’s paid sick time and expanded family medical leave provisions.

Lockdowns, Landlords, & Litigation: Abercrombie & Fitch Flips The Script on Simon Property Group Inc.

Novel litigation between commercial property owners and tenants arises from COVID-19 lockdowns. Typically, owners sue for nonpayment of rent. But in Franklin County, Ohio, a large retail tenant turned the tables and sued the owner to recoup payments.

UPDATE: Ohio Businesses Remain Required to Post Exceptions to State-Wide Mask Mandate at All Entrances

On August 1, 2020, Lance D. Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an amended order continuing the requirement that Ohio businesses post at all entrances any permitted exceptions they provide to customers, patrons, visitors, contractors, vendors and similar individuals to use facial coverings.

2020 Marcum National Construction Survey Marks a New, Post-Pandemic Construction Environment

The results of the 2020 Marcum National Construction Survey are in, and the construction industry’s outlook for the remainder of 2020 and beginning of 2021 remains cautiously optimistic despite the COVID-19 global pandemic. Ability to find skilled labor, healthcare expenses, and material costs remain the top concerns for the industry, while “lack of future work” joins the list.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in the Wake of COVID-19

Several major “essential business” employers, including Walmart and Tyson, have been served with wrongful death lawsuits in relation to COVID-19. As many Ohio employees begin to return to work, employers should be prudent in following workplace safety practices.