As the country and various states begin to gradually re-open from the unprecedented workplace restrictions, mandated or suggested, resulting from the serious safety and health concerns of COVID19, you as an employer will have numerous considerations and decisions to make regardless if your business largely continued with or without significant reductions in operations. Governor DeWine stated that more details will be provided on Monday (April 27th) regarding the additional requirements and guidelines that must be in place for a business to re-open. In the meantime, below are numerous topics and actions you should be taking under consideration to best prepare your organization’s resumption to hopefully full operations in the near or not too distant future. Upon issuance of specific state business reopening requirements, we will review them and communicate additional information.
Employee Recall Notifications
If your organization furloughed employees and begins the process to recall such employees, you may discover that some employees may not respond to your attempts to notify them of established return to work effective dates. Such lack of response may be a result of various reasons, but you will want to implement a consistent process and documentation of your attempts to notify workers of available work. If after multiple attempts via the phone, text or e-mail you do not receive any response from a furloughed worker we recommend sending recall notification letter via certified mail.
Employee Return to Work Limitations / Restrictions
Employee’s with Continued Personal or Family Member COVID19 Health Related Issues or Those with School Age Children whose School and/or Childcare Providers Remain Closed
All provisions and protections of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) are currently applicable through December 31, 2020. Even as federal, state and local COVID19 related restrictions are relaxed, employees will continue to be covered by all provisions of the FFRCA. Thus, any employee already utilizing FFCRA protections and available benefits at the time of an organization’s return to partial or full operations and continue to meet the eligibility qualifications for health related reasons or school/childcare closures related to COVID19 will continue to be covered by the FFCRA, as well as any employees who experience a subsequent qualifying event.
You should continue or establish regular communications with any such employees to provide ongoing updates regarding their return status from COVID19 health related or school/childcare closures to ensure their return to work date is coordinated with the resolution of the COVID19 health related or school/childcare matter or the expiration of their FFCRA benefits.
Work Location Flexibility - Extending Working from Home Considerations
The impact of COVID19 either required or dramatically increased employees working from home. As part of the phased in reopening of the U.S. economy it will be expected or strongly recommended that as many employees continue to work from home for as long as possible to maximize social distancing. As part of this phased in re-opening process is implemented you should identify, encourage and permit employees to continue working from home. If necessary or if business reasons dictate that you limit the number of employees who can work from home at any one time, then consider implementing a rotation schedule of employees working from home and reporting to their office work locations.
Health and Safety Considerations
Employee Health Monitoring / Inquiries / Temperature Checks
While a declared pandemic remains in place, it is expected that employers will continue to be permitted to ask employees about COVID19 related symptoms that are typically ADA-covered inquiries such as if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus, along with requesting employees to conduct temperature checks prior to entering an employer’s premises. Employers should continue to take appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality of any employee health related information.
Employees Diagnosed or Exposed to COVID19
Even with the relaxation of workplace restrictions it is likely that a certain percentage of employees will continue to be diagnosed and/or exposed for the foreseeable future. Ensure you and your employees are aware of the most current CDC guidelines for both employees with a confirmed diagnosis or suspected to have COVID191 prior to their return to work. In addition, ensure you and your employees are aware of the most current CDC guidelines for employees exposed or suspected to be have been exposed to COVID192.
Employee Education and Communication Materials
Although most all of your employees have received a significant amount of information regarding COVID19, it is still highly recommended that you continue to provide regular information and reminders on COVID19 precautionary and safety measures including social distancing, hygiene, sanitation and other COVID19 related measures as specified below. Such communication materials could and should include posters, e-mail communications, shared company communication platforms (intranet, HRIS-Payroll site, Microsoft Teams, etc.…) or via any other regularly used communication tools.
Employee Workspace Separation and Controls
Each workplace will provide unique challenges on implementing appropriate workplace controls, but wherever possible you should assess and implement appropriate workplaces controls such as:
- Increasing distance between employee workspace locations including measuring and marking appropriately separated workspaces
- Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
- Installing high-efficiency air filters and/or increasing the ventilation rates within the workplace environment
Social Distancing Guidelines and Enforcement
Social Distancing has clearly been established as one of key universal measures to help prevent the widespread transmission of the COVID19 virus including maintaining a minimum distance of six feet from other people. In addition to regularly communicating social distance guidance to employees, your ongoing plans during the COVID19 pandemic should include implementation of plans to help maintain social distancing such as:
- Eliminate or minimize in person group meetings, especially in a closed location or, at a minimum, limit the number of meeting participants to allow social distancing measures to remain in effect
- Ensure supervisors and managers lead by example in exhibiting social distancing measures
- Enforce as necessary social distancing behaviors
Personnel Protective Equipment
Outside of health care settings, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a face mask3 and gloves will generally need to be determined by each employer and employee, although in certain circumstances the CDC does recommend wearing PPE such as a face mask for an employee who had exposure/close contact with someone who was confirmed to have or suspected to have COVID194. Personal Protective Equipment can serve as a last line of defense from the spread of an infectious disease such as COVID19, but if used improperly it may be of little benefit. Thus, as part of its ongoing operational plans, each employer should implement steps in regard to when PPE should be used, how it will be safely used and when and to whom it will be provided5.
Workplace Sanitization and Hygiene
All workplaces that have and will continue to operate during the COVID19 pandemic should be implementing enhanced workplace cleaning and sanitization procedures on an ongoing basis and especially in response to any identified potential incidents of COVID19 exposure in the workplace. CDC recommendations on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.6 Such enhanced cleaning, sanitization and hygiene procedures may include:
- Increased frequency and expansion of janitorial staff or third-party contractor cleanings.
- Ensure employees have easy access to soap and water to frequently wash hands. If soap and water are not readily available, provide access to alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote. controls, desks, other work tools and equipment) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
If there is an identified exposure in the workplace of someone confirmed to have or suspected to have COVID19 then ensure that the CDC guidelines on Cleaning and Disinfection After Persons Suspected/Confirmed to Have COVID-19 Have Been in the Facility7 are observed.
Employee Travel Considerations
Although it would be recommended that all employee travel be limited during the COVID19 pandemic, certain employee travel may be deemed essential. Prior to any employee travel, alternatives such as video conferencing should be assessed if it could serve as a viable option. All travel considerations should be assessed for such alternatives including out of town (airline travel) or local or regional travel to current or prospective clients or customers.
If employee travel is deemed to be the only viable or most suitable option for the business-related activity, the employee should review and understand CDC guidelines Coronavirus and Travel in the United States8 for pre-travel, in route travel and post travel considerations.
Client, Customer and Vendor Site Visitation to Your Organization’s Facilities
Onsite visits from clients, customers and other vendors should be limited to those visits deemed necessary or essential to business operations. Advanced communications should be made whenever possible to prevent unnecessary trips being made to your workplace from non-essential visitors. If you do receive on-site visitors, determine what advanced procedures you will have in place such as screening questionnaires, temperature checks, etc.… prior to being granted entry to your facility. In addition, visitors should be provided any appropriate information or reminders of the COVID19 related procedures you have implemented at your facility such as social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, etc.….
Please contact Steve Marklay at Aliniti to review any circumstances involving employee related COVID19 matters, in addition any assistance to develop COVID19 related policies, procedures, employee communications, or draft templates for your use.
Additional Resources Referenced for Use in Creating this Article
1) White House Guidelines – Open Up America Again:
2) Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19):
3) OSHA – COVID19 – Control and Prevention:
4) What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws:
Note: This Employer Guidance on State Re-Openings and the Return to Partial or Full Operations is intended as an employer reference guide only and not intended to serve as either legal or medical advice. Any legal questions should be directed to legal counsel and medical questions should be directed to an appropriate medical provider.