Whether you call it Corona Virus or COVID-19, it is the same virus that is paralyzing America’s workforce. Employers are likely to be subject to implementing safeguards to protect workers upon returning to work from current COVID 19 related shelter in place orders.
At least for large employers, protection from mass transit systems will entail employers providing alternative cars and buses and incorporate social distancing to and from work. This may include carpooling under safe guidelines. Where possible, working from home, continue having meetings over video platforms such as Zoom may continue to be appropriate.
Most importantly, employers must take steps to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the workplace. This can entail sanitization and disinfection of work areas, staggering shifts of employees so there is less density at work, and providing appropriate masks and appropriate gloves for employees to wear during work.
Screening of employees is also likely to be deemed necessary. This involves taking the temperature of employees upon entering the workplace with a forehead thermometer. It is likely that video conferencing should take the place of travel. Companies should be prepared to have access for their employees to testing in case an employee shows symptoms. It is difficult for companies to provide testing in the current climate where tests are not fully available to all workers. Employers will be pressured to pay an employee who is waiting at home for test results.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to provide legislation to shield companies from liability over pandemic-related lawsuits. Thus, there remains an uncertainty as to the legal liability of employers for failing to take reasonable steps to protect employees after the easing of the quarantine by Governor Newsom’s administration.