The recent coronavirus global outbreak and response has many small business owners nervous about the economic impact and how their company will be affected. Dysart Willis Houchin & Hubbard represents employers across North Carolina and is already identifying solutions to some of the most common problems that business owners are facing. This is the first in a series of articles in which our attorneys will address common questions small businesses are facing. 

What Policies Should Be Implemented in Response to Coronavirus?

As an initial matter, decisions regarding employee safety and workplace sanitation should be made focusing on slowing the spread of the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends the following steps for employers:  

  1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
    • Your company’s written sick leave policies should be flexible and consistent with public health guidance and employees should be made aware of these policies. 
    • Talk with your vendors, contractors, or temporary employees with whom you contract about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  2. Separate sick employees.
  3. Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees.
  4. Perform routine cleaning.
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.
  5. Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps
    • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Incorporate and follow the CDC health notices as part of your company’s written travel policies. 
  6. Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of COVID-19:
    • Employees who are well but who have a family member with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and remain out of the workplace consistent with any applicable workplace absence policies but which should be made as flexible as possible based on the current pandemic.
    • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance about their potential exposure and remain out of the workplace if exposed.

If you have questions as an employer about appropriate workplace response to the coronavirus infections, our firm is here to help. Our attorneys are available over the phone or through video conferencing to discuss any legal problems your company is facing and identify potential solutions.