You can’t turn on the radio or television, or open a web browser without getting some update on the ever-encroaching coronavirus. With confirmed cases in Oregon, concern for your personal health and wellbeing is a natural reaction, but what do you do as an employer? How do you make the safety of your employees a top priority while ensuring business needs are met?
Many of our clients and colleagues have reached out asking questions pertaining to what they can/cannot do in light of a pandemic. Can you ask an employee questions about their health? Can you send an employee home or require an employee(s) to work from home?
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) recently released guidelines on how to mitigate potential health concerns while maintaining compliance with the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and Rehabilitation Act. Essentially, the ADA and Rehab Act rules continue to apply when dealing with employees who are or may be ill; however, these acts do not interfere with or prevent employers from following guidelines and steps outlined by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) regarding managing coronavirus in the workplace. These steps include:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home – If employees exhibit any cold or flu-like symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., respiratory issues or a fever), they should stay home. Ensure sick leave policies are flexible, and do not require a doctor’s note for employees who are sick with these symptoms. In accordance with the EEOC and CDC, an employer MAY ask employees if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms as these inquiries are not disability-related. If a pandemic becomes severe, these inquiries, even if disability-related, are justified by a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that the severe form of pandemic influenza poses a direct threat.
- Separate sick employees – Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms upon their arrival to work or who become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately. Advising an employee to go/stay home if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms is not a disability-related action, and such an action would be permitted under the ADA if the illness were serious enough to pose a direct threat.
- Emphasize staying home while sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand washing – Cover sneezes and coughs with your elbow, provide tissues and no-touch trash receptacles, instruct employees to wash their hands frequently and provide education (e.g., posters) on appropriate hand washing practices, and provide soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers/rubs.
- Perform routine cleaning – Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, work surfaces, countertops, etc.) and provide disposable wipes for employees to wipe down commonly used and touched surfaces between use.
- Advise employees prior to traveling – Monitor the CDC’s health notices for the latest guidelines regarding travel and ensure that employees who become ill while traveling promptly notify their supervisor and health care provider if necessary.
As a precautionary measure, or in the event of a community spread, many employers are considering permitting more employees to telecommute or work remotely. For those positions in which this is a feasible option, there are a few steps you need to have in place to ensure this arrangement works for both the employee and the organization.
Follow along in our next post when we delve deeper into the specifics of telecommuting, including revamping or implementing policies based on recent health concerns.
For questions regarding flexible sick leave policies, or if you need any policies updated or implemented to ensure compliance and flexibility during this ongoing concern, feel free to contact us for advice and guidance.
The past year, the past decade, has proven to be monumental in updates and changes to employment and labor law. Most recently, improvements in pay equity, the #MeToo movement, modifications to EEO law, and long-awaited implementations to sick and medical leave laws have created positive changes for employees and employers alike.
What do we now have to look for and anticipate in the upcoming year? Here is a short list of what the start of this new decade hold for us as employers in this rapidly changing employment world (particularly at the Federal level, and for those employers on the West coast):
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Final Overtime Ruling – Effective January 1, 2020, the new salary threshold for exempt employees has been raised from $455 a week to $684 a week (or $35,568 annually).
- Tip Sharing Rules – Again on the docket, towards the end of 2019, the DOL announced a new, proposed rule that would make it easier for employees to engage in “tip pooling”, a practice in which employees who receive minimum wage and customarily receive tips share those tips with “back of house” employees (e.g., cooks, dishwashers, etc.) who are not usually tipped.
- California Assembly Bill 5 – Effective January 1, 2020, this new law will require companies to reclassify some of their independent contractors as employees. To maintain current classifications, independent contractors must meet a new set of established criteria. Additionally, certain professions are commonly exempt from this change, including physicians, lawyers, real estate agents, and engineers. This change will require employers to provide paid time off, overtime compensation, health benefits, etc.
- Oregon’s Employer Accommodation for Pregnancy Act – Oregon’s Fair Employment Practices Act will be expanded on January 1, 2020 to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who are employed at organizations with 6 or more employees. Reasonable accommodations may include changes to schedules, equipment, working assignments, etc. While already prohibited from pregnancy discrimination, employers are additionally prohibited from denying employment opportunities or taking adverse employment actions, failing or refusing to make reasonable accommodations, requiring an applicant or employee to accept an unnecessary accommodation, or requiring an employee to take family or any other leave if a reasonable accommodation can be made.
- Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave – Starting January 1, 2020, employees in Washington will be entitled to take up to 18 weeks of paid family and medical leave each year. Washington state is the fifth state in the U.S. to implement such legislation.
HRCentral will keep our clients and colleagues updated on final rulings to pending legislation that will directly affect their organizations and employees. Please contact us with any questions regarding these updates, or to make any necessary updates to your employment policies and documentation.
A new decade! What an opportunity to approach goals and intentions with a fresh outlook. A clean slate, a chance to really focus on making changes in countless facets of our lives. When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, we all start out with genuinely good intentions, but how many New Year’s resolutions have already faded away, even in the first week of the new year?
One of the primary reasons we are inclined to set new goals and start the year fresh in the first place is because we want to change a bad habit, start a new habit, or simply want to do something different. The majority of us set personal goals for improvement around this time of year, but how can you be your very best self in the workplace? What changes do you want to make to start this new decade off on the right foot?
When setting personal resolutions for yourself, consider applying one (or more) of these resolutions towards your professional goals for 2020:
- Stagnation– It happens to be best of us. There are times when we get bored, but when it extends to a pattern of being content to be bored, that is an issue. If you are uninspired and unmotivated to perform, make it a point to challenge yourself to try new things, learn new tasks, and do what you can to keep busy and out of the slump that results in a lack of productivity.
- Gossiping and Complaining – Enough is enough. Whining about small and insignificant things, engaging in office drama, and participating in talking behind someone’s back is not only unprofessional, but incredibly unproductive. Make it a resolution to not partake in office gossip and be the bigger person, simply walk away from toxic conversations whether that be gossiping about a fellow coworker or complaining about simple policy changes. Keep the negativity at bay.
- Being Critical of Others – The same concept that applies to office gossip applies to criticizing others. As a manager, constructive criticism is sometimes necessary, but make it a point to keep unnecessary criticism to a minimum. If you are not a supervisor, it really isn’t your place to criticize the work of others. Having constructive conversations with colleagues is one thing; picking on and pointing out mistakes just for the sake of making yourself feel better is a bad workplace habit that we should all strive to break or avoid.
- Poor Time Management – It is a habit that is far too easy to fall into. Mindlessly scrolling down social media news feeds when there is a lull in the work day. Procrastinating on a work project that isn’t “that” time sensitive. Focus on making the most out of every minute. When you really strive to find balance in your work duties, you’ll find that you won’t reach a point of burn out as a result of pushing everything off to the last minute, at which point you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
Take advantage of this fresh start to the new year, this new decade, and say goodbye to bad habits that may be hindering your chances at success and happiness in the workplace. Good workplace habits ensure productivity and can improve your professional image and reputation. Remember, you can develop good workplace routines at any time, not just at the start of new decade, a new year, a new week, or a new month. Always strive to do better, and be better.
Ahh November! That special month out of the year when we reflect on those people and things we are most grateful for. A time for being present and mindful, and appreciating the good. Mixing things up a bit from our regular HR-themed blog posts, I would like to take a moment to reflect on something I am personally thankful for: my amazing team at HRCentral.
For over 8 years I have been fortunate to call HRCentral my home away from home, all thanks to our fearless leader, David Noland. CEO of our company for nearly a decade, David is the epitome of what it means to be a great manager. Especially in the human resources field, we hear many “worst case scenarios” of examples of bad management, and provide extensive trainings on how to be a good manager and what not to do. David certainly practices what he preaches!
His unyielding trust, encouragement of my professional development, providing fair and constructive feedback, and always being there when I need any assistance has helped me grow in my knowledge and confidence in this position and field. I can truly say I would not be where I am today without his support and guidance, and I am so thankful that I can call David not only my leader, but my friend.
As we continue this month, lets all take the time to reflect on what we are personally thankful for, both in our personal and professional lives. Follow along in our next post as we discuss how to appropriately show your appreciation and gratitude in the workplace, whether you’re a manager or an employee, during this special time of the year.
Christina Varga, PHR
VP HR Specialist – HRCentral Corporation