A New Workplace Normal For Arizona Workers And Employers
Returning to work after COVID-19 presents challenges for Arizona employers and employees alike. While many workplaces that shut their doors earlier this year are now open, the pandemic continues to rage on. That means keeping employees, customers, and visitors safe and reducing the virus's spread remains a top priority. Employees also face new issues relating to their leave and disability rights under laws passed in response to the crisis.
Here are just a few of the significant issues facing Arizona’s workforce and the companies that employ them as thousands return to work after COVID-19 induced months of furloughs, layoffs, and working from home.
Maintaining a Safe Workplace
Federal and Arizona State laws require all employers to provide and maintain a safe workplace for their employees. But what that means during the COVID-19 era can be complicated, especially as experts learn more about the virus and government guidance and restrictions often change.
Employers should follow all laws, executive orders, and other rules and limitations established by local and state governments and public health authorities regarding indoor spaces and employee safety. As a general matter, employers and employees can turn to the guidance provided by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for basic information about how to minimize risks from COVID in the workplace.
The CDC guidance on returning to work after COVID-19 includes detailed suggestions as well as general policies and protocols, including:
- Conducting daily employee health checks
- Performing a workplace hazard assessment
- Encouraging employees to wear masks and cloth face coverings in the workplace
- Implementing policies, practices, and break room organization for social distancing
- Improving building ventilation systems
Employees Who Want to Continue Working From Home Instead Of Returning To Work After COVID
While everyone is vulnerable to coronavirus, some people are at elevated risk because of preexisting health conditions, such as immunodeficiency disorders. For such employees, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) may require their employer to make a “reasonable accommodation” to allow them to perform their job in a way that accounts for their disability in the context of COVID-19.
Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addresses several pandemic-related employment and ADA issues, including what constitutes a reasonable accommodation.
School Closures and Other COVID-19 Reasons For Family and Medical Leave
One of the federal government’s first legislative responses to the pandemic was the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The act, which applies to employers with less than 500 employees, established a new type of protected employee leave: paid family and medical leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees can take FFCRA leave, and employers cannot terminate or retaliate against them for doing so if they need to take time off because:
- The employee has or possibly may have COVID-19
- They need to care for someone in their household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
- The employee needs to care for their minor children because their school, daycare center, or other child-care services are closed due to COVID-19
The first two types of leave are limited to two weeks, but the third type (to care for a child) can run up to 12 weeks in total.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has guidance for employers and employees about their family and medical leave rights under the FFCRA.
Employees Who Test Positive For COVID-19
Employees who feel sick or are experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19 should never, under any circumstances, go to their workplace. If an employee does test positive for COVID-19, they should let their employer know immediately. Employers should have protocols in place to address an employee who becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19. Again, CDC guidance is an excellent source for information about what to do, including:
- Isolating/quarantining exposed employees or those that worked near an infected coworker
- Cleaning and disinfecting the workplace
- Notifying all other employees who may be at risk for exposure from the affected worker
Testing For Employees Returning To Work After COVID-19
Arizona employers can require that employees test negative for COVID-19 before allowing them to return to the workplace. Companies can also require that new hires get a test as a condition of their employment. According to EEOC guidance on the subject, "employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others."
Anderson Insurance Services: Helping Arizona Companies And Employees Stay Healthy For Over 30 Years
At Anderson Insurance Services, helping keep Arizona workers healthy is what we do. We are an experienced Arizona small business health insurance broker with over 30 years of experience servicing the health insurance needs of Arizona businesses and their employees. We are committed to answering your questions, addressing your concerns, and providing solutions that can keep you and your workforce safe and healthy during these challenging times.
Contact us to schedule a free consultation about your small business insurance needs.