With new COVID-19 variants emerging and the world still turning, it is important to learn how to work through these ongoing obstacles. After everyday routines came to a screeching halt, we are slowly but surely getting back into the normal routine of life. This is the “new normal” we must all work within.

Employers and employees are faced with new challenges and are overcoming them one step at a time. Granted, going back to work after any medical condition is difficult, and going back to work after a global pandemic is no doubt a hindrance in itself. So, what are the roles of employee and employer, and what are the legal ramifications of not adhering to CDC Guidelines?

Employer Responsibilities For Dealing With COVID-19:

Both employees and employers have responsibilities when it comes to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers must update their policies to be in line with the CDC Guidelines and cultural expectations for handling COVID. This includes updating leave policies, benefit plans and access to care, remote work policies, and addressing the mental health/well-being of the workers.

  • Leave policies: Review and consider necessary changes to sick/disability, Paid time off (PTO), Caregiver leave, Pandemic leave and Bereavement leave.
  • Benefit plan and access to care: Review coverage/costs for COVID-19 treatments and testing. Expand virtual tele-health solutions, Provide reliable COVID-19 related updates.
    Proactive Healthcare: Make vaccines, preventive care and chronic conditions management tools available.
  • Remote working: Establish remote working policies, offer flexibility to employees balancing multiple roles.
  • Mental health/well-being: Support employees/families and build awareness of financial challenges that have resulted because of the pandemic, offer mental health programs, and recognize/mitigate challenges of social isolation and loneliness when working remotely.

Employee Responsibilities For COVID-19:

Now that we all must work in the “new normal” it is important for employees to be active participants when it comes to COVID precautions and following policies. It’s important for employees to use the tools employers are providing when it comes to maintaining their mental health/well-being, using what accommodations they need to be successful, and following company guidelines when it comes to testing and quarantining.

  • Knowing what accommodations you need: Be sure to review the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and EEO Laws to understand the reasonable accommodations you are allowed. Talk to your employer if you think you need accommodations.
  • Mental health/well-being: Keeping up your mental well-being will help you to perform in your job more efficiently. Find out what resources are available to you and do not hesitate to reach out for help whenever you need it.
  • Follow company and CDC Guidelines when it comes to testing and quarantining: Update yourself on the recent CDC Guidelines and see what your company is requesting when it comes to testing. Your employer should make it clear what precautions you need to take in the workplace, it’s your job to follow these precautions.

Employer Requirements from the CDC and OSHA:

The legal risks for not following CDC Guidelines are no joking matter. Keep in mind the CDC Guidance is not a law nor regulation. Instead, the guidelines can be construed by OSHA and the courts as the legal standard. This determines what actions a company should take to protect its workers. As brought up by the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of labor, OSHA can rely on the general duty clause, which allows the agency to impose the CDC Guidelines.

Following, if a company fails to follow a CDC guideline it could, under that clause, face a penalty with the maximum citation being around $135k. A company must also be cognizant so that they do not recklessly endanger their employees.

Adjusting to this new normal is a learning curve for all, however it is one that needs to be addressed together. With effort coming from both sides the workplace can return to a functioning, efficient and motivating space.

Transcendent Law Group combines the best legal minds, the best business practices with the best technology to obtain the best results. Contact us today to learn more about how we help businesses across the Gulf South!