As we begin to return to work in various states, employers are struggling with the safest most effective ways to implement this process. On May 7th, I along with Perry Sholes and Greg Rouchell of Adams and Reese presented a seminar entitled “Return to Work: Assessing the Risk and Actions to Mitigate Them” for the New Orleans Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. 210 employers registered and 167 were on the zoom call, the highest attendance yet of these types of presentations.

We were honored to offer insight into the best practices for returning to work Post-Covid. Below are some highlights. We discussed what employers should do to prepare their work environment for returning employees and the guidelines that the federal government recommends.

Those guidelines include:

  1. Developing and implementing appropriate workplace safety policies.
  2. Monitoring the workforce for symptoms.
  3. Developing and implementing policies and procedures for instances of positive COVID-19 tests in the workplace.

With regard to appropriate workplace safety policies, we discussed the tools that should be utilized and others that were available for consideration. They included discussing and implementing social distancing methods, the use and provision of PPE (personal protective equipment) by employers, sanitation of facilities, testing, use, and disinfecting common and high-traffic areas, and other issues. The CDC has offered guidance on the best ways to sanitize a workspace, and OHSA has offered similar guidance.

With regard to monitoring safety, we also discussed the merits and drawbacks of a variety of ways that employers may implement to check the wellness and safety of employees. These include, but are not limited to, temperature checks, testing, self-isolating, and contact tracing.

Additionally, understanding your industry and the changes that should be made in your workplace is paramount. Some suggestions included using partitions in workplaces, placing employees at every other office or every other desk, providing outside social-distanced dining for restaurants, closing or roping off common areas, and others.

We also discussed the policies and procedures that should be implemented. We noted that every organization should have a “Return to Work Task Force.” That task force should “own” the work associated with planning and implementing the return of company employees. They should also be charged with drafting the policies and procedures which should then be communicated immediately and often to employees. They should also be charged with preparing the office through various sanitation practices and continuing that process throughout this pandemic.

Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, they will communicate openly and honestly with employees about the plan to return and what they are doing to keep them safe. The team should communicate with employees often encouraging them to reach out if they have questions and concerns. Lastly, the task force should provide a point of contact for an employee to express any issues.

Additionally, the webinar discussed several laws that could be implicated by a return to work plan. They include but are not limited to, the FFCRA, the ADA, the FLSA, OSHA, HIPPA and Title VII. We addressed likely scenarios and gave tips on how to avoid falling into legal pitfalls as employers navigated this unchartered territory.

The webinar was well-attended and, with approval from the panelists and guest we provided insight well over our allotted time. We attempted to answer as many questions as we could although there was a litany of questions that were left. Correctly navigating the return to work process is an important step for all employers during this time. Engaging legal counsel to assist with this process is one step in making sure it is a smooth transition.

A copy of the presentation can be found linked here. NOLA SHRM has also provided a “Return to Work Guide” that many small businesses will find beneficial during this time.

Transcendent Law Group has resources available to walk you through the myriad of issues. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will post a series of articles that take a deeper dive into the issues that can and will arise as employers attempt to return to the new normal. In the meantime, if you would like assistance with your Return Plan, feel free to contact us.

This article is not legal advice and should not be considered or used as such.  Please contact an attorney for legal advice on the use of face masks, on how to implement a safety plan or any other legal issue related to COVID-19, OSHA, and other legal matters.