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Government Agencies Issue Guidance For Employers On Coronavirus Preparation

Volume: 19 | Issue: 3
March 11, 2020

Recently, several government agencies have issued materials to help employers prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. Below is a quick summary of these resources and a few tips. If you have specific questions about responding to the coronavirus, please contact a KZA attorney.

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an Alert and a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. Under OSHA's standards, every employer has a general duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from recognized hazards. As such, your response to the coronavirus should be classified as a health and safety issue.
  • Employers should use the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has confirmed that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not interfere with an employer's compliance with the CDC Guidance.
  • The EEOC refers employers to a 2009 Guidance that explains how an employer's obligations under the ADA will change if the CDC or state/local health authorities declare COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
  • The Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) issued an email reminding employers that Nevada's paid leave law entitles employees to paid leave for any reason and providing the following cautions and assistance:
    • "Keeping employees from paid shifts may trigger a complaint with the Labor Commissioner."
    • "Profiling or disparate treatment or impact to employees from China or with Asian ancestry ("regarded as") or national origin/affiliation may trigger a complaint under Title VII or NRS (NERC)."
    • "It is important for employers to remember that they could be found liable for adverse employment actions, such as discrimination or harassment, by either supervisors or coworkers for xenophobia. Fear of coronavirus infection is not a defense to such conduct."
    • "An employer may ask an employee if they are sick but may not force a screening; . . . may enforce CDC and state guidance to keep the office healthy (i.e. wash hands); and . . . may send an employee with coronavirus home."
  • The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services has written a letter to businesses and employers.
  • Our Worklaw Network partners have provided some thoughts on wage and hour obligations in light of coronavirus preparation.
  • As you work to address COVID-19, be sure to consider the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreements and remember that the National Labor Relations Act protects employees' rights to engage in "protected concerted activity." Protected concerted activity occurs "when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment" or a single employee acts "on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer's attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action" in relation to terms and conditions of employment.

KZA Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.