Liability Risk of Asking Employees to Report for Work

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, federal, state and local governments have taken unprecedented measures, including recommending that no more than ten people gather at a time, and ordering the closure of certain businesses like gyms, bars and restaurants.

For employers concerned about liability to employees who you ask to report to work as usual, the good news is that the risk of liability is relatively low.

You can further minimize your risk if you adhere to the following measures:

  • Follow federal, state and local governmental guidelines and directives applicable to your business or community. For example, if you own a restaurant, temporarily close your dining area. If you own a gym or have an exercise facility for employees on-site, close it down for the time being.
  • Require employees and visitors to maintain social distancing and do not allow gatherings of 10 or more persons on your premises, including during lunch or break periods.
  • Adopt infection-control practices, such as regular hand-washing and sanitizing of work stations. Increase routine cleanings — particularly in high-traffic or common areas.
  • To the extent possible, consider having employees work from home, and conducting meetings by teleconferencing or email.
  • Federal, state and local employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act rules, continue to apply, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following CDC guidelines about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19.  (Remember such guidance is likely to change as the pandemic continues, and you should follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.)
  • Communicate. During this pandemic, you may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Tell employees not to come to work if they have any of these symptoms (at least that are not explained by some other condition). Send employees home if they display any of these symptoms at work.
  • In the event of a confirmed case, or exposure to a confirmed case, send home all employees who worked closely with that employee for a 14-day period of time. Ask such employees to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (three to six feet) with them in the previous 14 days to ensure you have a full list of those who should be sent home. Do not identify by name the infected or exposed employee. Deep clean any affected workspaces. If you work in a shared office building or area, you should inform building management so they can take whatever precautions they deem necessary.
  • Routinely check the CDC website for new developments or guidelines, such as the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.

This list is not meant to be all inclusive and these recommendations may change as this situation progresses. We will continue to update you about this and other major federal and state measures addressing the ever-developing COVID-19 pandemic.

Please contact your KDDK attorney or any of the following KDDK labor and employment law professionals for additional information and individualized guidance.

Jake R. Fulcher
(812) 423-3183, ext. 2263
Mark A. McAnulty
(812) 423-3183, ext. 2233
Carrie Mount Roelle
(812) 423-3183, ext. 2286
Olivia G. Robinson
(812) 423-3183, ext. 2217
Nicholas J. Golding, Labor and Employment Law Attorney, KDDK
Nicholas J. Golding
(812) 423-3183, ext. 2216

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