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COMPLIANCE

What, if anything, does OSHA require you to do to protect telecommuters?

While telecommuting is nothing new, the imperative for using it has never been greater. In addition to all the cost-saving, work-life balance, recruiting and hiring advantages, letting employees work from home during a pandemic has become a vital infection control measure. But it also poses significant compliance challenges, particularly in the realm of OSHA. After all, how are you supposed to meet your duty to protect the health and safety of employees if they work from home at a location beyond your physical control? This article will provide the answer. Spoiler alert: OSHA requirements don’t generally extend to employees working from home; but you still can and should take some basic steps to ensure their health and safety. OSHA & telecommuters The Occupational Safety and Health Act (Section 4(a)) applies… . . . read more.

TOOL

Telecommuter home office hazard assessment & inspection checklist

While not an OSHA obligation, it’s highly advisable to take measures to protect the health and safety of telecommuting office employees who work from home. How? By having employees seeking approval to telecommute designate a room or area as their home workspace and arranging for somebody to perform a hazard assessment inspection to verify that the workspace is safe, healthy and appropriate for the proposed use. Option 1: Have an office supervisor or manager visit the site and do a physical walk-through inspection; Option 2: Have the employee videotape the space and/or submit detailed photos and a floor plan and do the inspection virtually; Option 3: Have the employee inspect the space himself/herself. Whoever does the assessment should use the Checklist below.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

COVID, opioids and payroll taxes on HR radar

By Mike O’Brien bio  Applicants, testing, and screening The EEOC has said you cannot test applicants for COVID-19 until after a conditional job offer. Fine, makes sense. What about taking temperatures? You can take a temperature of visitors to your business/office to make sure they are not bringing COVID-19 with them. In fact, you may have an OSHA duty to do so to protect your workers from the pandemic. What about applicants visiting your office to apply to interview—can you subject them to the same temperature screening as all other visitors? Logic would say yes; but the EEOC guidance says no, you can only take an applicant’s temperature after a conditional job offer. Yet, a visiting applicant with COVID-19 could turn your office into a virus hot spot, thus attracting… . . . read more.

COVID & TELEWORK

Are employers responsible/liable for an employee’s home ergonomics, safety and expenses?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 has caused employers large and small to require the employers work from home rather than their employer’s worksites. Word has it that this may continue beyond weeks and months and become the new normal. What is my employer’s responsibility/liability for workplace ergonomics and safety when my home becomes my workplace? Do they need to compensate me for my expenses in upgrading my Wifi and getting a new office chair? Answer: “That depends,” says FisherBroyles management-side employment attorney Eric Meyer. According to Meyer, because the “Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions–even outside of the normal workplace, employers technically have a duty to protect remote workers at home.” “But in reality,” notes Meyer, OSHA won’t inspect employees’ home offices. Additionally, OSHA… . . . read more.

Tool: Model Mandatory Face Mask Policy

More than 20 states have enacted laws requiring the use of face masks or coverings in indoor public places, which would include workplaces like medical offices. Here’s a Model Policy incorporating current legal requirements and public health guidance that you can adapt for your own office.

COVID-19

Can my employer fire me for going to a bar or do I have any freedom left?

By Lynne Curry bio  Question: My employer sent a two-part email to every employee last week. “As you know we’ve had a local spike in COVID-19 infections. The health department has provided a list of the establishments, primarily bars, where COVID-19 individuals spent extended time. The health department asks that anyone who was in these businesses during these times monitor themselves for symptoms, check their temperatures twice daily for 14 days and avoid potentially exposing others who fall into high-risk categories for COVID-19 vulnerability. Please comply with this guidance.” That was okay, but then the email obligated me as an employee to offer up personal information. “We have learned that a bartender at (named) bar has tested positive and was serving customers on ____ date and between ____ p.m. and… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Coworker exposed all of us to COVID-19

By Lynne Curry bio Question For weeks, “Carolyn” told the five of us in our department that she had allergies whenever any of us asked her about her sneezing. She worked with us in the same building, used the same copier, restroom and office fridge and handled the same coffeepot. I tried to avoid her because she kept forgetting her mask and didn’t seem to understand what six feet of separation meant. I saw that she didn’t use sanitizing wipes after she used the copier or coffeepot, so I wiped the copier before I used it and started bringing my own coffee from home. I didn’t talk with the others about this because I’m not a gossip. I regret that now. Because Carolyn’s and my job overlapped and I have… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Here’s new guidance on COVID-19 and FLSA

By Mike O’Brien bio For managers in charge of HR, the so-called lazy days of summer have been anything but lazy, as they strive to adapt to the COVID era and stay up to date on seemingly constant new government guidances. The Department of Labor has provided more information for employers regarding pandemic-related wage and hour issues. Specifically, the agency answered questions about hazard pay, FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage exemptions, and what time is compensable with respect to pandemic-related telework arrangements: DOL notes that hazard pay is not required under FLSA, but may be required under state or local laws, collective bargaining agreements, or company policies. DOL makes clear that taking leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will not jeopardize an employee’s exempt status under FLSA’s… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Use contact logging to ensure medical office employees practice social distancing

Managing a medical office compliance program in the age of COVID-19 poses new and unprecedented challenges. One of the biggest and most important is ensuring that employees and the persons they interact with on the job follow social distancing requirements. To succeed in this effort, you must have the capability to track actual encounters. One possibility is digital technology, the use of apps, wearables and other so called “contact tracing” solutions that monitor encounters in real time. But in addition to being highly privacy-invasive, these solutions may be too costly and cumbersome for many offices. So, you may want to consider using this cheaper, easier and less intrusive manual method instead. What’s at stake Without a vaccine or treatment, social distancing, i.e., keeping at least six feet away from other… . . . read more.

Tool: Model COVID-19 Contact Log Sheet

Maintaining social distancing will be the price that medical offices and other businesses will have to pay to reopen and remain open until the COVID-19 threat goes away. But for social distancing to work, there must be a way to track and analyze actual encounters between people at your facility. One simple way to gather the essential data is to have employees and visitors complete a contact log sheet. Here’s a model your office can adapt for its own use.


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