Covid 19 – Operating Considerations

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With COVID-19 continuing to impact all of our businesses and lives, we have conducted a review of our operations and have undertaken a variety of precautionary measures to ensure we are able to maintain the same level of dedication, advocacy and effort on behalf of our clients that you have come to expect from us during this time.

While it should go without saying, the health, safety and well being of our families, friends, colleagues and clients remains paramount throughout. Years ago, DE invested in the necessary technology to allow attorneys, paralegals and staff to work remotely if and when required, allowing us to provide the same level of service while adhering to the necessary tenets of confidentiality and efficiency that remain hallmarks of the firm to this day. We remain open for business and are grateful each day for the opportunity to represent our clients as we all navigate an uncertain professional terrain over the next several weeks.

Our team remains ready to assist our clients with the ever-changing landscape caused by COVID-19. Below are some important considerations for businesses managing operations during this public health emergency.

Communication – In order to comply with OSHA standards and to protect all employees that have not been infected with COVID-19, employers must communicate with their employees about the importance of staying home if an employee is experiencing signs of a fever or symptoms of a respiratory illness. Employers should also be exercising best practices to limit the risk of employees becoming infected, such as by encouraging handwashing, wiping down and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and allowing employees to work remotely.

Flexible Worksites/Telecommuting – The CDC recommends that employers explore whether they can establish policies and practices regarding telecommuting and flexible work hours (e.g. staggered shifts) to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others. Ensure that your company has the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees working from home. Employers should test these systems prior to providing employees with the ability to telecommute.

Company Sick/Leave Policy – Employers should examine their sick leave policies to make sure that the policies are flexible and in accordance with federal, state, and local laws. The CDC suggests that employers distinguish between essential and non-essential personnel in order to implement a plan that considers employee absenteeism and how it will affect the employer’s operation.

A company’s policy should address plans for dealing with individuals who are infected with the virus as well as persons who share a living space with an infected individual but may not show active signs of the virus.

Medical-Related Inquiries – Employee Confidentiality – Some of the normal restrictions on medical inquiries are loosened in a pandemic situation. Based on the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) guidelines related to the H1N1 pandemic, an employer may ask an employee who has reported feeling ill at work, or who calls in sick, if the employee is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, cough, and shortness of breath.

Non-infected staff and personnel should be notified of any possible exposure to the virus. However, employers should not release the names of infected employees or those who are suspected of infection.

As with any public health emergency, employers must be prepared to respond quickly to changing conditions. Please be sure to regularly consult with information sources posted by the CDC, as well as state and local officials and agencies.

If you would like additional information regarding employer’s rights and responsibilities relating to COVID-19, or assistance in navigating challenges to your business caused by COVID-19, please contact DarrowEverett LLP. We are actively monitoring all federal, state and local guidance as it relates to these matters and prepared to advise accordingly.

We wish you and yours continued good health. Please let us know if you have any comments or concerns about how DE may better assist you during this time.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this publication is for the purpose of informing and educating our clients about various aspects of the law and is not intended to be used as legal advice; no attorney-client relationship shall be formed or deemed to be formed without a duly executed engagement letter. This publication may constitute advertising under various states’ ethics rules. The Rhode Island Supreme Court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the New Hampshire Supreme Court license their respective lawyers in the general practice of law, but do not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To comply with United States Treasury Department requirements, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written by us to be used, and cannot be used: (i) by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer under the Internal Revenue Code and/or (ii) for promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transactions or matters addressed herein.