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Webinar Recap: Practical Employer Response to COVID in the Workplace

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, employers continue to face new challenges. Unfortunately, for some employers, these challenges will come in the form of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.

Do you know how to appropriately respond if this were to happen in your workplace?

To help you better understand how to handle a positive COVID-19 test result, the AEM Workforce Solutions team recently recorded a webinar on the topic. Our expert panelists discussed important HR topics related to the coronavirus pandemic and answered frequently asked questions across three key areas:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act & Accommodations Process
  • Workplace Safety & OSHA Considerations
  • Practical Response Plans

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act & Accommodations Process

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was one of the first waves of legislation that was passed in response to COVID-19. It’s meant to help prevent employees who could be sick from going into the workplace and perpetuating community spread of the coronavirus. It also provides tax credits and repayment to employers.

Key takeaways:
  • Under the FFCRA, city employers are required to provide Families First paid leaves for employees; however, they may not get a tax credit or repayment for it.

  • If your business or organization has fewer than 500 employees, you’re required to provide Families First paid leave, which covers emergency paid sick leave and emergency expanded leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This requirement stands even if you’ve never been covered under FMLA before. There is an exemption for businesses under 50 employees that can demonstrate a business hardship.

  • If one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19: Consider obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) when responding. COVID-19 is a medical condition, so it could be considered a disability.

Workplace Safety & OSHA Considerations

Learning that one of your employees tested positive for COVID-19 can easily cause you to panic. That’s why it’s so important to have a response plan in place.

Key takeaways:
  • We’ve created a timeline (utilizing guidance from the CDC and EEOC Pandemic) to help you prepare for and respond to a COVID-19 diagnosis in the workplace.

  • OSHA offers more guidance than clear-cut recommendations for how to protect your employees and establish a safe workspace. For this reason, it’s especially important to document your efforts to do so.

  • If an employee reports a positive COVID-19 test result, you must determine (to the best possible extent) if the exposure was likely related to your workplace. (If so, you’ll need to fill out OSHA’s Form 300.) It’s important to know which questions you can—and cannot—ask about your employee’s work and non-work activities to maintain ADA compliance.

Practical Response Plans

Responding to a COVID-19 diagnosis in your workplace requires immediate action—not only from you but also from your managers. It’s critical to have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (per the state of Minnesota) in place, so everyone is on the same page.

Key takeaways:
  • Your managers and supervisors should be trained on how to respond to a COVID-19 diagnosis as well as the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

  • Don’t forget to obtain the information you need to submit to the IRS for FFCRA emergency paid leave reimbursement from the employee. You can send the employee a form to complete or take the employee’s information over the phone.

  • If one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19, you and possibly your managers will get a call from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Be sure your managers are prepared to answer the MDH’s questions.

Final Thoughts: Things to Consider

  • Do you need help drafting and implementing your mandatory COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and training your leaders on what it means for everyday work?

  • Are you prepared to quickly and appropriately respond to your first (or next) COVID-19 positive employee?

  • Do you have the resources to accurately assess, document, and administer paid employee leave under the FFCRA and/or CARES Act?

The Abdo HR & Payroll Solutions team will help you take these considerations a create a plan of action for your organization. No matter where you are in this journey, we can help you develop a strategic plan to move forward with confidence.

Interested in watching the full webinar? View it here!

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