The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now issued an Interim Guidance specifically for employers in planning and responding to Coronavirus: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020. The Guidance provides recommended strategies for employers to use, and identifies planning considerations. We encourage you to review the Guidance and modify your approach to health and safety in light of the threat posed by Coronavirus accordingly. The CDC cautions, and we underscore, that employers should not be making determinations of risk based on race or country of origin.

Some of the strategies suggested by the CDC are to emphasize the importance of staying home when sick, to actively encourage sick employees to stay home, and to send home employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath). Along the same lines, the CDC guidance urges employers to ensure that their sick leave policies for employees, including for employees to stay home to care for a sick family member, are flexible. Similarly, the CDC also suggests not requiring a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work.

The CDC Guidance further recommends emphasizing respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene in the workplace, including by placing posters about this in common areas, and providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees plus disposable wipes for commonly used surfaces, alcohol-based hand rubs in multiple locations (such as conference rooms) to encourage hand hygiene, and performing routine environmental cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. The Guidance notes that employees who have a family member at home with Coronavirus should notify their supervisor. If an employee is confirmed to have it, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality.

The CDC notes that while at this time the severity of the illness and its impact is unknown, employers should plan for how they will respond in the event of an outbreak in the United States. The Guidance identifies proposed objectives, and key considerations in planning for appropriate responses, such as what the employer will do in the event of higher than usual absenteeism. Finally, the Guidance identifies important considerations and recommendations for creating a comprehensive Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan.

If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this issue of Compliance Matters, please call your firm contact at 818-508-3700 or visit us online at .

Richard S. Rosenberg
Katherine A. Hren
Stephanie B. Kantor
Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt, LLP