Human Resources is a continuously changing web in business. With the COVID-19 crisis still present, there are even more HR concerns that must be addressed on the daily for employers of the new workplace. HR professionals have had the ongoing daily juggling act when it comes to handling employee compliance. Now, with Coronavirus / COVID-19, there is a whole new set of struggles. Here are the top 4 questions that HR professionals must ask themselves during the “post COVID-19 workplace” era.
- Will providing telework for employees in response to COVID-19 set a precedent for the future when an employee seeks telework as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
First, when providing telework due to COVID-19 concerns, ensure that employees are notified of the opportunity for telework. Have this in written documentation notifying that this opportunity is only available in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Also show in this documentation that it is expected for some employees to be unable to accomplish some job functions via telework/working remotely. Secondly, when workers return to the workplace, notify all employees that the company is looking forward with a positive attitude and confidence that all job functions will be able to be completed. Have this notice in writing as well. Lastly, ensure that you review and revise any job descriptions for onsite employees that need adjustments. Also ensure that you are validating the changes in a written notice to your employees.
- If schools remain closed in the coming school year or have a part-time stay-at-home structure with remote learning, what leave will employees be entitled to?
It is critical for employers to understand that federal and state laws are changing in order to adapt to the ongoing uncertainty that COVID-19 presents. With that being said, “Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act [FFCRA]—which applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees—there are two ‘buckets’ of leave available for school or place-of-care closures or child care unavailability related to COVID-19: emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. An employee can use both buckets for this type of leave, but only for up to a total of 12 weeks of leave.” – Attorneys Rita Kanno and Diane Waters of Lewis Brisbois, in San Diego and Dallas, respectively.
- What are the best practices for compensating employees for the expenses they have incurred as a result of working from home?
There are expenses that come along with working from home for employees. For example: Internet connections, electric bill increases, or even workstation furniture. This presents the questions from employees to their employers: what help will be given for reimbursement. This question comes especially since, in most cases, it is a mandatory movement to “at-home” work as opposed to an offered convenience. This question is being answered on a state level. For some, it is required to reimburse employees for cost incurred while others have not followed suite, leaving employees to pay expenses on their own with no promise or reimbursement of present costs or retroactive refunds for costs since telework started. The short/safe answer is this: “under the Fair Labor Standards Act and its implementing regulations, employers are generally required to reimburse expenses incurred if those expenses would result in compensation below the federal minimum wage”.
- Can employers have employees over age 65 remain at home for their own protection?
It has been decided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to exclude employees from the workplace based on age. Having said that, certain state and local sick-leave laws may require an employer to accommodate an employee who requests an accommodation for COVID-19 reasons based on age. With that in mind, it is important to stay on top of every state and local law that your business may be affected by.