Legal Updates for Employment Law
Coronavirus: Need-to-Know Information for New Jersey Employers
As the progression of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is now beginning to disrupt work environments as well as travel and social gatherings within the United States, employers must take immediate steps to prepare and address concerns as they develop. The CDC has encouraged “social distancing” and other protective measures to reduce the impact and burden on local hospitals and infrastructures. What does that mean for local businesses? It means that it is time to develop an appropriate response and action plan. Proper response planning by employers will help to alleviate any emergent business/legal considerations, while protecting the health of customers, employees and the financial well-being of your company.
Below are answers to some common questions that you may have as you develop your own company’s action plan in the days ahead.
How To Handle Employees Who Have Travelled or Plan to Travel
Employers may require employees to limit non-essential business travel to CDC-designated countries and encourage employees to limit non-essential personal travel to CDC-designated countries. An employer may request that employees notify them of any personal international travel, particularly to an area that is listed as a CDC Travel Advisory. If employees recently returned from a country listed as a CDC Travel Advisory, employers may ask the employee to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. During a pandemic, the EEOC cautions employers to rely on the latest CDC public health recommendations. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
What To Do If an Employee Is Suspected of or Diagnosed with Coronavirus
First and foremost, encourage all employees to stay home and seek medical care if they do not feel well. If, however, an employee arrives at work displaying symptoms of the virus, you must immediately separate the employee and send them home. The employee is entitled to any New Jersey Paid Sick Leave time accumulated and/or leave under the FMLA, should the circumstances warrant. If an employee requires time off from work, you should engage in the same “interactive process” to determine appropriate disability accommodations or a medical leave of absence.
If an employee is diagnosed with Coronavirus, immediately contact your local health department and establish a plan. Next, you will need to inform other employees of possible exposure. Bear in mind, however, that the infected employee has a right to medical privacy. Therefore, do your best to maintain the confidentiality of any employee who is suspected or diagnosed with the virus.
What To Do If Local Schools Close
As the virus continues to spread, it is becoming increasingly more probable that school closures will occur, and employers will be impacted when parents are required to provide child care. Many employers are left wondering how to handle the issue. For some, remote work policies may permit employees to continue their daily responsibilities without requiring to take time off. In other instances, however, due to the nature of the work, some employees will be required to take time off. The issue then becomes how these parents will be able to financially afford the time off.
New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Law*, which went into effect on October 29, 2018, permits employees to use their earned sick time to care for themselves or family members when the employee’s workplace, child’s school, or daycare is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency. The Paid Sick Leave, however, is capped at 40 hours per year. After the expiration of the 40 hours, employees may look towards temporary disability benefits (depending on circumstances and eligibility). Certainly, employers are free to enact any additional policies to help their employees through these difficult times.
Should you have any questions or want assistance in developing your company’s response plan, we stand ready to help.
*Note: The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave laws do not apply to union employees. Union employees are governed by their Collective Bargaining Agreements.
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