RED BANK, NJ: An influx of novel employment law issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to focus on wage and hour, workplace safety, accommodation and security issues in order to avoid liability.
As an attorney focused on labor and employment law, I provide guidance and solutions for small and medium-sized businesses to avoid these pitfalls.
Here’s just a few issues on what to keep an eye on:
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1. Workplace Safety. Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment has been a priority for nearly all employers. This has been difficult for many employers because exposure to COVID-19 may be unavoidable, even when following the highest standards of safety protocols and precautions.
Employers, to minimize the risk of exposure to their employees, should at minimum, follow the CDC’s guidelines, OSHA Guidelines and NJ State guidelines where available, provide employee safety training, provide the appropriate PPE and initiate workplace temperature-taking. By consistently following these guidelines and practices, employers will have a strong defense and reduce their liability against potential claims.
2. Salary Issues. Teleworking and COVID-19 have created unique issues and liability consequences. Hourly and nonexempt employees’ hours should be recorded, including any time taken for working after normal business hours such as answering a phone call or responding to an email. Child labor laws are still in effect. Restrictions on the hours a minor can work and their required breaks are still in effect.
3. Accommodation of High-Risk Workers
Employers have an obligation to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable state laws. Employees may claim they have an underlying condition that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19, which may be covered by the ADA.
Engaging in the interactive process of determining whether reasonable accommodations such as personal protective equipment, teleworking or even a leave of absence may be appropriate is required by law. Employers are subject to liability if they decline to engage in the process or refuse to make reasonable accommodations.
4. Compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The law was passed on April 1, 2019, with the Department of Labor (DOL) posting numerous regulations and Frequently Asked Questions. Some of the initial rules were struck down by a federal court. Those have now been replaced with updated regulations. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by workers alleging that that they have been retaliated against after requesting a leave under the FFCRA Act. I strongly recommend reading the FAQs that apply to your situation.
5. Work from Home. Employees working from home are still covered by Workers Comp if they suffer repetitive stress injuries from attempting to work in ways that are not ergonomically correct. If employees are working from home using their own devices and their own cell phone plans and internet service, employers may want to consider reimbursing them for part or all of those costs. To protect the employer’s computer system and data employers should consider providing the computers and cell phones that their employees use, so they can install the necessary safety measures.
For expert labor and employment law counsel, please call Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney directly, 732-740 – 3833, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my website.
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