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COVID-19 And HR Issues Highlights

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Apr 29, 2020 8:20:15 AM
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There are a growing number of HR issues that are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing crisis. 



Here are highlights of some of the more recent issues and concerns for employers and HR professionals.

Managing a largely remote workforce, maintaining compliance with health and safety requirements, and a myriad of other COVID-19 related issues has made being an employer more difficult than usual.  And there are new areas of concern and issues for consideration developing almost daily, it seems.

Spotlighting Current Developments

Relief for SF Workers

San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed the San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO) on April 17, 2020, which took effect immediately. The following day, guidelines to help employers and employees understand their rights and obligations under the PHELO were issued by San Francisco's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE).

According to an article at CalChamber's HRWatchdog website,

"The emergency ordinance seeks to address the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) coverage gap as the FFCRA exempts employers with 500 or more employees. Starting April 17, 2020, businesses with 500 or more employees worldwide must provide up to 80 hours of paid Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) to each employee who performs work in San Francisco.

Under the PHELO, employees may use PHEL when they are unable to work (or telework) due to specified COVID-19-related reasons. The leave is in effect only during the current local emergency, and employers are not required to pay out any unused leave."

The current projected end date for PHELO, under the guidelines provided, is June 17, 2020 or the end of the public health emergency, whichever occurs first, unless extended by the Board of Supervisors. Some aspects of the guidelines are almost identical to pre-existing standards in San Francisco's separate Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO), which is understandable as those standards were temporary guidelines until OLSE adopted PHELO guidance. Some PHELO guidelines, however, differ from their PSLO equivalent.


employee handbook guide

Testing Employees at Work

Employee privacy and anti-bias regulations are still in effect in U.S. workplaces, however, employers must balance those with the need to ensure a safe workplace. With the COVID-19 situation, this can mean taking the temperature of employees as a condition for being allowed to work.

According to a recent article summary at HR Dive,

  • "Employers can test on-site employees for COVID-19 as a condition of entering the workplace, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • According to guidance updated April 23, a mandatory COVID-19 test may be administered if it is "job related and consistent with business necessity." Given that a person with the virus "will pose a direct threat to the health of others," an employer can choose to test employees entering the premises.
  • EEOC says 'employers should ensure that tests are accurate and reliable.' Additionally, it recommends that employers "still require —​ to the greatest extent possible —​ that employees observe infection control practices (such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures)" in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work."

The key is inclusion - testing everyone or everyone who displays symptoms - and common sense. Employees cannot be singled out for special testing or other measures on the basis of race, religion, sex or other protected characteristics. Compliance with discrimination laws is not inconsistent with the recommendation to test employees and the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On April 8, 2020,  the CDCl published an "Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19" that recommends employers measure the temperature of workers as a "pre-screen" before they can return to the workplace.

Requiring Return to Work

At some point, California employers at large will be allowed to resume business with workers back on site. However, this can have some potential legal issues for both employers and employees. Getting back to "business as usual" may not be a simple as requiring employers to show up for work.

A recent Fortune article notes,

"According to legal experts, employees don’t have a blanket right to refuse to work during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t demand protection from obvious risks. Meanwhile, lawyers are advising business owners to think carefully about worker safety as they navigate a situation fraught with legal implications."

Depending on the type of business and the overall potential of exposure to the public, it is quite possible that some workers may feel unsafe returning to work. 

"[E]mployment law experts also say a general fear of catching the coronavirus isn’t enough justification to refuse to work. 'You’d have to be in imminent danger. An individual has a narrow right to refuse to go work on the basis of what a reasonable person would fear,' says Jason Bent, a law professor at Stetson University."

In such cases, Mr. Bent pointed out that workers can request an OSHA inspector to decide if the workplace is unsafe and be legally protected from retaliation if they were to do so.


Want to learn more about workforce management? Get out our free guide

Your Partners for HR Management Issues

Maintaining compliant workforce management requires understanding paid sick leave policies and legal requirements regarding furloughs and layoffs. Accuchex can help your company meet its obligations, as well as provide accuracy and timeliness. Understanding the law, automating sick leave tracking and calculations, and prioritizing accurate record keeping will make compliance a sure thing.

Another key step in maintaining HR compliance and increasing your company's cost-effectiveness is to consider outsourcing. A professional agency such as Accuchex can provide much-needed help with Human Resources needs and questions.

Accuchex is a full spectrum Payroll Management Services provider offering expertise in Time Management, Insurance and Retirement issues, as well.

If you are looking for reliable resource for your HR issues, we can help. And you can get your Free Download: California Paid Sick Leave Law to help you make an informed decision, or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.


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Topics: HR management practices, family leave, workforce management, coronavirus, COVID-19

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