Throughout the program, the attorneys reiterated that in all categories of employment law, best practices apply even during these turbulent times. They also stressed that new federal guidance related to COVID-19 does not ease compliance to existing state and federal employment laws, and that privacy laws and employment anti-discrimination practices remain in force.
To help employers ensure social distancing compliance in the workplace, Clay and Blerina recommended combining tangible enforcement tools such as designating an on-site enforcer and posting abundant signage with frequent communications and lots of patience. They also advised that employers take a close look at job descriptions with an eye to essentiality, and document policies and actions taken towards compliance in the event that OSHA receives complaints about working conditions, or performs a surprise inspection.
The attorneys walked through pros and cons of categorizing a temporary employee separation as a furlough, layoff, or termination. They stressed the importance of factoring in the total cost of separation including benefit payouts, and the need to follow Oregon’s final paycheck guidance. They also clarified that the choice of separation type may be a factor in the continuation of health benefits.
The webinar concluded with a look at protected leave options available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) and existing Oregon leave laws. The two categories for protected leave under the FFCRA are Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. In Oregon, employees can access leave benefits from the Oregon Paid Sick Time Act.
Webinar guests were encouraged to follow up directly with the attorneys to review specific scenarios not addressed during the program. Tonkon Torp has published a COVID-19 Business Resource digest that is continually refreshed with alerts that touch on a broad range of corporate topics.