On May 7, Tonkon Torp’s Labor & Employment Practice Group launched its Tonkon Coffee Break webinar series to help businesses navigate critical legal considerations as they prepare to reopen and operate in the “new normal” of COVID-19.
Attorneys Blerina Kotori and Megan Reuther hosted the first session, which provided a framework for preparing a gradual reopening strategy. They stressed that businesses need to be familiar with guidance issued by federal and state agencies including BOLI, CDC, OSHA, and EEOC.
One of their recommendations is to create a COVID-19 task force consisting of employees and managers alike for the purpose of creating a comprehensive playbook to guide the gradual reopening of the workplace.
Acknowledging that every business will have unique considerations, Blerina and Megan shared a broad list of reopening logistics and protocols to consider, including items ranging from physical controls, sanitation stations, training, and changes to company culture. They suggested tapping HR employees to manage any actions that involve employee confidentiality and privacy, such as contact tracing, temperature checks, and communicating a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
The attorneys provided best practices for reinstating employees, emphasizing written and documented communication, open access to the reopening playbook, accommodating protected employees, and being available for questions. During this phase, empathy will be important to engage employees assuage stress about returning, and communicate sensitive topics such as how a refusal to return may impact unemployment benefits.
Once the doors are open, Blerina and Megan encourage businesses to continue their safety precautions, be prepared for an increase in accommodation and leave requests, and offer refreshers on protocols and plans as the pandemic environment evolves.
A recording of this webinar is available online. Webinar guests were encouraged to follow up directly with speakers to ask questions not addressed during the hour-long program.
Visit here to sign up for our upcoming Tonkon Coffee Break webinars.
Tonkon Torp has published a COVID-19 Business Resource digest that is continually refreshed with news, alerts and events that address a broad range of corporate topics.