An ever-growing number of new COVID-19 compliance issues.
By Karen A. Confoy and Allison L. Hollows On May 21, 2020
Here are some relevant best practices in these changing times for enforcing employee policies, maintaining workforce performance standards and procedures, and implementing discipline to minimize the possibility of running afoul of discrimination and retaliation laws, or violating public policies:
Stay Current on Changes in the Law:Understand that changes in the laws affecting your employees are ongoing and ensure that you have the means – whether in-house or outsourced – to stay up-to-date on those changes. Ensure that your policies continue to comply with the law and that you effectively and correctly communicate to your employees the changes that affect them.
Reinforce Your Support of Employees:Let them know that you understand these are difficult and unique times. Keep your employees apprised of your efforts to keep both them and the workplace as safe as possible. Let them know how you are implementing evolving state and federal leave and benefits laws.
Make sure your employees understand the need for – and know how to properly report – coronavirus concerns, including knowing to whom they can ask questions.
If Working With Reduced Staff, Review Job Descriptions:If you are working with reduced staff, or implementing staggered schedules, review your employees’ job descriptions to determine whether any employees’ job functions have been altered as a consequence of reduced workload or a reduced workforce. Ensure that any enhanced or reduced employment responsibilities do not have a discriminatory effect, and then communicate with your employees to make sure that they understand their roles and your expectations.
Monitor and Evaluate Performance:Keeping in mind that these times demand more flexibility, if employee performance is subpar, or if an employee is unwilling to perform, non-performance needs to be addressed directly with the employee in a timely fashion. But, be aware of possible retaliation claims.
Review Drug and Alcohol Policies:Stress levels are high. If you suspect employee drug or alcohol use, the company does have the right to require testing. Company substance abuse policies should include procedures for when and how substance testing will occur, and clearly set forth the consequences for testing positive or refusing to test.
Monitor Compliance With Company Harassment and Discrimination Policies:Be particularly alert to red flags signaling possible harassment related to the coronavirus based on ethnicity, national origin, or disability, including, for example, an employee’s reluctance to work with Asian co-workers. Address all incidents immediately and in accordance with company policy.
Finally, emphasize that while everyone must be able to be flexible as you all navigate through the new work environment, work must go on and compliance with company policies remains important as ever.
About the Authors
Karen A. Confoy is a partner, and Allison l. Hollows is an associate, at the Princeton office of Fox Rothschild LLP, Attorneys at Law.