With the ever rampart spreading of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”), what are some considerations you need to be aware of as an employer during California’s Stay at Home Order, Executive Order N-33-20. The order identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors who are exempt and may continue working, these are the sixteen exempt sectors[i]:
- Chemical Sector
- Commercial Facilities Sector
- Communications Sector
- Critical Manufacturing Sector
- Dams Sector
- Defense Industrial Base Sector
- Emergency Services Sector
- Energy Sector
- Financial Services Sector
- Food and Agriculture Sector
- Government Facilities Sector
- Healthcare and Public Health Sector
- Information Technology Sector
- Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
- Transportation Systems Sector
- Water and Wastewater Systems Sector
Employers that fall within the exemption from the Stay at Home Order are still required to take safety precautions and have their employees practice social distancing to avoid spreading of COVID-19. Additionally, employers should encourage remote working or working on a rotating schedule.
As part of the precaution needed while remaining open there has been authorization for employers to make health inquiries during this pandemic. Employers can now ask if employees are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, employers can take employees temperatures for the limited purpose of evaluating risk to others as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. However, keep in mind safe practices such as using disposable thermometers or having your employees take their temperature at home before reporting for their shifts. Also, as an employer you are required to keep this information confidential. You also may send an employee home if they become ill with symptoms of COVID-19.
If your business does not fall within the exempt sectors to the Stay at Home Order make sure to give clear instructions to stay home, it’s always best practice to provide notices in writing. If you have the capability to permit remote work, make sure to consider the wage and hour issues for nonexempt employees (hourly employees). For nonexempt hourly employees ensure that there is proper timekeeping, make certain that your employees are taking their meal periods and rest breaks as required. With today’s technology there are a myriad of applications that can be used to ensure that proper timekeeping and records are being electronically maintained.
Also, make sure that your company is reimbursing nonexempt hourly employees and exempt salary employees for all costs or a reasonable amount for expenses incurred while working from home to remain in compliance with California Labor Code section 2802. If having your employees work remotely is new for your business, some of the costs included in this would be if toner and paper for employees printing from home, cellphone costs and even possibly wi-fi costs.
Dealing with COVID-19 is a new frontier for all of us and as time progresses clarifications and updated regulations will be changing rapidly if not daily, so it is important to keep yourself informed on the latest developments. The California Department of Industrial Relations is a great resource: https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/