DC, MD, VA Employers: What if Employees Refuse to Return?
Business owners and employers across DC, MD, VA, and the entire United States are preparing to re-open as stay-at-home orders are lifted. Employers are concerned about what post-COVID-19 shutdown business could look like financially and legally. As employers are calling their employees to return to work, they may find some employees uneasy about returning since COVID-19 cases are still rising in some areas.
Employers must consider whether the employee’s refusal is reasonable considering their plan to mitigate COVID-19 spread in the workplace, whether the employee has a covered disability, and whether the employee is entitled to leave. To help address this challenge employers are facing, we have collected the information below to assist business owners across Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Please keep in mind new rules and industry practices are coming out daily.
Please schedule time with your 365BOOKSPRO professional if you need assistance.
How DC, MD, VA Employers Can Address Employee & Customer Concerns
Often, the best way business owners can protect their business, employees, and customers are to have interactive conversations that aim to find solutions, mitigate problems, and avoid unneeded escalations. Below, we have outlined the steps you can take.
Step 1: Share the COVID-19 Re-Open Plan & Train Employees
Employers should keep employees apprised of all measures the business is taking to maintain a safe workplace, consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and local health authorities.
CDC expects employers to have the baseline responsibility of providing proper hand-washing stations, additional sanitation measures, personal protective equipment, and must be set up to follow social distancing recommendations. Further, if employers are able, they should screen employees each day by taking their temperatures and send workers who have fevers home. Alternatively, employers can require employees to take their own temperatures before reporting to work.
OSHA expects employers to demonstrate their good faith efforts to reduce or eliminate COVID-19 hazards. Documentation and execution of these efforts is the key to demonstrating why it is reasonable for an employee to return to work. Below are some steps suggested by OSHA:
- Assess the risk level of COVID-19 exposure for your employees based on OSHA’s employee exposure chart. OSHA has indicated most American workers fall in the low and medium exposure risk categories.
- Train employees about and enforce rules pertaining to proper workplace sanitation and hygiene
- Assess and provide employees with appropriate PPE (i.e. face coverings, gloves, etc.) and train on its proper use, maintenance, and cleaning practices
- If normal PPE is unobtainable due to shortages, assess and provide employees with comparable alternatives (cloth face masks)
- Assess and implement appropriate administrative controls (i.e. temporary shutdown of nonessential activities, staggered shifts, limited customer access, one-way aisles, keep sick workers home, social distancing, etc.)
- Assess and implement appropriate engineering controls (i.e. ventilation systems, physical barriers, drive-thru windows, etc.)
- Investigate and address, if necessary, internal complaints from employees about alleged workplace hazards
Step 2: Ask All Employees If They Have Any Specific Concerns or Ideas to Minimize Risk
Actively listen to understand what concerns they have. Employees bring a unique perspective that can be used as an asset. They may see unanticipated challenges or better yet, risk-mitigating and/or cost-saving solutions. By bringing them in and asking for their concerns, you are signaling to them that you care and are willing to listen. Ultimately, by having this conversation, you are creating a safer work environment and better protect your business.
…If they have no concerns or ideas, go to step 5!
Step 3A: If Concerns Have Already Been Addressed, Share That Information
Ask if the action(s) you have taken (or plan to take) comforts the employee. If not go back to step two and collect specific feedback. By engaging with them in this way, they are more likely to trust you are exhausting all avenues to make them feel safe.
Step 3B: If Concerns Are Reasonable, Determine Steps To Address Those Concerns
Thank them for bringing up legitimate concerns and ask them if they have any ideas on how to relieve those concerns. By asking them for their feedback and exploring solutions together, they are more likely to trust you have their best interest in mind.
Step 4: Follow-up Quickly with Concerns
Employees that do not feel they have been heard and fear they are in an unsafe work environment are more likely to file an OSHA whistleblower complaint. If OSHA receives a complaint, they will likely engage in “non-formal” investigation of complaint(s) of workplace COVID-19 hazards through notices of alleged hazard
to which employers must respond. For OSHA to consider an employer’s response to a notice of alleged hazard adequate, the employer should demonstrate that it has taken appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread. Ultimately, employers can avoid costly whistleblower complaints from being filed by interactively communicating with employees.
Step 5: Remind Employees You Are Learning & Appreciate Ongoing Knowledge Sharing
Remind your employees you are learning from this and you expect them to as well. If they see or learn anything that is cause for concern or could be implemented in the workplace to make the environment safer, they should come to you (jumping you back up to step 2).
Step 6: Celebrate Your Employees (& Customers)
Thank them for their feedback, patience, ideas, and continued loyalty to your business.
Unemployment Benefits & DC, MD, VA Employers
Employers are bracing for challenges during the unprecedented unemployment surge and guidance from multiple agencies. Millions of American workers have filed for unemployment since mid-March, including workers who were furloughed but remain employees with their company, and workers who had their hours cut and qualified for partial unemployment. Proactive employers are informed of the challenges they may face so that they are better prepared. Below are some of the questions you may face as you begin to reopen.
Employers who follow federal, state, and local safety measures will likely be recognized as providing suitable work. There are multiple layers of leave laws that are in play in the COVID-19 era. Employers may need to consider leave rights via:
Unemployment Benefits at the federal
, and state-level; DC
, & NY employers
& Department of Labor information at the federal
, and state-level; DC
, & NY employers
Unemployment Benefits & Employer Frequently Asked Questions
365BOOKSPRO Supports Our Clients Including DC, MD, VA Employers
We are committed to assisting you with navigating the rapidly changing environment that COVID-19 has brought about. We hope the information we provide you helps minimize your administrative burden across the entire spectrum of employment-related payroll, tax, human resources, and benefits so that you can focus on running your business.