Collector - August 2020 - 10

BESTPRACTICES

Planning a Return to Work
Manage communicable diseases in the workplace through office policies.
By Katy Zillmer

"O

pen for business" has a
different meaning now, but
as states have slowly restored
various sectors over the past few months
and continue to do so, more guidance is
available on how to safely operate offices.
Have a plan. Evaluate the plan. Make a
policy. Evaluate the policy. Simple, right?
Not so fast.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it's
essential to have a clear policy in place
for managing communicable diseases and
enabling employees to return to work, said
Gregory Griffiths, attorney with Dunlap &
Seeger P.A. in Rochester, Minnesota.
However, there are many caveats
depending on where your office is
located and licensed and whether there
are state and local government orders
with requirements regarding reopening.
Griffiths said it's important that
companies have a return-to-work policy
in place that they can modify from time
to time to remain compliant and provide
peace of mind to their employees.

DEVELOP A POLICY
Griffiths and members of ACA
International's compliance and advocacy
teams discussed best practices for these
policies as part of the Daily Huddle online
conference series held this spring.
The topic dominated members'
compliance questions on the Daily Huddle
and continued to be a subject of interest,
prompting multiple ACA webinars.
Issa Moe, ACA International's general
counsel, who has been working on the
association's plans for bringing staff back
to the office, advises members to keep their
plans as simple as possible.
Start with a basic policy that covers
compliance with state and federal
guidelines. Companies can always build

10

on the policy and it will likely need to be
modified over time.
Websites for the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (cdc.gov),
the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (osha.gov), and your state's
department of health and department
of labor websites are good places to start
for policy recommendations specific to
communicable diseases, COVID-19 and
return to work guidance.
From there, according to Griffiths, some
good starting points for a policy include:
*	 A statement of why the policy is being
put in place.
*	 A definition of a communicable disease.
For example, communicable diseases
include, but are not limited to, measles,
influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS), including the SARSCOV-2 and COVID-19 (coronavirus). See
the CDC website for more information to
help broaden the definition.
*	 A reminder of your non-discrimination
policy.
*	 A content disclaimer that your company
may modify the policy as needed due to
changing circumstances and state and
federal regulations and laws, with or
without notice.
*	 A statement that you are incorporating
best practices from CDC and state
department of health guidelines at
your workplace.
Griffiths said due to recent concerns
under the Americans with Disabilities Act
and disparate impact case law, a company's
policy should also have language that it
adheres to non-discriminatory policies
and procedures.
Try this sample language suggested by
Griffiths: "Company A will not discriminate
against any job applicant or employee based
on the individual having a communicable

disease," or "Applicants and employees
shall not be denied access to the workplace
solely on the grounds that they have a
communicable disease."
"However, it is important to keep in mind
that your company can screen employees and
applicants for symptoms, including taking
temperatures," Griffiths said. "Employers are
permitted to request that employees notify
them if they've been diagnosed and if they've
been exposed to a communicable disease
and in turn the employer should define what
their expectations are, such as asking the
employee to not return to the office for a set
period of time."
These steps will help put employees'
minds at ease while ensuring your company
can take the necessary measures to maintain
a safe workplace.

PUTTING YOUR POLICY IN MOTION
When you have a policy in place, what
are the next steps? Communication,
communication, communication.
Post your policy in appropriate places
around the office and on your company's
intranet.
"It does need to be appropriately
distributed if it is going to be effective,"
Griffiths said.
Schedule a team meeting, in person if
possible or through a call or video conference,
to allow employees to ask questions about
the policy and provide contact information

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.cdc.gov http://www.osha.gov http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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