So, an Employee Has COVID-19 Symptoms or Has Tested Positive…Now What?
The latest in NADA’s Dealership Lifeline Webinar series addresses the literal lifeline of your employees, your customers and all those involved when someone tests positive for the novel coronavirus—or has a suspected infection. Presented by Douglas Greenhaus, NADA chief regulatory counsel, and Travis Vance, chairman of the Fisher and Phillips COVID-19 Task Force, the webinar highlights how dealers can be prepared in a worst-case scenario.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, there are more than 400,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 12,900 deaths in the United States as of April 8. With many hospitals and medical facilities stretched to their limits—and the peak of the crisis expected to occur in the next week or two —each of us shares the responsibility of mitigating the effects of this deadly virus. Employers today must have the knowledge and capability to take important first steps during this time.
Vance, from Fisher and Phillips, a leading labor and employment law firm, shared the important need for dealers to:
- Educate all employees about how the coronavirus can be contracted;
- Establish a point of contact in human resources or elsewhere for employees who have concerns;
- Remind employees about policies concerning absences, teleworking, sick pay, FMLA, unemployment, and short-term disability;
- Train supervisors on the impact of overreacting and the importance of adhering to anti-discrimination policies;
- Conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of all areas especially frequently touched surfaces (e.g., offices, bathrooms, kitchen areas, etc.) when contamination is suspected; and
- Keep track of updates from the CDC and local health departments.
Safety and health are the paramount considerations right now. In a business environment like dealerships, where foot traffic is unavoidable, the CDC recently noted that masks should be worn in all situations where social distancing is not possible. Also, if employees are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus or flu, employers can ask them to stay home and encourage them to seek medical attention.
If employers are, in fact, facing a positive case of COVID-19, Fisher and Phillips recommends:
- To send home all employees who worked closely with that individual to ensure that infection does not spread. Do not name infected employees; you would risk violating confidentiality laws.
- Before an infected employee departs, ask them to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity to them for a prolonged period of time (more than a few minutes) in the previous 14 days.
- That infected employees should remain at home and in quarantine until released by a physician or public health department.
These same guidelines apply if employers have a suspected but unconfirmed case of COVID-19. Fisher and Phillips advises treating the situation as if the case is confirmed. Communicate to your affected workers that the employee has not tested positive but has been exhibiting symptoms that may lead to a positive diagnosis. Time may be of the essence.
Finally, to aid in the economic health of dealerships, NADA encourages all dealers to avail themselves of the benefits of the CARES Act, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP.)
For a full briefing on this topic and details for additional resources, access the webinar recording at the NADA Coronavirus Hub.
*Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog and in the NADA webinar does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. Information in this document may not constitute the most-up-to-date legal or other information. Furthermore, each dealership should consult an attorney who is familiar with federal and state law applicable and the dealership’s operations to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.
*Editor’s Note: The current death and incidence rates noted above reflect the CDC’s data as of April 8, 2020