YOUR BUSINESS AND COVID-19 – General

March 17, 2020

In this time of uncertainty, there are things that your business[1] can do to keep its employees and clients/customers as safe as possible.

  1. Stay informed by following information and advice provided by local, state and federal health authorities. There is a lot of information available from various sources.  It is easy to become overwhelmed.  The health authorities, however, are the source for reliable information.  Start with those sources and follow their advice.  Opt-in to updates or check-in daily, at least while circumstances are changing rapidly.
    1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Resources for Businesses and Employers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html.
    2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.
    3. Pennsylvania Department of Health (Coronavirus homepage): https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx.
    4. Business fact sheet: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/Coronavirus%20Businesses%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf 
    5. Allegheny County Health Department: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Resources/COVID-19/COVID-19.aspx 
    6. Beaver County: http://www.beavercountypa.gov/Pages/Default.aspx 
    7.  Butler County:  https://www.butlercountypa.gov/
    8. Washington County: https://www.co.washington.pa.us/ 
    9. Westmoreland County: https://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us
  1. Consider remote work, conference calls, or videoconferencing. Even if you are not under mandatory (or recommended) closure, consider implementing remote work (“work from home”) protocols to the extent possible.  If meetings cannot be rescheduled, to the extent possible conduct the meetings by conference call or videoconferencing.  Keep in mind, however, that with the expanded use of technology to conduct business, you should ensure that your cybersecurity is up-to-date.  You should also ensure that your employees are aware of how to keep confidential information secure while working remotely.
  2. If you remain open, follow the CDC guidelines.
    1. Encourage sick employees (or employees possibly exposed to the virus) to stay home. If employees become sick, send them home.[2]  Eliminate “perfect attendance” incentives, which encourage sick employees to report for work.
    2. Be flexible in your sick leave policy. For example, for the duration of the public health emergency, consider suspending the requirement that your employees get a doctor’s excuse for absences of three or more days.  Many healthcare providers are busy and may not be available unless a patient has symptoms of COVID-19.
    3. If possible, cancel business travel and encourage employees to postpone personal travel.
    4. Eliminate hand-shaking and practice “social distancing.” Remind your employees about personal hygiene such as appropriate hand washing and covering sneezes or coughs.  The CDC has signs available for your workplace.
    5. Clean surfaces, such as tables, desks, keyboards, phones, countertops, and door knobs regularly.

If you have additional questions, please contact Jean Novak at jnovak@smgglaw.com or at 412-281-5423.

[1] We assume that healthcare facilities and healthcare providers are better informed than most of us.  Just a reminder: There are separate guidelines for those businesses, and such businesses should follow specific guidelines for healthcare organizations.  For example, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/index.html.

[2] Be aware that it is seasonal allergy season.  Not everyone who sneezes or coughs is sick.  “Sick” as used here refers to employees with a fever (per the Governor’s press conference of March 16, 100º F or higher), a cough and shortness of breath, the most common symptoms of COVID-19.