Susan Gross Sholinsky, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was featured in Legal Management, the magazine of the Association of Legal Administrators (“ALA”), in “Surviving COVID-19,” by Phillip M. Perry.
Following is an excerpt:
The rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting law firms large and small. The challenges are many: Clients accustomed to face-to-face interactions must now be served from a distance. Employees exhibiting signs of sickness must be separated from the workforce — and systems must be put in place to keep their health information confidential. Home-based staff members will need time-consuming guidance to use unfamiliar technology.
Legal managers must develop plans to deal with this shifting operational terrain, beginning with the maintenance of a virus-free environment. …
Much of the guidance from all levels deals with the proper sanitation of the work environment. “The most significant thing an organization can do is make sure employees engage in proper hygiene practices,” says Susan Gross Sholinsky, Vice Chair of the labor and employment practice at Epstein Becker Green in New York. “They should keep their premises clean, disinfecting doorknobs, elevator buttons, community equipment such as printers, and commonly used kitchen items such as refrigerator handles.” …
Employers are also taking steps such as the following:
- Remote work: Many law firms and legal departments that have the technological capability to do so have instructed their employees to work from home, according to Above the Law.
- Limiting travel: “Most of the organizations I am talking to are limiting or prohibiting all future international travel,” says Sholinsky. “They are also asking employees if they have traveled internationally, whether for business or pleasure, and are requiring them to stay home if they have visited countries with elevated risk. When feasible, audio and video conferencing is taking the place of in-person visits.”
- Restricting outsider visits: “Some companies are limiting third parties who can come into the offices, separate and apart from their own employees,” says Sholinsky. “Visiting clients and vendors are being asked where they have traveled in the last few weeks and whether they are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms.”
- Coordinating with vendors: The CDC website suggests businesses “talk with companies that provide contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.” …
Sick leave reimbursement decisions may be based on the circumstances surrounding the event. “In some cases, an individual who is out sick for an extended period of time because of COVID-19 may be entitled to short-term disability,” says Sholinsky. “An employee who was infected while on business travel to an affected country may be eligible for workers’ compensation.”
On occasion it is not the employee who becomes sick, but a child, parent or a loved one. Or a child must stay home because schools and day cares have closed. Or an employee may express fear about using public transportation to commute to work. In all such cases, employers must decide whether to grant paid sick leave.
Some states, however, have paid family leave laws that mandate partial pay for employees who are out of work because they are caring for sick family members, says Sholinsky. “Some states’ and cities’ sick time laws provide for paid sick time when an individual’s workplace — or a child’s school or day care center — is shut down due to a declared public health emergency.”
This article was also published in Resort Trades, Textile Services, and Brushware.