How to Avoid Lawsuits for Workplace COVID-19 Exposure
Despite living in unprecedented times, most state shelter-in-place orders have encouraged restaurants, healthcare facilities, local grocery stores, and other essential and non-essential businesses. However, as the number of cases of COVID increases, it is no surprise that employees and companies are more concerned about being exposed to the virus while working. With the increase of risk factors in public spaces, it is essential to know that businesses could face claims that they failed to follow COVID preventative measures. Especially if it is known that employees were exposed to the virus within the workplace and no preventive measures occurred.
Luckily, there are preventative steps that will ensure that your employees and business can thrive while maintaining the safety of everyone.
Related: How to Respond if an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
What to Consider to Reduce Financial Risk from Facility Closures or Lawsuits
Many employers nationally are facing legal issues when maintaining and reopening businesses in COVID-19. To help prevent the potential of being sued by employees or family members of your employees, below are some claims that employers could face under local and state laws and potentially prevent them.
There is potential to get a discrimination claim from employees, especially those who are pregnant or older. Even if employers have the best intentions in considering the safety of a higher risk population, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it “restricts employers from preventing pregnant or elderly employees from returning to work, if they are choosing to return.” There are new rules and guidelines administered by the EEOC to help employers support COVID high-risk employees in order to prevent potential employee violations.
Many employees are working from home due to less COVID-19 exposures and transmissions. Even though such adjustment is critical to protect communities, employers should set up a system to ensure wages are paid appropriately. Employers should be evident in writing on the policies and rules of how employees are documenting their working hours. Additionally, employers should be aware of reimbursing employers for necessary business-related expenses to avoid a claim.
With the high rise of COVID cases and deaths, the probability of being filed for a worker’s compensation lawsuit for COVID is higher. Many states, including California, have made it easier for employees to file successful claims. For instance, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom made adjustments that workers who test positive for COVID-19 are presumed to have a workplace injury with the Executive Order N-62-20.
Employers want to feel confident that employees who may have been exposed to Covid-19 or showing positive symptoms know the necessary steps to minimize risk exposure in the workplace and prevent a lawsuit. Employers should be updated on OSHA, CDC cleaning and safety standards, and have staff that is properly trained in meeting these standards.
Are you unsure if you are meeting the legal requirements to protect your employees? No worries! Contact HealthySpace, who provide trained medical professionals to conduct COVID-19 Testing & Screenings at your workplace!
How to Ensure Employees Feel Safe Before Work
When we think about preventative measures of keeping employees safe, we often think about what protocols to follow once they walk on-site. However, preventive measures should happen hours before entering the workspace. Below are some options to support employees to feel safe before work while preventing your community’s safety.
Establish a Health Screen Self-Reporting Questionnaire
Many businesses, schools, hospitals, and other active facilities during COVID often will ask employees to fill out a self-reporting questionnaire assessing the employee’s health. Sample questions may include, “In the past 30 days, have you or someone you live with been diagnosed with COVID-19?” or “In the past 14 days, have you returned from travel outside the U.S.?” By having in-depth health screen questions that employees file before visiting on-site, employers can take the right process to guide workers to their next steps.
HealthySpace offers an additional Questioning service that provides employees a quick 5-7 second assessment during their COVID Health Screening Services.
Occupational Health Human Resources Guide
As an employer, it is essential to keep up-to-date with the public health communications about COVID-19 and communicate to employees how to access the recommendations and information. The CDC offers the most updated information about protecting yourself and what to do if you are sick.
Related: What Employers Should Consider for a Return to Work Policy
How to Ensure Employees Feel Safe During Work
According to the CDC, risk factors for exposure of Covid-19 would be job roles involving close (within 6 feet) contact with infected people, social conditions that can easily offer transmission of the virus (such as a high populated location,
Hire On-Site Medical Professionals
Although it may be an extra cost before opening up your business to clients, hiring a medically trained professional will help reduce employers’ liability. You may see companies depend on self-reporting temperature checks or asking non-medically trained employees to provided COVID-19 preventative services (i.e., in-person questioning, temperature checks, etc.); however, this is risky! If non-medically trained employees are using improper PPE and facilitating preventative services, your business may be subject to not follow COVID-19 CDC guidelines and potentially risk being sued.
On-site COVID Testing for Employees?
An on-site COVID testing is beneficial to help companies identify cases early and create an added sense of safety for employees.
For example, if an employee starts experiencing symptoms of fever, fatigue, and cough, they are more likely to be fearful of potentially contracting coronavirus. In fact, other employees will feel uncomfortable about the situation as well. A lot of times, COVID symptoms are very similar to a regular cold or flu. Without the proper testing site, everyone will end up playing a guessing game and taking a gamble that their fellow colleague is just having a cold. Unfortunately, if they are wrong, it could lead to a disaster for everyone because COVID is highly contagious.
Fortunately, with an on-site COVID testing area in the workplace, no one will have to play the guessing game anymore. The employee can simply get tested and get an immediate result. If they are infected, they will stay home to prevent transmission or further health issues.
Staggered Work Schedule
According to OSHA, the second most effective protection measures are administrative controls adjusting work policy. One example is creating a staggered work schedule or extra shifts to limit the number of employees present. The staggering will help maintain 6 feet distance from other employees while maintaining a regular workweek schedule.
Providing Personal Protective Equipment
Another administrative example suggested by OSHA is providing training for workers on how to use protective clothing and proper placement of using/wearing a mask. Having a system in place to lessen the risk of transmitting the virus will help your business or facility maintain credibility as an organization while keeping employees safe. HealthySpace includes PPE inspections to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Related: Property Management Tips for Landlords During COVID-19
Health Screening in the Workplace
The benefit of having a COVID health screening and testing service at your workplace is to help reduce financial risks with facility closures and costly worker comp cases. HealthySpace offers an affordable month-to-month service that is $65 per hour (with 3-hour minimum shifts), which runs more cheaply than other services that may cost $80 – 130 per hour. Additionally, HealthySpace offers COVID Testing that is HIPPA-compliant with results provided in 2 – 3 days.
As many businesses and employees navigate the financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential everyone is up-to-date with all the safety procedures to maintain the safety of communities and keep businesses thriving.
Ready to start testing your employees? Get a quote with HealthySpace today to learn more about the right solution for you!