Handling a Workplace COVID Diagnosis
Scott Robinson (00:00:01):
We do want to take a few, a moment for some logistics, um, uh, introduce the livelihood Northwest and also invite Gavin to make some, uh, updates about future events. Um, I think first and the introduction of livelihood Northwest, um, here, I’d like to remind everybody for those who may not know livelihood Northwest, we were formerly known as Portland state university’s business outreach program. We’re a nonprofit organization that provides free and low cost professional business support services to underserved underserved entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the Pacific Northwest. Our mission is to foster business sustainability and growth for historically underserved entrepreneurs. Within local communities. We provide X exceptional business development support services to promote lifelong learning, empowerment and positive economic impact. And with that, I’d like to invite Gavin to speak to some of our upcoming events.
Gavin D’Avanther (00:01:15):
Thanks, Scott. Um, we have a couple of really exciting things coming up. Um, we shut down a lot of our programs during COVID to focus on responding to as many businesses as we could. Uh, and we are refiring out some of those programs. So coming up, we have our five week business development series. This is, um, this is our five week workshop series to help business owners grow their business skills. And we have people in this workshop from, I think I might want to start a business phase to Holy moly. I think I’ve been running a business for 20 years and I need to learn a little bit more about running a business. So this is a lot of, uh, great building on your business skills to build some strong foundations for growth. And we also have our virtual business advising, which is available through our website.
Gavin D’Avanther (00:02:00):
You can book a free appointment with a business advisor. I’ll also be sure that this gets, this link gets put in the chat. So it’s easy to copy and paste. We are also resuming enrollment in all of our longterm business support programs, and that includes, uh, our groundwork for small business program and our groundwork for the trades program, which is, um, uh, prosper Portland paying for you to have a business advisor for up to three years. So, and then we have our growth program. So for established businesses ready to grow and scale, we have the increased project and launching ascend Portland. So very excited to have those coming up. There’s a single application for all of our longterm support programs that you can access through our long-term business support page. And I’ll ask Kiana to put both the virtual business advising link and the longterm support page in the chat. Um, very exciting. If you have any questions, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll happily help you figure out what might be right for you. Thanks. I’ll turn it back over to you, Scott.
Scott Robinson (00:03:02):
So with that without further ado, I’d like to introduce the Megan Ruther who will be speaking today. Megan is an attorney in Tonkin torps labor and employment practice group. She works with local regional and national employers to solve complicated employment matters. They has substantial experience representing employers in state and federal court. And before Oregon’s Bureau of labor and industries bully, as we affectionately call them and the equal employment opportunities commission in our free time, Megan serves as a mentor to first year Lewis and Clark law students. And as a member of the board of directors for youth rights and justice outside of work, Megan’s interests include tennis, running, exploring Oregon’s wineries, reading fiction and spending time with her husband and dogs. I hope we’ll get to see some, uh, some of her dogs a little bit later today. And with that, I’m going to stop sharing and, uh, turn the presentation over to her.
Megan Reuther (00:04:11):
Awesome. Thanks Scott. I appreciate the introduction. All right. Let’s see if I can share my screen here. Okay. I’m really excited to be here to talk with everybody about, um, even if it’s about a COVID COVID related topic, it’s been an interesting year and I hope to provide a little bit of information, uh, to help everybody, um, get through what is proving to be a pretty tricky time. So it’s got said, I’m Megan Ruther, and I’m an attorney and talking to work. Um, the goal is to just provide some tips on dealing with a COVID diagnosis in the workplace. And part of that is going to be talking a bit about how to prepare in advance in case there is a COVID diagnosis in the workplace. Then I’m going to say this so many times you’re going to be sick of it, but the best way to, for the best way to prevent against a COVID diagnosis and be ready to respond is to have a plan in place ahead of time.
Megan Reuther (00:05:07):
Um, so again, my hope is to provide some practical advice. I’m not going to be able to address specific situations. So if you have questions about that, make sure you reach out to somebody at livelihood or reach out to you separately. And I’m happy to talk through any particular situations or concerns you might have specific to your business in particular. Um, so I’m going to do my best to, again, answer as many questions as I can, uh, throughout. I hope there’ll be people jumping in and letting you know when there are questions, if not, I will be looking at them at the end and I’ll, I’ll try and remember to pause when I get done with particular topics. Um, but keeping in mind, this is a really fluid situation. Um, the laws are constantly changing and the agencies are constantly updating their advice. So I’ll do my best to answer questions.
Megan Reuther (00:05:53):
So there’s a lot of areas that we just don’t know because this is a brand new situation we haven’t dealt with before. So we’re all figuring it out together. Um, finally information here is presented as of today. And again, because the advice is changing, the advice might not be the same tomorrow. Um, and it’s not intended to be legal advice. So let’s get started. Everybody I’m sure is, is aware since we’ve been watching the news. Um, I think Oregon had the biggest daily count of COVID cases, uh, last Friday, which was over 400. Um, the point of me saying that is not to be depressing, but because this isn’t going to go and go away anytime soon, I finally set up my home office because I came to the conclusion that I was going to need it for awhile. So I think we all need to buckle in and get ready for what everybody’s referring to as our new normal well, um, because it contains because COVID continues to disrupt just what our daily operations we’re having to respond a little bit differently than we’ve had in the past.
Megan Reuther (00:06:56):
So you’re going to be hearing about some other laws and I’m going to be referencing them. Um, just to give you a lay of the land, I’m not going to be getting into detail about some of the other laws. So again, if you have questions, um, that’d be a different presentation or questions for letterhead or reach out to me and separately. Um, and that’s the question is focused on or the presentation focused on employees, but I just want you all to be aware that some of these same advice and ideas for responding to COVID is equally applicable to independent contractors that you might be working with or third parties that your business comes into contact with. So again, I’m focused on, I’m going to be using the word employees, but just know some of these safety ideas. Um, I would also recommend putting into place, um, for any third parties or anybody else that you’re dealing with in your workplace.
Megan Reuther (00:07:50):
The idea here is just to keep everybody safe and make sure everybody’s on the same page and make sure we have good communication. So you might be wondering how this comes up. How do you know if an employee today positive? Well, there’s a couple of different ways. And as Scott mentioned earlier, a lot of people are working from home right now. So how often do we really have contact with people in the workplace? You may hear that an employee is positive from the employee themselves. This is something that I recommend that all employers have a policy in place that requires employees to let them know if there’s a positive diagnosis, whether they’re telecommuting, remote, working, or actually coming in either way. You’re going to want to know, um, if an employee test positive, so it could come up that way it could come up because the state agency reaches out to you as part of their contact tracing to let you try and figure out who this person may have come into contact with.
Megan Reuther (00:08:43):
So you might learn indirectly another way you might have an employee that just comes into the office, but is showing symptoms. And when I say symptoms, I’m talking specifically about COVID related symptoms. Um, and those are more specifically, I’m talking about the symptoms that the CDC specifically lays out. So sore throat, dry, cough, fever, whatever else is listed on the CDC website, the center of disease control. So that side is what I’m talking about. So again, employee might tell you, you might notice somebody has symptoms, state agency might tell you, perhaps somebody had contact with a family member. Who’s had, COVID lots of different ways. This comes up and how it comes up is going to determine how we’re going to respond to it. So I’m going to go through each of those in a second, but regardless of how it arises, you have to be prepared to respond.
Megan Reuther (00:09:38):
And I’ve had lots of employers call me after, Oh my gosh, Megan, I have a diagnosis in the workplace. What do I do? It’s so much easier to be ready. If you have a plan on the front end, I’m going to help you build that today. And by plan, I’m really just talking about a checklist. I’m talking about a checklist of ideas that you might want to think about. Um, everything I say might not be relevant to your business. You’re the expert on your business. I’m not, um, but they’re just ideas, especially as you grow your business, perhaps you haven’t hired anybody, but you want to hire somebody in the future. I recommend just having these steps in place for how to move forward.
Megan Reuther (00:10:22):
Okay. And again, as Scott mentioned, I’ve used my dog as a model because that’s my COVID hobby now, nothing else to do. Um, I was going to be providing you with a lot of information today and ideas, and it’s going to feel a little bit overwhelming, but as I mentioned, not, everything is going to be relevant to you and just take it one step at a time. Perhaps all you can do today is create a checklist. And then over the next couple of weeks, you tackle each thing on your checklist to make it more, um, make it more specific. So perhaps today you make a list of the plans that you want to create. And tomorrow you tackle confidentiality. Then the next day you tackle how you’d handle contractor thing. And we’re going to go through each of those. You don’t have to know what that means at this point, but I recommend just doing it piecemeal, cause it’s not a desk feel really overwhelming and you have a good support system. You have livelihood, you can always reach out to me for questions. There’s a ton of information on the internet about each of these different policies. So you don’t need to start from scratch. Um, cause if you did, that would feel again, very overwhelming. So take it, let’s take it one step at a time.
Megan Reuther (00:11:27):
It’s a lot about a checklist and that is in my mind a list of thing that you’re going to want to be prepared to address in case somebody tested positive in your workplace. Um, and they’re going to be things that are obvious, like cleaning or at least I hope are obvious like cleaning, um, sending that employee home, trying to figure out who else that employee came into contact with and things that might be a little bit less obvious to you, such as what are your record, keeping obligations, what documents do you need to keep a hold of? What questions can you ask? Um, are there any agencies that you have to share the information with, um, items like that? And what my goal is today is just to go through some of those items that should be on your checklist. It’s not going to be all inclusive because I would need 12 hours to talk with you through everything.
Megan Reuther (00:12:18):
And I know nobody wants to hear me drone on for 12 hours. So I’m going to start off with the things that I think are going to be relevant to most employers. Um, and we’ll go from there and I’ve listed some of them on the slide right here. So having a plan to separate your impact and employees being ready with your cleaning procedures, contact, tracing, confidentiality, um, but something that’s a little bit, uh, less intuitive is training your employees ahead of time. Um, so being ready to communicate with them on the front end of what, what your expectations are going to be in case there is a COVID diagnosis in the workplace. Um, and if you have any supervisors, other than yourself that are working with those employees, training them on how they may need to respond to a COVID diagnosis. Um, and this is going to include keeping themselves safe as well as protecting the confidentiality of other employees.
Megan Reuther (00:13:17):
And I’m going to say this a couple times during the webinar, but COVID is such a fast moving situation. That time is of the essence. Really. So having this plan will allow you to move faster and to make sure that we’re separating those employees that could create a danger in the workplace, um, and limiting our liability really and communicating on the front end to employees manages expectations. And that’s really important here. It also will allow employees to be thinking ahead of time about what is expected of them. A good example of this is contact tracing, and I’m going to go into detail about what that means in particular in a couple of minutes. Um, but if an employee knows that they’re going to be required to tell everybody that they’ve had contact with over the last couple of days, they may number one, keep track of that information better.
Megan Reuther (00:14:11):
Cause I always know if I’m going to be expected to report something, I’m going to be paying attention to my situation, but it also makes them a little bit more mindful about who they’re having contact with and whether it’s a good idea to be in a conference room group with a bunch of people or whether they need to be heading into the office. Um, for example, my office is all remote work right now, but I still have to go in a couple of days a week practically to handle some situations. So that’s why even if you’re remote working, if you have a permanent workspace, you need to know what your remote workers are doing. Um, they need to come in and access the computer. And if I, I know that contact tracing is going to be required of me. So I’m very conscious of when I’m in office, who I’ve had conversations with maintaining those distances and really limiting exposure as much as I can. Um, and I’ve mentioned training and what I mean by training, uh, is very, it doesn’t need to be anything formal doesn’t necessarily need to be a formal webinar like this, although it absolutely can be training, could be an email just outlining what your expectations are. It could be a quick phone conversation with that person letting them know, Hey, here’s, what’s required of social distancing in the workplace. Here’s, what’s required of contact tracing, just kind of going through basically talking out in your plan, but either your employees or the supervisors.
Megan Reuther (00:15:38):
I also recommend if you put a checklist in place and again, this is just kind of an overview of what we’re going to talk about in more detail. But if you have a checklist in place or you’ve put together a plan, I recommend having all of your employees and your supervisors sign that plan. Um, so all that would require is it could actually be a couple of things. One, it could be, you’ve created actually a written checklist, maybe on a word document at a signature line, have everybody sign it and then hold onto those copies. Because basically what they’re doing is they’re agreeing to abide by that plan. So they’re agreeing that if they do test positive, they’re going to participate in the contact tracing. They’re going to follow the cleanliness requirements. They’re going to maintain the social distancing, whatever your plan lists out. You want employees to affirmatively to agree, to follow those requirements. Um, and with, if you have employees, you should have a little personnel file for that person, whether it’s electronic or in some sort of, um, hard copy. And you’re just gonna stick a copy of that signature page in there and hold onto it.
Megan Reuther (00:16:51):
And part of this plan. And one of the reasons why you’re going to want that signature requirement is it’s really important that you’re prepared to respond, to respond if somebody refuses to abide by that plan. So it’s really important that if an employee says, you know what, I tested positive, but I want to tell you everybody that came in contact with that might require some discipline because you’re your number one goal is to keep your other employees safe and your businesses, and the way you do that is following your policies. So a policy or a plan is no good if you don’t follow up to enforce it. Um, and we can talk a little bit about more about what that would require. It really is a circumstance specific situation, but you should know your employees obviously. Um, but having that signature page is like, Hey, you already agreed that you were going to follow the policy. Here’s your signature. And that a discipline could be up into termination. It just really depends on the circumstances.
Megan Reuther (00:17:59):
So the first thing that I recommend your checklist include is how you’re going to handle if an employee comes to work or reports that they’re sick and by sick, I’m talking specifically about COVID here. Um, COVID has created an exception and a lot of agencies. So they respond to COVID differently than they respond to other illnesses. So it’s really important that if somebody calls you and says, Hey, I have an earache, you don’t respond like you would for COVID because as far as I know, and again, the CDC is constantly changing their, their guidance. As far as I know, earache is not a symptom of COVID. Um, so we want to pay particular attention. And I also think this is a good opportunity to note something that’s gonna be really important is that you stay up to date on what the CDC thing. So you can sign up for alerts.
Megan Reuther (00:18:51):
This is something I’ve done and you get banned with them all the time, but it’s really important that you’re looking at the CDC at least weekly and seeing, and you can just go on their website and it’s very easy to navigate. And you can just see what are the symptoms that they are saying is COVID related right now. And that’s everything from, I think, rashes to stomach pains. That’s incredibly broad. So I think most symptoms are probably going to fall onto it under it. Um, but it’s still important. We’re paying particular attention to COVID. Um, so you have an employee who says, who calls you and says, Megan, I took a COVID test and I’m positive. Or Megan, I have a sore throat and I’m caught as a dry cough. I can’t come in today. What do you do? Do you have a positive test or you have a COVID related CDC recognized symptoms? What do you do? So the first thing should be pretty obvious. And that’s you got to separate the out employee from the rest of your employees. If everybody’s remote working, that’s pretty easy. Um, you just tell that person to stay home. They absolutely can not come into the workspace. If you have a permanent location, if you have a service industry or something else that really requires in-person, then you tell that person they need to stay home.
Megan Reuther (00:20:08):
I’m not going to get into sick leave in today’s presentation because that’s a completely different topic that would take another 12 hours to talk about. But I just want to flag for you that there are some sick leave issues that could come up. Um, there some employers, depending on what your size, you might require, some epi required, unpaid or paid sick leave. Again, it’s very specific depending on sizes and that’s something livelihood can help you with and, or I can help you with, um, at a later time. But there’s also the family first act that came out, um, this year in response to COVID that gives you some additional paid sick leave potentially. So if somebody calls out and says, I’m out for some COVID related reason, whether it’s I’m sick, my husband’s sick, my kid’s sick, whatever it is, they might qualify for one of those. So just keep, if somebody calls out, I just want to flag for you. You need to figure out the fiscal implications. That’s just a, we’re going to call them red flags. Red flags are areas that I’m going to touch on today, but I’m not going to get into detail.
Megan Reuther (00:21:15):
So you’ve told the employer that they can’t come in. How do you decide for how long they need to be out for? Well, actually, that’s going to be pretty easy for you. Um, you’re just going to follow the CDC guidance and this is another area that’s constantly changing. So every time you have an employee and I hope this doesn’t happen very often for you, but every time you have an employee that reports, uh, either a positive test or COVID related symptoms, you are going to look at the CDC website and see what the isolation, quarantine requirements are for that person. When is it appropriate for them to come back? Um, last I looked, they it’s at least 10 days that have passed since COVID symptoms started, um, and at least 24 hours since the resolution of a fever, the stopping of a fever without, um, reducing medications like Tylenol. But again, this is going to depend on good communication with that employee. You’re going to need to tell them, Hey, I’m following the CBC’s requirements. Here’s what I need you to look out for. Let me know when this is happening, where you’re you’re home for 48 hours. So that fever reducing medication. Cause then we can talk about returning to work.
Megan Reuther (00:22:24):
What about the situation where an employee comes to work and they haven’t reported that they’re sick, but you notice that they’re coughing a lot. They look really flushed. They’re complaining to their buddy about having a sore throat. What do you do? The key here is being extremely careful about confidentiality and protecting that employee. And we’re going to talk more about confidentiality in a minute. Um, but I just want to flag that for you again, another red flag. Um, the first thing you’re going to do is either you or a trusted supervisor, or if you have a little human resources, whatever it is, you’re going to pull that employee aside separately. If you can go into a separate room where you’re also maintaining your safety, and you’re going to have a conversation with that employee, what’s going on, you seem a little flushed. Um, are you feeling okay?
Megan Reuther (00:23:15):
And at that in places, you know, I’ve had this cough that started for about 24 hours. You’re going to need to send that employee home. And you say, you know, according to our policies and CDC guidance, you need to go home. And if they can work remotely from home, that’s great. That’s, that’s an option for your, um, for your particular business. If they can’t, again, we’re in paid, leave unpaid leave territory again. And that’s again, that’s a flag for you, but the key is we’re separating them from rest of the employees as soon as possible.
Megan Reuther (00:23:50):
They’re going to also encourage them to follow up with their healthcare provider as soon as possible. And to just keep you in the loop. So you’re going to have one person that’s going to be the contact person for that employee. You’ve sent them home or they’ve tested positive. I’m assuming it’s probably going to be you if you’re the business owner. But if you have a trusted supervisor they’re working with, someone’s going to be the contact person for them. And you’re going to ask them to keep you updated. How are you feeling you doing okay? Cause that’s going to gauge for you, whether you need to do contact tracing. If they go to their provider and they’ve tested positive, or when it’s ready for them to come back to work, that’s important to keep that open flow of communication at an interpersonal level. It’s also just important that you’re treating your employees like humans.
Megan Reuther (00:24:38):
And this is a scary time being sent home because of a possible, um, role in a pandemic is really scary to making sure that you’re keeping those open lines of communications and you’re letting your employees know that they’re supported will go a really long way. Um, and having that empathy, um, and offering them resources. If, if they’re dealing with something bigger, perhaps it’s unpaid leave and they’re worried about finances. What can we do as an employer to help perhaps there’s counseling resources, you can refer them to whatever it may be. Um, our goal is also just to take care of our employees.
Megan Reuther (00:25:14):
One thing I want to flag, cause I’ve had this come up a couple times now is do I need a doctor’s note? So do I need a doctor’s note before I allow an employee to return back to the workplace generally under non pandemic situations, if they’re out for more than a couple days. Yeah. Having a doctor’s note was really helpful because then you have assurances that it’s safe for them to return to work right now again, and this could change. The CDC is not recommending providing a doctor’s note because it’s just that the healthcare organizations are overwhelmed and we don’t want to create more of a backlog and sending somebody who might not be sick and to a hospital to get a test, could create a risk. Um, so instead we’re making sure the employees are certifying that they’re following the CDC guidelines. So we’re out for a certain period. It’s been more than 48 hours since I’ve, I’ve had a fever, whatever it may be. Um, if you do want a doctor’s note, you may need to consider paid leave. Um, because again, that’s not what the CDC is requiring. That’s a different topic, but I just want to flag that for you. So another area, um, that I’ve seen as a kind of a pitfall area where you’re deciding who to send home is making sure we’re treating everybody equally. So it’s easy to become kind of laser focused during this pandemic on solving COVID in the workplace. So how do I avoid all the issues in the workplace doing whatever you can, but it’s also important to remember that other employment laws haven’t gone away. Um, so one of that, one of the employment laws that, you know, we’ve seen a lot come up are anti-discrimination laws. Um, and the way that I see this happen is maybe, you know, an employee has an underlying health condition already. So maybe, you know, an employee is recovering from cancer and their, uh, immune system is compromised. Perhaps they’ve had contact with somebody that you suspect had COVID and you want to send them home just to keep them safe.
Megan Reuther (00:27:19):
We can’t do that unless we’re sending everybody home. So that would be some kind of that could potentially be a disability discrimination issue. Another way we see this come up is age that perhaps somebody is in a protected category. So they’re, they’re more, um, they’re at risk for a greater impact from COVID because they’re in their sixties, seventies, eighties, whatever it may be. We can’t treat those employees differently than the other employees. And I’m not going to get into great detail there. Um, but I just want to make sure everybody understands that whatever your policies are, you’re enforcing them equally across all of your employees. I can’t emphasize enough other than confidentiality. This is the biggest area that I see employers potentially getting into trouble. And I’ve already had a couple cases pop up related to an employees. Employers, you might have the best intentions. You want to keep everyone safe. You’re worried about your employees, but the bottom line is keep open channels of communication and treat everybody equally.
Megan Reuther (00:28:20):
We have a question.
Megan Reuther (00:28:22):
Oh, perfect. I was just going to ask if we have,
Megan Reuther (00:28:25):
Okay, great. So in the chat, our question is what if the COVID pot positive employee refuses to stay home and continues to come into the office? What is the legal recourse?
Megan Reuther (00:28:41):
It’s a private premises. So employ employees can’t come in if they’re, uh, if their employer has sent them home. So this I’ve seen this come up all the way up to a trespass level. I hope I very much hope it wouldn’t reach that for you. But I think the response is firmly. You can not come into the office based on our policies and the CDC guidance. You must stay home. And if the pulley does come in and they’re putting the other employers at work or at risk, then it might require involving law enforcement and having them removed. And again, I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I’ve never actually seen it come to that. If an employer says, no, you can’t come in, but you just enforce your policy consistently and you be firm. You don’t make it a choice. I hope that that helps.
Megan Reuther (00:29:36):
Yeah. Okay. So the next after, Moving the potentially affected employees or the sick employees from the workplace is to do contact tracing. So you’ve probably heard this on the news and, um, I think I’ve heard it more times now than I care to the phrase contact or anything, but it’s really important. And basically it’s just a fancy way of saying, uh, find out everybody that the sick person had close contact with and let them know to be on the, uh, watch out for symptoms and also remove them from the workplace. If it’s been close contact and I’m going to go through close contact is a term of art that the CDC has been using. And I’m going to let you know what that means. Basically, my dog is modeling close contact for you in those pictures. Um, but we’ll talk about that in more detail in a second. Um, I also want to flag and something that I forgot to mention in the last section is if you have it, what’s been called essential employee.
Megan Reuther (00:30:42):
And that’s something, that’s another term of art that’s being used by the CDC right now. But that’s somebody that your business can not operate with without being in the workplace, um, under the contact tracing area, that that person may be treated differently than everybody else. So perhaps if somebody has had, if you have two employees, one that’s essential and one that is not, if you, the essential is both had close contact with somebody who is positive for COVID, you may need to quarantee the non-essential employee, but the essential employee may be able to keep working in the workplace as long as they’re not displaying symptoms. So we’re going to talk about that a little different, I just want to flag for you. And the CDC has huge amount of guidance on how to handle an essential employee. And again, that’s, it could be a completely different topic of conversation. Um, but I just want you to know that it’s scary for a lot of employers to hear. I have to send home all of my supervisors and all of my central employees, just because they may have had contact with somebody, your response to that is no, but you’re going to want to very carefully follow the CDC guidance on how to handle an essential employee and know that if they do show symptoms, they absolutely need to be quarantined or they absolutely need to be asked to stay.
Megan Reuther (00:32:01):
So when you’re doing contact tracing the most important thing and what I want you to leave with nothing else that you have to move quickly. So as soon as you have an employee who says I have COVID related symptoms, or I’ve tested positive, the first thing you need to ask them is who have you had contact with at work in the last 14 days? Because that’s the incubation period. The CDC has determined. And again, this could change, stay up-to-date on the guidance. I recommend you have that employee email, you will list. So I had contacted Bob, Joe, Doris, whoever it may be send you the list, but in part, when you’re asking for that list, do you need to educate that employee on what close contact is? I don’t need everybody that you walked by in the hallway. I need everybody that you’ve had close contact with, um, and the CDC.
Megan Reuther (00:32:53):
And I’m just gonna read this here. The CDC to defined close contact as being within six feet of somebody for a prolonged period of time. So more than a couple minutes, maybe you had a conversation or being in direct contact with infectious secretions, from somebody that sounds disgusting, but it basically means just being like copped on Atticus is looking my nephew in this picture. That would be a form of close contact. I two dogs that are within six feet of each other. Cause I took me forever to get that picture, that close contact for a prolonged period of time. I’m really visual. I need pictures. So if you can just imagine these two, that’s what close contact means. Um, you get that list of close contacts. What do you tell those other employees? So now you, you know, somebody’s sick, they’re at home. You have a list of people who’ve had close contact.
Megan Reuther (00:33:44):
What information can you share? All you can share. And all I’d recommend sharing is we have been informed that you could have had exposure to COVID. We recommend are we requiring you to stay home for X period of time, and this will be CDC guidance. Um, and let us know if you begin to experience any symptoms or if you test positive, you can not share who the employee was. That was sick. Please don’t share that that’s a big breach of confidentiality, but don’t even hint at it. I wouldn’t even use pronouns if you can avoid it. Um, a lot of, a lot of my employers are very small on, they only have four employees. It may be very obvious who that person is because that person suddenly absent from the workplace. You can’t prevent that. There’s nothing we can do about that reality. So what we can do is we can limit the information that we’re sharing.
Megan Reuther (00:34:37):
They’re we’re not saying he, she, they were not providing any of that information. We’re not, um, we’re not, they’re going to see that the office being clean too. So it’s going to be pretty obvious, but everything, that information that we can avoid showing we’re going to limit that. I also mean that at a manager level. So if you have three managers or if you have two managers, however many managers you have, if the other manager doesn’t need to know this information, they don’t get to know it. So we’re limiting it to the smallest circle possible for who needs to know that somebody has been diagnosed or a sick,
I have a question in the chat and it says to what extent can and should a company consider an employee’s personal actions. For example, an employee traveled outside of the country and is supposed to quarantine for two weeks, but it’s showing back up to work. Is this something a company could create our cover in there COVID rules and policies.
Megan Reuther (00:35:46):
That’s such a good question. Um, and normally I would say, I have to, I have to do like pre COVID versus the current state of the world, because those are two different things. Pre COVID what you do outside of work and employer should not pay attention to because I’m free to do whatever I want on my non-work time. My employer doesn’t get to say anything about it. Now that we’re in this COVID universe, that’s not the case. So your policies and your checklist or your plan for preventing COVID should absolutely include a requirement for employees to tell you, um, when they travel by airplane, if they go to a CDC red area, I can’t, I can’t remember what they’re calling it exactly, but like a hot zone. Um, whatever it may be, if they’re, um, w a hot button topic has been attending protests recently, and you need to be very careful with political speech, that’s a totally different topic.
Megan Reuther (00:36:42):
Um, but any of those, any high-risk behavior, if they attended a group wedding, something like that, they absolutely should be reporting to the employer. Um, and you have every, the employer has every right to ask them to work from home, if possible for the next 14 days. Um, and if they can’t then unpaid leave or paid leave, depending on what you qualify for. And that’s another, that’s another reason why good communication on the front end is really important. It would be shocking for an employee to be told after they’ve traveled. If they now aren’t going to be able to get paid for two weeks, because they can’t come into the office and that’s going to upset them and upset employees send demand letters. So the easiest way to avoid that is telling everybody on the front end, this is the expectation you have to tell us if you travel by plane, if you travel by plane, you’re going to ask, you’re going to be asked to stay home. So they’ve kind of assumed the risk at that point. They know on the front end, what the consequences will be if they engage in that behavior.
Megan Reuther (00:37:50):
Okay. Trying to figure out where I left off here. Um, so again, a note for teleworking employees, cause I know most of us are remote working right now. Um, it’s going to be really important that even if somebody is quote unquote, remote working, that you, you still reach out to them for contract racing purposes, because it’s possible that they ran into the office to grab something or, um, maybe met a coworker for a work-related social distancing drink or something like that. That’s going to be really important that you still check in with those people don’t assume that they haven’t had contact, just because they’re supposed to be quote unquote, remote working.
Speaker 4 (00:38:32):
Um, the other purpose
Megan Reuther (00:38:36):
Of contact tracing is to find out where they’ve been in the office. So you have an office with more than one workspace. Another question you’re going to want to ask is where have you been in the office? Have you been in the communal kitchen? Did you ride on the elevators? Did you stay in your cubicle or your office because you’re going to need to focus your cleaning attention on the areas where that employee has reported. So what tools do you have or should you have to do the contact tracing? Um, most employers just create a spreadsheet and again, this is highly confidential information. So this spreadsheet should not be available to anybody outside of the need to know bubble. Um, but other other tools on the front end, um, our sign-in sheets, um, and that will help, you know, who has been in the office at any given time.
Megan Reuther (00:39:30):
Our firm doesn’t electronic, sign-in sheets. That every time I come into the office, I have to electronically sign in through an app and then also certified in my firm that I don’t have any new symptoms. Um, and then I have to sign out as I’m leaving so that the employer has a record of exactly when I was in the office. And that makes contact tracing easier. So as possible, you reach out to the employee and they’ll say, I didn’t have contact with anybody, but then you look at your sign in sheets and somebody was in the office at that same time, you might go to that employee and say, Oh, well, did you see Jill? Oh yeah. I ran into her in the kitchen and you know, we had a quick chat. Okay. So it’s good that you were able to ask that follow-up question because now, you know, you got to reach out to Jill.
Megan Reuther (00:40:14):
You have another question in the chat, says how far back in time do you need to trace their movements and contacts?
Megan Reuther (00:40:26):
Um, that’s a good question too. So is this the area of some, uh, fluidity by the CDC? They kind of keep going back and forth. Um, they say incubation period. So one question would be when somebody calls in sick or reports, the test is when did you start showing symptoms? And, um, when, when were you, when did you officially test positive? Because the idea is to go back about 14 days. Um, I would be really conservative on this, honestly. So even if the CDC has moved it up to 10 days, I’d probably still go up, back up, back it out to 14 days, um, because they seem to be going back and forth on this a bit, um, that the answer is different for cleaning. So we’ll get to that in a second, but for notifying other employees, I would say, um, probably 14 days unless the CDC and the state state guidelines change.
Megan Reuther (00:41:24):
And when I say state guidelines, I’m talking about bully, which Scott referenced earlier, the EOC, but also the Oregon health Osos Oregon authority is another good place to look for guidance. Obviously the CDC, um, the department of labor has good guidance. There is more information out there than you could possibly digest. Trust me, I’ve been trying. So any of those agencies, OSHA is another good one. Um, the occupational health and safety or safety and health, uh, administration is another good place to look. And we’re going to talk about OSHA a little bit more in a minute, but I just want to flag for you. Um, if you have some downtime and you’re like, I really want to read some state agency guidance. There’s so many places for you to look little nighttime reading.
Megan Reuther (00:42:15):
Um, one really important thing. If you had somebody that has had close, close contact, again, that’s what I mentioned and what the doctor demonstrating. And you ask them to go home and do the isolation protocol. You’re going to follow what the CDC says for how long they need to be home. I think the last time I looked, it was either 10 or 14 days, but again, it’s constantly changing. So please look that up on your own. Um, but you’re also going to want them to know that they need to reach out to you if they start experiencing symptoms of COVID because that’s going to reset the time when they can come back. So it’s six days in, they start experiencing fever and a cough. We’re now in the other category where they have to be without a fever for 48 hours. And it’s been at least 10, 12, 14 days since the onset of symptoms. Do you need to know if they start experiencing symptoms? You might also need that information because it’s going to require additional contact tracing. So they’ve been out for two or three days. You did the contract tracing for Bob, which put, um, Paul over here out for 14 days. And then Paul starts beginning experiencing symptoms. We’re going to have to figure out who Paul came into contact with now. So it’s important to maintain that, um, that communication with your employees.
Megan Reuther (00:43:34):
Um, I’ve talked about co uh, confidentiality, um, all medical information, always it’s highly confidential. So there’s a series of employment laws, both Oregon and federal that require the strictest of confidence with medical information. Well, somebody reports a positive test that’s medical information. So we have to make sure that’s under lock and key only absolute necessary. People know that information. It’s not, not something that’s widely shared. I had an employer that, uh, sent by text messages to all their, all their supervisors that an employee without, because of COVID, please don’t be that person. It’s really important that that information is not shared
Scott Robinson (00:44:18):
As employers. How do we feel about employees, self declaring their medical status? So if an employee is willing to say, Hey, everybody, I got tested two days ago and I tested positive. Just wanted you all to know, no, I will be staying home for the next 14 days, whatever, whatever. So it feels different if the employee is self-disclosing it rather than the employer announcing it. What are your thoughts on that?
Megan Reuther (00:44:55):
I mean, I think that’s absolutely true. Um, an employer can’t ask an employee to disclose it. So you can’t say, Hey, Paul, it’d be really great. If you told everybody else who worked in the kitchen, that you were positive, we can’t do that. But if we find out that employees already disclosed it, I still wouldn’t further the conversation. I wouldn’t supplement it at all. I wouldn’t provide any additional information. Um, but an employee has the right to share whatever they want share in the workplace. So I wouldn’t also discourage it. So an employee comes to you and says, I’d really like to share with my people that I’ve been sharing a cubicle with that I tested positive. That’s completely up to them. So the response from the employer is that’s absolutely your right. Please feel free to share any information that you’re comfortable with, but no, I will maintain your confidentiality. That’s all I would say.
Megan Reuther (00:45:52):
So something else is a question you might be asking yourself is other than employees, are there any third parties that I need to notify that somebody tested positive? And the answer is maybe if you have, if it’s a, uh, administrative assistant or somebody who’s doing reception who tests positive, and they have a lot of interaction with ups, people and postal workers, you may need to let those employees know, or those third parties know that you had somebody that they may have had contact with, again, we’re not sharing the identity of the reception. We’re not even saying it was reception. We’re just saying you may have been exposed, but you can’t mandate that they isolate that’s up to them. And their employers, all you can do is let them know that there was a potential exposure. And I would absolutely do this as a way to limit liability.
Megan Reuther (00:46:41):
Um, something that we’re concerned about, uh, is negligence suits. So suits for, um, not being careful enough, basically against employers by third parties and a way to eliminate that, or at least reduce the risk is to make sure that you’re having those communications with third parties and you’re being empathetic and you’re giving them the information that you’d want to know. If you, if you had contact with somebody, you would absolutely want to know to keep yourself and your family safe. These third parties are going to want that same information to make sure that we’re being respectful and that open, open exchange of information. Okay.
Scott Robinson (00:47:22):
There was another question in the chat, if I could, um, question is if an employee is having COVID symptoms, but has not tested positive, would you still recommend them self to self quarantine for 14 days?
Megan Reuther (00:47:41):
Uh, yes, absolutely. Um, and by COVID symptoms again, I’m just, you know, gonna keep things, same thing here is make sure you’re looking at the CDC guidance. So even if you’re like, Oh, I looked a month ago and a fever was on the CDC website. And then that may be a common sense to you because it’s all over the news. I would still Kate in that moment, double check that it’s still on the CDC website because it’s very unpredictable. So the only symptoms that I would recommend telling an employee, they have to stay at home or work from home or self isolate for the 14 day period are those that are actually listed as related to COVID at the moment that that is reported. Um,
Scott Robinson (00:48:26):
Another question Canon employer announced that an employee has tested positive or negative for COVID-19, but there’s a confidentially in there. Okay.
Megan Reuther (00:48:38):
Yeah. So I you’re gonna have to straddle, um, is you need to, um, protect your other employees while also keeping the competences of the employee that recorded. So I think, um, what that individual is suggesting is exactly what you need to do. You need to, this is how I would recommend doing it. There’s not a 100% right way to do this because we’re still learning. But what I would recommend doing at this point is sending an email to your other employees, um, and just saying somebody in the workplace, there there is a risk if somebody in the workplace, uh, potentially no, I’m trying to think of positive versus symptoms is different. So if somebody tested positive, somebody in somebody who’s been in the workplace has tested positive, versus somebody in the workplace has experienced that COVID symptoms, whatever it is, the accurate we are as your employer, we’re letting you know, please let us know if you also experiencing symptoms, here’s what we’re doing to mitigate the risk.
Megan Reuther (00:49:45):
So here are the steps we’re taking after we received that information, we’ve isolated, anybody potentially impacted or reach out to you separately. If we think that you could have had close contacts, we’re cleaning all of the spaces that, um, were happened and we’re keeping open channels of communication to make sure that we know immediately if anybody else experiences symptoms. So it’s a two-part email or a two-part letter. It’s this happens that I’m not providing any information other than somebody tested positive or somebody’s experiencing symptoms. And here’s how we’re responding to it. Doesn’t have to be very long. Doesn’t have to be very, but I would have it in writing again, that’s email or a letter, and I would do it as soon as, as soon as you have the information and make sure you actually follow those steps that you outlined as what your response was. So the next step, the next thing in your checklist Is, oops, I, uh, didn’t talk about this, but this is the communication. So this is letting employees third parties know, um, and remaining confidential. And I also want everybody to know it was extremely difficult to get the picture.
Megan Reuther (00:51:07):
Okay. So the next thing that you’re listing in your checklist is cleaning and disinfecting. Um, so the first thing that you need to do, um, if I tested positive in my workplace, my firm would close off my office, open the windows as possible. It’s not possible because my windows don’t open, but if it’s possible open air, everything out, wait at least 24 hours. That’s what the CDC recommends. And then start the cleaning, dirty, clean everything in the office. Um, one question I get a lot is do I have to shut down my whole business? So if somebody tests positive, do I need to shut down to 48 hours and do a deep clean that’s going to totally depend. It’s not required, but it is recommended if that employee that impacted and fully that sick employee with everywhere. So if it’s a server at a restaurant and they were in the kitchens, they were by all the tables then yeah, I would recommend shutting down for 24 hours to clean.
Megan Reuther (00:52:07):
If it’s me, I don’t really leave my office. So you would only really need to clean my office and then maybe like the bathroom and the kitchen. So just, it just depends regardless. I would also clean all high touch areas. So that’s all doors elevator, anything that you have to touch, we have a key code to get in the door. Do you want to clean that, um, ATM anything that you might have in your workspace? That’s high touch, make sure that those are being cleaned as well. If you share space with other businesses, you’re going to want to talk with the building that you’re in and make sure that they’re cleaning all their communal areas. You may have a requirement to notify the business or the building that you’re working in, that somebody in your workspace tested positive, again, maintaining confidentiality so that they know that they need to clean the elevators. They need to clean. Um, if there’s an area to hang out downstairs, they need to clean their reception. It’s important that everywhere that person could have been is cleaned.
Speaker 5 (00:53:15):
We have another question. Um, and it’s to clarify, the, the 14 days it says is 14
Megan Reuther (00:53:26):
Days after they no longer have symptoms or once they started feeling sick. It’s a little unclear for me.
Megan Reuther (00:53:34):
Sure. Um, it’s uh, so somebody has had contact with somebody, but isn’t actually experiencing symptoms themselves. It’s 14 days from when they came into contact with that person, then maybe they find out seven days in that last time Bob was in the office, which was seven days ago. They had contact. They’re going to have to be out for seven more days. The differences, if, um, somebody who’s actually experiencing symptoms themselves, that timeline is going to change. And so I think right now what it is, it’s 10 days since the onset of their symptoms and at least 24 hours without a fever, without the aid of fever, reducing medication. Um, but again, your touchdown is going to be, the CDC has guidance. So I would keep, I would keep in my mind two buckets, either somebody had just had contact with somebody and doesn’t actually have any symptoms versus somebody that tested positive or has symptoms. Cause there is there going to be two different timelines that you’re looking at? And I know that’s a little bit confusing. So the way I would think about it is close contacts versus symptoms. And it’s possible that somebody who is close contact is going to move over to the symptoms category if they actually, if that actually starts happening. So you’re going to have to potentially move them onto a different timeline, um, based on your communication with them. Okay.
Megan Reuther (00:55:07):
Um, one note about the cleaning and again, this is from the CDC guidance. Um, don’t have to, don’t clean for at least 24 hours. Just air out the space before you go in there, make sure employees are trained. If there’s any particularly hazardous materials they’re going to be using to clean. Um, and this could be part of the training on the front end, make sure you have all the cleaning supplies already. Um, don’t make employees go out and buy them on their own. Um, make sure you have those all ready to go. And if that, the CDC says that if that employer employee hasn’t been in the office for seven days, you don’t really need to be doing a deep cleaning because the germs, I’m not a science person, but the germs would have already left the space. I personally would still recommend doing a deep cleaning, um, because we’re still learning about COVID. We still don’t really know how long it lives on faces and different with different materials. I would still do a deep cleaning, but just know the CDC does, does say that. So it’s going to depend on what, um, what you want to do as a business owner.
Megan Reuther (00:56:17):
Any other questions before I move on to record keeping, Okay.
Megan Reuther (00:56:27):
Other area that you’re any prepared for that should be part of your checklist is what do I, what kind of records do I need to keep? I’ve had somebody test positive or have had somebody report that they have COVID symptoms. Um, I have listed the OSHA requirements here and again, that’s the occupational safety health administration. This is a federal agency, so I’ve listed what they require. And I’m going to talk about that in a second, but I also just, um, as a side note would highly recommend that you’re basically keeping a journal. Um, this could just be like a little word document, whatever hard copy you’re taking notes, whatever is most comfortable for you, but you’re keeping notes of what you’re doing in response. So day one, I did, I started my contact tracing. I asked the employee to stay home. They agreed here are the people that were impacted.
Megan Reuther (00:57:19):
This is how I responded. These are the areas that I cleaned, make it detailed. And you’re going to hold onto this information in case something ever comes up. If any, if heaven forbid bully reaches out to you and say, we had an employee report that you didn’t do enough in response to a COVID diagnosis in the workplace, you can say, aha, I have my list. I have my journal. I can tell you everything that I did. Um, this might include confidential information. So make sure you don’t share it with anybody. As far as OSHA, OSHA requires, you might already know this, but I’m sure requires that you report work-related, um, illnesses or injuries. Um, and they have a, uh, they have certain illnesses that are recordable illnesses and you basically just go onto the OSHA website and you can make those reports. So the question becomes well, it’s, COVID re is COVID work-related is COVID reportable and that’s tricky. That’s going to require a bit of an investigation, basically, if it’s work-related, if they were, if they were exposed as a part of their job, it might be reportable. Um, so how do you determine that? Well, again, you have to do a little bit of an investigation and this could be car. This could be part of your contact tracing investigation. You could ask these questions of the employees before you ask the questions, though, if it’s obvious that the employee was exposed as a part of work, they, their cubicle person reported their cubicle partner reported that they were positive two days before you don’t need to do an investigation. OSHA is going to presume that they were exposed at work and you do need to report it. Um, if you’ve had a big outbreak, think of like the, the Oregon coast seafood companies, if you’ve had a big outbreak in your workplace, again, OSHA’s gonna assume that it was, um, you were employed with exposed at work.
Megan Reuther (00:59:17):
You’re going to want to document your investigation again. You’re going to include this in your journal that you’re writing. So ask these questions, talk to these people. Uh, no, no other exposure in the workplace, whatever you’ve done to try and figure out if the exposure was work-related, you’re going to keep track of in case OSHA calls you and says, how do you know? Um, so the questions that OSHA has said that you can ask the employee and again, medical information is a bit taboo under, um, employment laws. So a lot of agencies have made exceptions for COVID. So these are the questions that I know you’re allowed to ask because OSHA said it’s okay. Um, you can ask the second fully how they believe they contact the contracted COVID. So how do you think you got this? You can ask that question, um, while respecting the employee’s privacy, you can discuss with the infected employee, their work and out of work activities.
Megan Reuther (01:00:23):
So have you traveled anywhere? You don’t need to tell me what you were doing, but if you traveled anywhere, if anyone else in your family sick, you don’t have to tell me who you can probe a little bit there. And third, um, you need to redo a big review of the employee’s work environment to decide whether it’s possible that they contracted it at work. So again, anybody else gotten sick, do they have exposure to a lot of customers, maybe they’re working at the front desk, um, any that’s part of your investigation, and we’re going to keep track of what you’ve done. If you do determine that it was work-related. If you do determine that is without a doubt, not even without a doubt, if it’s more than 50% that you think this person got it at work, you need to report it to OSHA. And it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big thing to fill out, but there are penalties if you don’t report it. Um, OSHA has said that if you make a reasonable and good faith inquiry, if you do a good face investigation, if you did your best to determine whether it was COVID related and you think it’s unlikely, even if it later turns out that it was work-related, um, you’re still safe. The OSHA is not going to penalize you as long as you’ve done your research, if you’ve done your homework. So just make sure you follow that procedure. Any questions about record keeping?
Scott Robinson (01:01:51):
Um, thanks. Traditionally, the workplace was in an office. Um, does the home office now, is that considered the workplace because you know, home office deductions? Uh, yeah, I’m wondering like, if somebody does have COVID they don’t come into the office, they self isolate, they don’t have big, you know, strong, um, um, uh, signs and symptoms. Is that something that’s going to trigger OSHA’s reporting requirement because they are an employee they had COVID. Um, so should we report that even though they never came back into the physical office?
Megan Reuther (01:02:35):
So th again, that’s a little bit of a gray area. The way I would look at it is if somebody falls off their chair in their home office and hurts themselves. Yeah. That’s probably still a reportable injury because they’re during work time, I’m working. If I fell off my chair right now, my employer would have to report that dosha. The difference is it takes two to tango with COVID. So if I got it from my husband, who’s working in the other room, I wouldn’t say that that’s work-related. I went through that. I, I contracted the disease or the illness at work. If I ran into the office and I got exposed by somebody in the accounting department, um, as I was fixing the edge thinking, cause their offices are right by the printer. Um, then that would be work-related. So it’s a little bit different, but that’s, I hope that makes sense. Okay.
Megan Reuther (01:03:29):
So when I talk quickly about some pitfalls here, and I’ve talked about some of them, but I’m going to reiterate them because I’m a lawyer and that’s what I do. Um, make sure you stay up to date on the guidance. I can’t emphasize that enough. I try and glance through it every morning as I drink my coffee, because it’s constantly changing and I don’t want to be caught unprepared. Um, I don’t think you, if you have limited time, I would really focus on the CDC guidance, um, and bullies guidance. Um, so that’s the Bureau of labor and industry, the Oregon. Um, I think those are the agencies and potentially OSHA. Those are the agencies that you probably are most likely going to be hearing from if there’s an issue. Um, so there’s there. The guidance that I care about, the other thing is it’s just guidance.
Megan Reuther (01:04:17):
It’s not the law. Um, so OSHA tells you to do something and you don’t do it. You’re not necessarily violating the law, but I wouldn’t want to be the employer that has to explain to OSHA why I didn’t follow their guidance because they’re the one that’s going to be enforcing it. So just consider that, um, make sure you keep open lines of communications with your employers even before COVID. So even in a pre COVID universe, most of my cases, I do a lot of employment litigation. A lot of the cases that I defend for employers, they just stemmed out of bad communication. The easiest way to avoid issues with your employees is just to have good communication and to care about them as humans. Um, how would you want to be communicated to what information would you like to have? What do you expect? What would you expect of your employer and do those things, um, make sure that you’re maintaining confidentiality, I’ve harped on this already.
Megan Reuther (01:05:17):
So I won’t again, but I just can’t. This is the, that’s the biggest area that I see employers getting into trouble with, have a plan ahead of time. Um, I’ve gotten a lot of calls where again, people are like, ah, diagnosis in the workplace. I don’t know what to do, and we will sort it out. It will be fine. We will work it out, but you won’t have that stress. If you take a couple hours and you make a checklist and then you communicate that to your employees, here’s what I’m going to do. If there’s a diagnosis, it’s everything we just talked about for the last, however long I’ve been talking. Um, and then you just have that quick communication with your employees. You’re going to avoid so much of that stress, and it’s going to allow you to move faster, to respond, which is key times of the essence.
Megan Reuther (01:06:07):
And it takes you two days to make a contact tracing policy. After somebody you have gotten sick, that’s two days you’ve lost when you could be finding out contacts and getting people out of the workplace. Um, I haven’t talked about prevention all that much. I’ve been talking about response because prevention a whole different topic. Um, but just keep in mind requiring social distancing, making sure you’re up to date on the mask requirements. Um, making sure you have hand sanitizer and cleaning materials available to employees, they don’t have to buy on their own. Um, if employees have to be in, if it’s possible for them to telecommute, allow them to telecommute, but if they have to be in consider staggering their shifts or, um, closing off communal areas like kitchens or conference rooms, um, requiring a limited amount of people to be in the elevator at a time, whatever you can do to prevent this.
Megan Reuther (01:07:04):
Fred, our firm has like a one person in the bathroom rule at a time, whatever it is, make sure that you’re following that. Um, and then as every lawyer will ever tell you document, document document. So keep up those journals, have those communications with employees that haven’t been writing. And by writing again, I mean, shooting off an email or, um, an email with an attached letter, whatever it is, and then just keep, hold on to those. That’s your best evidence that you did everything you could to stop the spread and to respond, um, quickly and appropriately.
Megan Reuther (01:07:41):
Um, and finally, uh, just being empathetic and understanding with employers. This is such a tough time for everybody. And I think everybody’s just doing the best they can, but just make sure that you, um, you act with kindness and empathy with their employees. You make sure you’re getting them the resources, good employees are going to be the heart and soul of your business. So if you treat your employees well, your business has a greater chance of thriving. There’s some of your biggest investments. Um, my mantra is even though you can, it doesn’t always mean you should. So just that that’s my biggest advice for everybody is just, let’s have a little bit more grace during these tough times. All right. Any questions? I’ve talked a lot at you.
Scott Robinson (01:08:32):
That was great. Thank you very much. Yeah, I do have one question, but before we go there, I want to pause and invite others to chime in with their questions. I think the big takeaways are, uh, come up with a plan in advance and document, save the information, uh, signatures, save the documents, uh, throughout the process.
Megan Reuther (01:09:09):
Yeah. I would say confidentiality communication and documents.
Scott Robinson (01:09:17):
Yup. I’m not seeing any other questions coming yet. And I we’ve been actively asking our questions throughout the presentation. Um, one of the things I was thinking about, I’m thinking about it as looking ahead. So it might be too early to ask this, but, uh, I anticipate, um, the topic of vaccinations is going to start coming up. We’ve been told there may be some coming out or maybe even, you know, trials going on, but, uh, let’s suppose that there has been announced that there’s an official legitimate vaccine to whatever that means. Um, how about our company? Um, do we start asking for employees to disclose if they’ve been vaccinated? Do we, can we as employers, um, permit certain activities for vaccinated people, uh, versus non-vaccinated people, for example, they can come to join group meetings, maybe vaccinated people, um, you know, we’re empowering them to, to travel on airplanes again, I’m, I’m, I’m just thinking ahead that this is going to be a weird and, and thorny issue because some people will want to get a vaccine. Some people will want the vaccine, but they want to make sure that it’s been validated to be safe. And there are, maybe are even some people who don’t want to be vaccinated at all. So stepping into the unknown future, just wondering if you wanted to share or somebody or maybe even non-legal, but some thoughts around it.
Megan Reuther (01:10:56):
Yeah. Um, I will say that I think that’s going to be a really thorny issue. Um, and it’s gonna, it’s gonna implicate the us constitution and the state constitution, so we haven’t gotten guidance on it. So I don’t want to predict, um, but I will. Anything that any, any situation where you treat some employees differently than other employees, um, makes me nervous. I wouldn’t, um, unless for some reason the state’s put out guidance that seems legitimate on treating vaccine to people differently than others. Um, I would absolutely be lows to, uh, treat employees differently in the workplace, um, because the truth is there could be an accessibility issue. Um, I don’t know how the vaccines are going to be distributed, but I anticipate, um, just like with everything else, uh, accessibility will depend on the circumstances. So I think you’re going to want to be mindful to who vaccines are available for, and as it slowly rolled out, um, whether they’re just given to high risk communities first, whatever it is.
Megan Reuther (01:12:06):
Um, but I would, I would just pay careful close, close attention, uh, to vaccines. I know there are the guidance. I think there’s going to be concerns for some people on the safety of vaccines, given how fast they were made. And I think those concerns may be legitimate. I don’t know. That’s something you might be hearing from employees. I think there’s a lot of reasons why it may take time for people to go get vaccines and why some people may choose not to. So I would, um, as with everything else advise against treating people differently based on their vaccine choices, but I hope to have more guidance in the future.
Scott Robinson (01:12:45):
Any other questions or is one in chat and I might ask, uh, Liz or Coleen to help with that. It’s in Spanish at the moment. I appreciate that. Yeah.
Colleen Slinkard (01:12:58):
Oh, don’t translate it for you. No problem. This is from, um, one of our clients on the call. So as an owner of a restaurant in case if one of the employees becomes, you know, infected, would you advise that the clients that, Oh, should we, should they advise the clients that have visited, um, in the, in recent days? So what does that mean in terms of, I don’t know, customers that have visited the restaurant in the days prior to that.
Megan Reuther (01:13:28):
Yeah. I mean, I think if you know who those people are, then, um, you can absolutely let them know. I mean, often these are like third-party contractors that you probably would know. I don’t know if you would know who the customers were that visited. Um, I haven’t seen any requirements for restaurants to keep a list of who ate in their restaurant. Um, but if you do have that information, I would share it, but I would also be really cautious on again, the amount of information you share. So just, you may have been exposed in the work and this restaurant, we just wanted to let you know, as a courtesy and statements. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, of course.
Scott Robinson (01:14:16):
I think that definition of exposure becomes important, um, because if it was a person working in the back kitchen, um, you know, who’d never went out into the front. I think that’s something to think about consider, um, if, if it’s a person maybe who worked on delivering food, um, who maybe walked in the front door and walked out, um, I don’t know if that is enough for exposure. So that’s where I think the CDC guidelines of, um, what, what does exposure count as, uh, be worthwhile to, to review that, look at that.
Megan Reuther (01:15:00):
Yeah. So it just goes back to the close contact. Um, you’re right within six feet for an extended period of time. For me, that’s a couple of minutes, probably. So it was a server. They probably had that close contact. Um, but everybody should be wearing masks. All the servers should mirror a mask. So the degree of risk is somewhat mitigated by that, um, versus like coughing on food kind of exposure. But I hope that if you have somebody who’s handling food, that’s coughing, you’ve already sent them home. So it’s just, we can mitigate some of the need to where we can reduce some of the risks by just taking the preventative actions on the front end.
Scott Robinson (01:15:42):
Right. I’m not seeing any more questions. Um, so with that, perhaps I want to say many, many thanks to you, Megan, thanks for sharing that awesome information and that comprehensive overview really appreciated it. And, uh, I feel like I learned a lot. I know, uh, our community did. We’re getting, uh, comments in here. Wonderful presentation. Thanks, Megan. Um,