A Message from Emplicity to our clients and their employees:
The COVID-19 outbreak has just begun to impact and alter the lives of Americans, and we understand how stressful it is for employers and workers to sift through all of the information to find the answers they need. Emplicity is committed to being your ongoing resource for HR support through this crisis and beyond. We have curated this resource page based on the questions we are receiving from our clients and will continue to update it as needed. Here you will find a helpful collection of resources and policies that are specific to employers in California and sample material that can be utilized for communication.
As your HR Outsourcing provider, we intend to remain operational, are closely following all health and safety regulations put forth by local and federal health agencies and have equipped our employees to work remotely to avoid interruption in the event more restrictions are put into place.
If you’re an Emplicity client and need further assistance, reach out to your HR Representative directly via phone or email. If you are not a current client but would like more information, please click the button below.
- Dept. of Labor Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Q&A
- CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers
- Guidance from the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency
- Los Angeles Public Health COVID-19 Page
- Orange County Public Health COVID-19 Page
- San Diego Public Health COVID-19 Page
- San Francisco Public Health COVID-19 Page
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that our Emplicity HR team has been hearing from clients:
Health & Safety
What specific accommodations, OSHA protections or policies do we need to have in place for our employees in the current virus environment?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, which outlines steps employers can take to help protect their workforce.
Some of my employees don’t want to report to work due to fear of exposure. What can I do?
Employees are only entitled to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. Section 13(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) defines “imminent danger” to include “any conditions or practices in any place of employment which are such that a danger exists which can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated through the enforcement procedures otherwise provided by this Act.” OSHA discusses imminent danger as where there is “threat of death or serious physical harm,” or “a reasonable expectation that toxic substances or other health hazards are present, and exposure to them will shorten life or cause substantial reduction in physical or mental efficiency.”
Employers are urged to follow all recommendations regarding minimizing the risk of transmission in order to ease worry and improve the safety of employees. Employers should also keep a close eye on recommendations from the CDC and other authorities regarding allowing employees to remain home or work from home whenever possible during this time.
I’m worried about employees traveling and getting sick. Can I ask them to stop traveling?
Employers generally cannot prohibit otherwise legal activity during an employee’s personal time. However, instead of placing restrictions on employees, employers can educate them on risky travel environments and behaviors as well as monitor those returning from such travel for signs of illness.
What do I do if an employee exhibits any symptoms of the virus. Can I send them home or ask them to stay home?
Employers are permitted to ask employees to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19. The CDC explicitly states that employees who exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace.
If I suspect an employee is sick, can I take their temperature before allowing them to work?
Taking an employee’s temperature is considered to be a “medical examination” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits employers from requiring medical examinations unless (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity, or (2) the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
The severity of COVID-19 could possibly rise to the threshold of “direct threat” that would provide employers with justification to take temperatures. Employers can proceed, but should have employees sign an agreement acknowledging that they could be subject to a temperature check but that the information will not be retained or stored anywhere.
Nonetheless, it is possible to be infected with COVID-19 without exhibiting recognized symptoms such as a fever, so employee temperature checks may not be the most effective method for protecting your workforce.
Can we require employees to notify the company if they have been exposed, have symptoms, and/or have tested positive for COVID-19?
Yes, employers can and should require any employee with COVID-19 symptoms to notify the company. While outside of work, if an employee begins experiencing symptoms, has been exposed to someone that is exhibiting symptoms, or has tested positive, the employee should contact your company by telephone or email and should not report to work.
If one of our employees has or is suspected to have COVID-19, do we have to report the information to the CDC?
There is no obligation for employers to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to the CDC. The healthcare provider that confirms a positive test result is a mandatory reporter who handles that responsibility.
One of my employees has tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?
First, send home all employees who worked in close contact (three to six feet) with that employee for a 14-day period to ensure the infection does not spread. Take care not to identify the infected employee by name to avoid violating confidentiality laws. Consider a deep cleaning of all affected workspaces, and if the worksite is in a shared office building or area, inform building management so they can take any precautions they deem necessary.
Benefits, Wages & Leave
What happens to our group benefits under quarantine while employees are unable to pay their share of premiums?
During a time of disaster or pandemic, insurance carriers have avenues available to keep coverage in place temporarily while employees are unable to pay their share in a timely manner. Each situation is entirely dependent on the insurance carrier’s capacity and relationship with the employer and will have to be individually assessed.
There is nothing for my employees to do right now. Are there any programs to help replace wages?
The State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has expanded benefits to include workers impacted by COVID-19 related loss of hours. Additionally, The Governor issued an Executive Order waiving the one-week unpaid waiting period for collecting the benefits listed below.
- Workers who are unable to work due to caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. Eligible workers can receive up to six weeks of benefit payments.
- Workers who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. Eligible workers can receive short-term benefit payments to cover the time they are out of work from the illness.
- Workers who are unable to work due to school closures may be eligible to file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. Eligibility is dependent on several factors, such as having no other care options and being unable to continue working your normal hours remotely, among others.
- Workers whose hours have been reduced or stopped completely by their employer due to COVID-19, can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able and available and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria.
This has really impacted our revenue and ability to conduct business. What can we do?
If COVID-19 is impacting business and you want to avoid laying workers off, you can retain your workers by reducing their hours and wages no more than 60 percent which will allow them to offset the wage loss with Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits (outlined above). Workers who expect to return to work for within a few weeks will not be required to actively seek work during this time if they remain able and available to return to work during their unemployment and meet all other eligibility criteria. EDD can help explain the requirements to workers when begin going through the claim process.
I can’t afford to give any hours to my employees right now, do I have to lay off my workers?
Employers can furlough workers to avoid laying them off completely while business is down. Furloughed workers are not permitted to work in any capacity (including remotely) during the furlough period. A furlough is unpaid leave, but typically allows workers who receive benefits to continue receiving them. In some cases, employees may seek temporary employment during the furlough period or receive unemployment benefits but they must be ready to return to work when the period ends or be subject to termination.
NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of its clients.