FRIDAY FLURRY: UPDATES ON NEWS FROM THIS WEEK

Posted in: Employment Law by Dowling Aaron on

Face Coverings and COVID-19 Best Practice 

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Christina Anton

This E-blast serves to provide guidance to Employers regarding the provision of face coverings to employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When faced with deciding whether an Employer must provide face coverings to employees, it is in the Company’s best interest to comply with State and County-wide orders. On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) provided guidance for the use of face coverings. In this guidance, the CDPH stated that people in California must wear face coverings when they are in high-risk situations, including engaging in work and while outdoors in public spaces. Refer to the guidance here.

Face coverings can be bandanas, scarves, neck gaiters, or other clothing that does not have visible holes. This means that the best practice for Employers would be to provide face coverings to all of its employees at no charge. Employers can satisfy this obligation by providing single use disposable masks or reusable bandanas at the start of each work shift. However, if Employers provides reusable bandanas, it will need to collect the bandanas at the end of the shift to be cleaned by the employer and made available to employees again after having been clean and sanitized. Alternatively, Employers may require the employees be responsible for the cleaning of their own face coverings, but would then need to reimburse the employees as a necessary business expense.  Employers should also provide training to employees regarding how to properly wear a mask.

Further, Employers should have written policies regarding screening procedures, face coverings and/or face masks, interim and modified paid time off for COVID-19 related health needs, nonproductive time pay for additional handwashing, quarantine procedure for H-2A workers and/or individuals in employer provided housing, and travel restrictions for H-2A workers and/or individuals in employer provided housing.

Lastly, it is in the Employer’s best interest to inform employees to notify the Company of any potential exposure. If an employee is deemed to have been in close contact of a known infected individual, the employee should be sent home and not return for fourteen (14) days. If the employee develops symptoms, the employee must stay home for ten (10) days after symptoms appear and continue staying home for 72 hours after being symptom free. You may review the CDC guidelines on quarantine here and here.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

The best practice, if feasible, is to have a mandatory company policy that is strictly enforced, requiring employees to wear a company provided face covering with Employers providing the cleaning and sanitation of the face coverings. If you would like assistance in updating or creating a written policy dealing with face coverings or other increased Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) in response to COVID-19, please contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.


OSHA’s Face Coverings Guidance

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Christina Anton

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued guidance regarding the use of face coverings in the workplace. OSHA recommends that employers encourage workers to wear medical mask or cloth face coverings at work. If face coverings are not appropriate in the work environment or during certain job task, employers can provide personal protective equipment (“PPE”), such as face shields, to employees at this time.

While some employers have expressed concerns regarding face coverings causing unsafe oxygen levels or harmful carbon dioxide levels to the wearer, OSHA states that this is not true. Face coverings do not compromise the wearer’s oxygen levels or cause carbon dioxide buildup. Instead, face coverings protect against respiratory droplets, helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus. You may review the OSHA guidance here.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

If you have any questions about OSHA’s guidance or best practices during COVID-19, please contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

 

Straightforward Outreach and Educational Materials from the California Department of Food and Agriculture

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Jorge Lopez Espindola

The amount of COVID-19 guidance and resources may be overwhelming for Ag employers, which is why the California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA”) produced comprehensible materials. The CDFA produced two flyers that include applicable guidance and resources. To access the guidance from the flyers, you simply scan the QR Code with your smartphone camera, such as an iPhone or Android, and the guidance should instantly open.

The first flyer is titled “COVID-19 Awareness for Agriculture.” (For Spanish Translation click here). The second flyer is titled “TIPS: Educating Farmworkers on COVID-19.” (For Spanish Translation click here).

The flyers provide a variety of resources and guidance that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The flyers themselves are straightforward and can link individuals to resources and guidance that is helpful in the Ag industry. The flyers include educational materials that inform the agricultural workforce on how to combat the virus by using safety precautions. They further include a “Management Checklist” for employers when an individual test positive for the virus and how to respond to the situation.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

These flyers can be posted in a common area where everyone can see the information and through one’s smartphone, they can choose from a variety of resources from multiple public health agencies. If you have any questions regarding your company’s safety response to COVID-19, contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

 

UPDATE: ICE Further Extends Flexibility of Form I-9 Requirements

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Christina Anton

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced it will further extend the flexibility related to in-person I-9 compliance for employers operating 100% remotely. As previously reported, employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 do not need to conduct an in-person review while remote operations remain in effect. Instead, such employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely using, “video link, fax, email, etc.” and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days. Employers should also enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field. Once normal operations resume, all employees must report to their employer within three business days for an in-person verification. This extension is now set to expire on August 19, 2020. Refer to the original policy here for more detailed information.

Further, the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a temporary policy allowing List B identity documents with an expiration date on or after March 1, 2020 to be accepted for I-9 purposes. Such documents include a driver license, federal or state issued identification card, or a school identification card. Employers should enter the expired document under Section 2 and enter “COVID-19” in the Section 2 Additional Information field. Employees then have 90 days after the DHS terminates this temporary policy to obtain and present a current document. Once a new document is presented, Employers must enter the new document’s number and expiration date in the Additional Information field, initial and date the change. Refer to the temporary policy here.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

If you have questions about how to navigate the Form I-9 Requirements, contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

The information contained in this blog is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. No recipients, clients or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the recipient's state. The content of this blog contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. The Firm expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this blog.