Tips on Running Your Business During a Pandemic
As a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, many business owners are navigating new challenges and doing their best to adapt to the current climate. We sat down with our own Employment Attorney, Cynthia L. Hill to discuss Tips on Running Your Business During a Pandemic.
What are a few of the top questions you have received from employers during the Pandemic?
At the start of the pandemic, the majority of questions I received focused on furloughing employees and transitioning the workplace from in-person to remote style. However, since we have become more comfortable with our “new normal” most of the questions I receive have to do with how to accommodate employees who have tested positive or employees who have been exposed to individuals who have tested positive.
Do government regulations and recommendations vary depending on the size of the company?
Yes, there are different regulations depending on the size of the employer. For example, some employers fall underneath the coverage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Such companies have more flexibility with what they can and cannot do with employees who have either tested positive or have been exposed to the virus.
However, more important than the size of the business is the nature of the business. Some employers simply cannot accommodate a remote workplace. For example, if you are a mom and pop sandwich shop, you simply cannot accommodate a work from home solution. However, if you are a large insurance agency, your employees can probably do a large portion of their job from home.
How Should an Employer Continue Communicating with Employees Regarding Covid-19?
It’s important that employers not only listen to local authorities but also listen to CDC recommendations. It’s important for employers to listen to the science and listen to what the best practices are. In turn, they should communicate that information to their employees in a timely manner.
Can an employee file for unemployment if they are in a commission-based role but still employed?
Under the Texas Workforce Commission’s current regulations, as long as you are still employed and you are able to work, you are not eligible to collect unemployment. However, there are solutions for folks in these commissioned sales roles. Many employers are finding ways to accommodate their strong salespeople by temporarily increasing base salaries. This helps to make up for the loss of income and keeps the strong sellers on board.
If an employee is exposed to Covid-19, can the employer legally prohibit him or her from returning to work for 14 days?
That was a question that was very uncertain at the beginning of the Pandemic. Luckily the government did come out with some guidance on how to handle this. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, you can legally require an employee to stay away from the workplace and self-quarantine for fourteen days. While the employer does not legally have to do this, it is highly suggested to have employees produce a negative covid test before returning back to work. Typically, an employer can not require employees to get any sort of medical testing. However, since the covid-19 Pandemic, employers have the authority to do so in regard to covid testing.
In light of the Covid-19 Pandemic how could businesses have been better prepared to handle a disruption of this magnitude?
Lots of business owners are realizing they need to better plan for future disruptions. This was an unusual situation because we had government mandates in regard to furloughs and government assistance for the workforce. Additionally, the owners did not know how to handle how to calculate and classify sick time. Many employers have taken this as an opportunity to revamp employee handbooks and manuals so they have clear guidelines and policies set in place for any future disruptions.
If you are a business owner seeking counsel for employment-related matters or an owner looking for additional tips on running your business during a pandemic, contact the office of Harris Cook, LLP. We would be happy to discuss your unique business needs.