Wow, can you believe that many of us have been working from home for 4 months!  Some like it and  some hate it, but regardless of what you think of working from home, businesses are reopening all across the country.  Many employees are fearful and with an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past couple of weeks, rightfully so.  So how should employers reopen?  What precautions should they take?  What if employees refuse to return to work?  These questions present employee relations issues in addition to a myriad of legal questions.

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From an employee relations perspective, employers need to make sure employees feel like the employers care about them, specifically that the employer is watching out for their safety.  To help employers with doing this, OSHA form 3990, COVID-19 guidelines and the CDC recommendations should be followed.  Legally, an employer is required to put in environmental and operational controls, including rating each job from low risk to high risk.  Depending on the level of risk, employers must then  provide the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have proper protocols for addressing sick employees, or those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.  Contracting COVID-19 from the workplace may very well result in valid claims of Workers Comp, depending on the state where the business is located.

What about employees who refuse to come to work? This is a major concern for many employers, with whom Kelly and I have contact.  Depending on the reason for the refusal, an employer may have a duty to accommodate.  More importantly, employers should consider what they can do differently to accommodate employee’s needs, personal or otherwise, to create a more content, engaged and productive workplace.

Please join us on this week’s Survive HR podcast, as our friends from the law firm of Haynsworth, Sinkler, Boyd, Chris Gantt-Sorenson and Perry MacLennan address these and other issues related to safely and legally getting employees back to work following the COVID-19 quarantine.  Thanks again for listening to our show!  We appreciate you all more than you will ever know.

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Steve Nail is currently the Dean, College of Business, at Anderson University. He is a labor and employment attorney who began his career with the National Labor Relations Board. Thereafter, he served as Assistant General Counsel for Michelin, including two stints in France, where he worked on the structuring of the European Economic Community and served in the HR and Legal Departments. Later he served as the Vice President of Labor and Employee Relations before moving on to Hubbell where he served as the Vice President of Human Resources. Steve was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to serve on the SC Healthcare Planning Committee and was reappointed by Governor McMaster in 2018. Steve was named the 2012 South Carolina HR Professional of the Year and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, by the Greenville SHRM chapter. He is a frequent speaker, a published author, and mentor to many in the HR profession. He often coaches individuals and consults organizations on strategic matters. He is a Register Corporate Coach, certified by the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and holds SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications.