New White House Guidelines Encourage Employers to Develop Policies for Reopening

April 16, 2020Alerts

With the goal of “reopening the country,” the Trump Administration issued new guidelines for individuals and employers on the measures they should take to move toward normal operations, while further preventing the spread of the coronavirus. For most employers, this will involve taking proactive measures, such as developing new policies that directly address preventative measures. 

Specifically, these new guidelines encourage employers to develop and implement policies regarding:

  • Social distancing and personal protective equipment
  • Temperature checks
  • Testing, isolating, and contact tracing
  • Sanitation
  • Use and disinfection of high traffic areas
  • Business travel

These policies should be prepared carefully to ensure compliance with other applicable law. In addition to those specific policies, this might provide a good opportunity to revisit other relevant policies like teleworking. The new guidelines outline three phases of reopening, but leave it to the states to roll the phases out. 

Phase One

During phase one, employers should still encourage teleworking wherever possible. If people must return to the physical worksite, then they should do so in phases, if feasible. Employers should enforce strict social distancing protocols, including potentially closing common areas. Non-essential travel should be at a minimum. Employers must consider workplace accommodations for vulnerable individuals, which the guidelines define as elderly individuals or people with serious underlying health conditions. Keep in mind that an accommodation for a vulnerable individual could also implicate disability discrimination laws.

There are also separate phases for specific types of employers. Under phase one, schools and organized youth activities should remain closed. Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should be prohibited and those that do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict hygiene protocols. Large venues, such as sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, etc. can operate with strict social distancing protocols. Elective surgeries can resume for outpatient procedures only. Gyms can open if they adhere to social distancing and sanitation protocols.  Bars should remain closed.

Phase Two

Under phase two, employers are still encouraged to have employees telework whenever possible. Common areas should still be closed, but employers should enforce more “moderate” social distancing protocols. Non-essential travel can resume. Accommodations for the vulnerable population are still encouraged.

Under phase two, schools and organized youth activities can reopen, but visits to senior living facilities and hospitals remain unchanged from phase one. Large venues can move to more moderate social distancing protocols. Elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient and in-patient basis. Gyms must still follow phase one, but bars can reopen with diminished standing room occupancy.

Phase Three

For regular employers, phase three is just resuming unrestricted staffing at work sites.  Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals can resume, but people must be diligent with their hygiene.  Large venues can operate with limited social distancing requirements. Gyms can return to normal with standard sanitation. Finally, bars may operate and increase their standing occupancy.

Interestingly, there is no indication of a time frame for when these different phases will occur, or whether there will be any kind of formal announcement of what phase employers should operate under. Also, employers should take note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) already issued workplace guidelines that should also be followed and are summarized here.  

Fox Rothschild LLP stands ready to assist with providing solutions to these human resource predicaments. For more information about this alert, please contact Jonathan D. Ash at 609.895.7079 [email protected], or any member of the firm’s national Labor & Employment Department.

Additional Information