The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected the American workplace. Throughout the country, employees are working from home, and companies are radically changing the way they get business done. Many of these creative solutions are changing California businesses for the better. Existing employment laws still apply to the new workplace. As an employer, you need to be aware of certain issues that could expose you to liability.
Many companies have been forced to lay off workers or reduce hours to stay in business. Before you make any decisions about firing or layoffs, you should be aware of the potential legal consequences of doing so. Employees who have a written employment contract or are part of a union may have protections against these actions, even in the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic. Even changing shifts or job responsibilities could trigger the provisions of such a contract. Consult with an employment lawyer before implementing changes that could expose your business to liability.
Reducing hours or the number of employees can also have adverse effects on any federal, state, or local aid that your business received during the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program offers forgivable loans, for example, but these loans are only forgiven if employers satisfy all the requirements for doing so, including keeping employees on payroll and offering employees their full wages. If employers do not meet these requirements, the loan must be repaid.
The Legal Ramifications of Working Remotely
Existing employment laws apply to remote workers. These laws mean that employers might be asked to reimburse expenses that have typically been covered in the workplace. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace for disabled employees. If an employer would have paid for reasonable accommodations (such as an ergonomic chair) in the office, the employer might also be required to make the same reasonable accommodation for the employee working at home.
Workers compensation law will also face new legal questions from cases involving remote workers. If the employee is injured while working at home, they are still entitled to workers compensation coverage if the injury occurred while in the “scope and course” of their employment. This situation puts employers in a difficult position since it is nearly impossible to prove that the employee was actually watching the children, having a snack, or otherwise taking a break when the injury occurred in the home. Employers should consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney to deal with these unique legal issues.
The Legal Ramifications If an Employee Contracts COVID-19
For many employers, the most pressing concern is whether employees will be able to sue for contracting coronavirus while on the job. OSHA has issued tips for keeping workers safe from COVID-19 while on the job, but there is less certainty about workers’ legal protections under workers compensation law, premises liability law, and administrative rules through government agencies. CAL and OSHA have also issued interim guidelines, but these are subject to change and could differ from federal guidelines.
Experienced Business Lawyers for All Legal Issues Facing Silicon Valley Employers
There are many complicated legal issues that employers face in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. The Silicon Valley business attorneys at Structure Law Group can help your business mitigate liability in a wide range of issues. Call (408) 441-7500 or contact us through our website to schedule a consultation.