As the world starts returning to some sense of normalcy, it seemed appropriate to focus this newsletter on issues related to returning to the workplace, whether you are the employer or employee. I would title this newsletter “Employment Law Changes and Considerations in Light of a Changing Workplace for Employers and Employees”. I also discuss the landlord – tenant pandemic rules that are now expiring. My legal journals have been full of articles with opinions on health guidelines, along with statutory developments, and some case law on this topic. I will summarize topics that affect the widest group, while providing more detailed articles and reference sources that I am happy to pass along to anyone interested.
Now more than ever, an employer should have an employee handbook, company manual and/or company policies (“Employer Policy”) and review them in light of the remote working environment. Employees need to read those lengthy manuals and emails of “new company policy” and understand that they govern their behavior whether they are in the office or working from home.
Worker’s Compensation Claims Expected to Increase from COVID-19 and Remote Working
It is more important than ever that all business owners carry workers’ compensation insurance (WCI). It is required in Arizona, California and in most states. If an employer does not have WCI, then the employee may sue the employer under tort law, which includes the possibility of punitive damages. On the other hand, if an employer has WCI, the employee’s remedy is against the WCI.
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As several of my clients are also fellow landlords, I thought it might be helpful to discuss the moratoriums on evictions that were in place and still are in some states. In the first quarter of 2020, the Federal government issued moratoriums on evictions. This had a fairly limited effect because it only had jurisdiction over housing that receives federal government payments or federal government loans.
Re-opening and Returning to the Office
The CDC is the go-to authority and is regularly updating its guidelines and criteria for employers. Complying with its guidance, is not only helpful to all business’ constituents, but provides the employer with a strong defense. It is possible that a negligence claim could be raised by not only employees, but clients, customers, or visitors, if federal and state health guidelines were not followed.