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Know the Law: Guidelines for Reopening Your Business

Written by: Charla Bizios Stevens

Published in the Union Leader (5/10/2020)

Q.  Now That the First Phase of Reopening NH Business Has Begun, What Are My Responsibilities as an Employer?

A.  On May 1, 2020 the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force issued Universal Guidelines for organizations which were deemed essential and remained open during the “Stay at Home Order” and those set to reopen in the coming weeks.  They are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA).  Industry specific guidance has also been developed for a variety of businesses. The Universal Guidelines are designed to strike a balance between ensuring public safety and allowing NH to remain open for business and state that employers must comply with the following:

  1. Require all employees who are sick or not feeling well to stay home.
  2. Develop a process for daily screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms.
  3. Require employees who answer “yes” to any of the screening questions to leave the premises immediately.
  4. Strongly promote hand hygiene and make alcohol-based hand sanitizer readily available.
  5. Implement workplace cleaning practices which include sanitation of moderate to high touch areas at least every two hours.
  6. Mitigate exposure by supporting the use of cloth face coverings when social distancing is difficult to maintain, limiting in person meetings, and limiting communal use of self-service food offerings.
  7. Allow employees to work from home as much as practical.
  8. Plan for potential COVID-19 cases which may result in excessive absenteeism.
  9. Remind employees of their rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

With respect to item 2 above, the Guidelines provide specifics on screening permitted by the EEOC. The process should include the following:

  • Assign a person who will screen each employee every day before entry.
  • The screener should ask the following questions:
    • Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
    • Have you had a fever or felt feverish in the last 72 hours?
    • Are you experiencing respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath?
    • Are you experiencing any new muscle aches or chills?
    • Have you experienced any change in your sense of taste or smell?
  • Document the temperature of all employees before the start of each work shift using a no touch thermometer.

The screening could also be done by written survey.  The documentation is confidential medical information and should be kept in the employee’s medical file.  Care should be taken to maintain employee privacy at all times.

Charla can be reached at [email protected].

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association.  We invite your questions of business law.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be emailed to [email protected].  Please note – Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

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