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COVID-19 Preparedness

Employers across the world are responding to the developing information on the coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19). While there are many considerations, and many fact-specific considerations based on the nature of the workforce, employers should keep these tips in mind when developing internal response plans and procedures:

  1. Prepare an employee communication that reminds employees about available resources both about the virus (e.g., through links to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website) as well as about general ways to avoid spreading the virus. Helpful information can be taken from the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

  2. Human Resources representatives, as well as managers and supervisors, should be provided with a consistent message to respond to employee questions and concerns, and employees should be provided contact information to direct their questions.

  3. Communication systems should be in place that enable employers to provide employees with timely updates and, if necessary, information about worksite closures. Likewise, employers should review their systems to ensure that they can support a potential situation where a significant number of employees need to work from home.

  4. In some circumstances, employees have a right to refuse to perform their work if they believe it is not safe to do so. 

  5. Many employees have a right to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with one another, including related to employer coronavirus response, and employers cannot have a policy or practice of preventing these discussions.

  6. Wage and hour law, as well as employer policies, will affect how employees are paid in the case of a worksite closure or requirements to remain at work. 

  7. Employees who are absent from work may be entitled to leave from work under federal or state law or employer policy.

  8. Texas law prohibits employers from terminating employees who cannot come to work or leave work under certain emergency circumstances.

  9. Employers should promptly and thoroughly address any discriminatory or harassing conduct based on race or national origin in relation to countries from which coronavirus may have been transmitted.

  10. Employers must be thoughtful in dealing with employees who may be ill to avoid claims that they are regarding the employee as disabled in manner that violates the ADA. Additionally, employers need to be thoughtful about maintaining information about an employee’s diagnosis in a confidential manner, although some information may need to be shared to appropriate individuals if employees are diagnosed with the virus.

Jay Aldis, Caroline Melo, Matt Paulson, and Kevin D. Collins also contributed to this article.

© 2021 Bracewell LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 62

About this Author

Rebecca L. Baker, Bracewell, State Court Litigation Lawyer, Employment Handbooks Attorney

Rebecca Baker counsels and represents employers in all areas of employment law. She represents employers involved in federal and state court litigation and advises and represents them with respect to administrative claims. Becky's experience includes matters involving retaliation, whistleblower protection, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and wage and hour issues. In addition to litigation, she works with management clients to draft employment policies and employee handbooks and to address issues related to the hiring, retention and termination of...

Leslie Selig Byrd, labor, employment, attorney, Bracewell law firm

Leslie Selig Byrd has more than 30 years of experience exclusively representing employers in labor and employment issues and controversies.

Leslie represents national and local clients before state and federal agencies. She has been involved in hundreds of administrative investigations, as well as administrative proceedings before the NLRB and the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and OSHA. Leslie defends employers in federal and state employment law motion practice and litigation...

Amber K Dodds, Labor and Employment Attorney, Bracewell Law

Amber Dodds represents employers in labor and employment issues, including matters related to wages, wrongful termination, discrimination, occupational safety, and employee benefits disputes.

Prior to law school, Amber worked with large corporations to procure the necessary employment-based visa documentation for high-level individuals and their families relocating to Central and South America. Managing the immigration process included obtaining birth certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas, police records, and employment records while...

Robert Nichols, employer litigation attorney, bracewell law firm, lawyer harassment claims, wrongful discharge case, occupational safety issues

Robert Nichols represents employers in litigation, administrative actions and arbitrations concerning discrimination and retaliation, harassment, wrongful discharge, occupational safety and health, union-management relations, wage and hour matters, and other concerns related to employment. Mr. Nichols has defended more than 200 employment-related lawsuits in federal and state court, represented employers in more than 300 federal and state agency employment discrimination investigations, and handled numerous Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cases,...

Amy Karff Halevy, Employment, Attorney, Bracewell law firm

Amy Halevy counsels and represents employers in all areas of employment law. She guides her business clients in the preparation and application of employment policies and procedures. Amy also provides valued advice in assisting with complex and high level company investigations when there are concerns of employee misconduct or in other areas related to the employment relationship. She has successfully represented employers for more than 25 years in matters related to discrimination, harassment, and other employment-related claims.

Amy has...