Question: As we enter this new phase of the pandemic, it seems like everyone is going to get sick. With the vaccination mandate effectively dead, do we need to care anymore?
Answer: Yes! It’s been a long haul, and pandemic fatigue is real, but employers still have an obligation to monitor and manage COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the workplace, just as you do any other workplace hazard. There are a few things you can do to help ensure that you’re in compliance.
Make sure your employees continue to comply with the mask requirements for your area. See our most recent articles on requirements in California, Oregon, and Washington. Arizona, Idaho, and Montana don’t have statewide mask requirements. Be aware of any additional local requirements.
Review and update your written workplace COVID-19 exposure plan to make sure it’s still accurate. You can read about California’s requirements here, access Oregon OSHA’s model policy here, and view Vigilant’s model policy for Washington manufacturers here.
Recommunicate your exposure control plan to your employees and supervisors so they know what to do if they test positive or are exposed. Review our previous article for guidance on the steps to take following a positive test or workplace exposure, while keeping in mind that the updated Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for isolation and quarantine have reduced the timeline for returning to work. If you have any California employees, though, follow the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) order, which takes a slightly stricter approach. Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington follow the CDC.
If you’re offering tests to employees, make sure that either you’re using a testing company or health care provider that has Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification or that your employees self-administer and self-read the tests. If you help in administration or interpretation of the rapid test for your employee, you’re required to be certified as a clinical lab! It is permissible to require the employee to show you the test result (from a CLIA-certified provider or from the employee’s own self-administered, self-read test) for verification.
If an employee has to quarantine or isolate due to a workplace exposure, you may have a workers’ compensation claim on your hands. Check with your workers’ compensation carrier to ensure that you’re complying with the requirements in your state.
And as always, be aware of any applicable industry-specific rules for industries that still have them, such as health care or education.
Still uncertain what to do in a specific situation? Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney for help.