Organizations will continue to be held accountable for diversity, equality and inclusion post-COVID-19 and in connection with the Black Lives Matter movement. The next few video chats in our series will help in-house counsel and HR executives who are working to build a strong corporate culture of professionalism and respect do so in a way
COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic in the US on March 13, 2020. Yet, even now, as we are over six months in to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in the US, employers still continue to face challenges when navigating the sometimes daily changes in health and safety orders, updates from federal agencies, court decisions, and the proliferation of lawsuits. One of the key decision points for many employers is when to reopen, what should drive that decision, the legal risk of “getting it wrong” and how to mitigate that risk. Unlike retailers and restaurants, companies in the financial industry have largely avoided shutting down operations. However, that does not mean they have fully reopened. Where does the financial industry stand in its reopening? What should financial services companies be concerned about in terms of COVID-19 related guidance and recommendations, legal claims by employees, and how can companies mitigate these claims? What are specific COVID-19 related compliance issues unique to investment advisors and broker-dealers? We share our insights below.
The latest wrinkle for employers managing employees in the time of COVID-19 relates to employee travel. Many employers are coming to us asking how to navigate the patchwork of US state and local quarantine restrictions and / or recommendations for persons who travel to hotspots and then have to quarantine when they return home.
Questions abound, including whether employers can just test employees for COVID-19 to avoid a 14-day quarantine period, and whether employers have to pay employees to follow a quarantine order when their employees voluntarily travel to a hotspot location. We provide background and answer those questions below.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic put in-person classes, business operations, and vacation plans on hold, there has been no pause of the duties of boards of directors to their respective companies. Board members should keep their fiduciary duties and the practical steps they can take to meet those duties top-of-mind as they guide their companies through the COVID-19 pandemic. We have highlighted board members’ duties and some practical tips boards of directors can take to meet their obligations to their companies during the pandemic.
Board Duties and the Business Judgment Rule: A Refresher
Under Delaware law-which most jurisdictions widely follow when it comes to directors’ duties-directors have a duty of care and duty of loyalty.
- The duty of care requires directors to make informed and deliberative decisions based on all material information they have reasonably available to them.
- The duty of loyalty requires directors to act (or decide not to act) in a disinterested and independent manner, with the honest belief that the action or inaction is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. How will decisions made by board members be evaluated by courts if those decisions are challenged? Courts evaluating board decisions under Delaware law first look to the “business judgment rule,” which allows a rebuttable presumption that directors satisfied their fiduciary duties in making business decisions.
- If the presumption is rebutted-such as in cases of related party transactions or lack of director independence-Delaware courts apply the more exacting “entire fairness” standard, which normally shifts the burden to directors to prove the fairness of a challenged corporate transaction or decision.
- As part of the duty of care and duty of loyalty, directors have the duty of good faith, oversight and disclosure. They have to act in good faith, be diligent in overseeing the company, and disclose any conflicts of interest as well as anything that is in the best interest of the company to know.
The confusion over evolving state and local quarantine orders can be a challenge for employers with employees visiting hotspot areas. This week we discuss what employers can do when employees travel to a COVID-19 hotspot and have to quarantine when they arrive or return.
Please click here to watch this week’s video chat.
With a surge in COVID-19 cases in parts of the US (and some states taking or considering taking a step backwards into a prior reopening phase), employers are trying to figure out the best ways to keep the virus from spreading in their reopened worksites. We have answered some frequently asked questions below to help employers implement or modify their screening protocol to make it the best fit for their physical workspace, their budget, and their workforce.
1. Can I check my employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace? If my employees have a fever, can I send them home (or tell them not to come to work)?
Yes, employers can check their employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. In fact, some states and localities require employers to do daily or weekly checks, so check your local requirements.
A temperature check is a medical examination under the ADA, and in ordinary times, employers generally cannot require employees to submit to a temperature check. However, given COVID-19’s rise to the level of pandemic, and the CDC and state and local health authorities’ acknowledgment of the community spread of COVID-19 and issuance of precautions, EEOC guidance allows employers to check employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. Temperature checks are only permitted while the virus is severe, so as the level of community spread diminishes in your locality make sure that temperature checks are still permitted before you administer them.
In addition, employers can send employees home (or tell them not to come to work) if they have a fever or any of the other symptoms of COVID-19. See EEOC guidance and CDC guidance, “Separate Sick Employees.” The CDC defines a fever as 100.4 F or 38 C or above. States may have different guidance regarding what qualifies as a “fever,” with some states defining a “fever” as a flat 100 F, and employers can set lower temperature thresholds if they prefer.
In our first installment of this ICYMI video chat, we discussed the current requirements, realities and challenges raised by COVID-19 testing and screening in the workplace. Join us as we continue the conversation and address additional testing and screening hurdles employers are facing on a daily basis.
Please click here to watch this week’s video
We hope you have found our video chat series helpful and informative. We are continuing this series of quick and bite-sized video chats, where our employment partners team up with practitioners in various areas of law to discuss the most pressing issues for employers navigating the return to work. Each 15-minute Q&A session offers targeted…
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to re-examine their work from home or remote work policies. There is no one size fits all plan. Many companies have moved rapidly to a remote workforce during the pandemic, often with employees relocating to (or been stranded in) locations outside of their normal worksites. For some, remote work…
We hope you found last week’s video chat series helpful and informative. Due to popular demand, we are continuing this series of quick and bite-sized video chats, where our employment partners team up with practitioners in various areas of law to discuss the most pressing issues for employers navigating the return to work.