On May 20, 2020, Chicago passed the “COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance,” making it illegal for employers with employees in the City of Chicago to retaliate against employees who stay home: to follow public health orders related to COVID-19, to quarantine because of COVID-19 symptoms, or to care for an individual ill with COVID-19. Enacted as an amendment to Chicago’s Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, the Anti-Retaliation Ordinance prohibits employers from terminating, demoting, or taking other adverse action against employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.

What do I need to know?

Under the Ordinance, an employer cannot terminate, demote, or take any other adverse action against an employee for obeying an order issued by Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker, or the Chicago Department of Public Health (or, in the case of subsections (2) through (4) below, a treating healthcare provider) requiring the employee to:

  1. Stay at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19;
  2. Remain at home while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or while being sick with COVID-19;
  3. Obey a quarantine order issued to the employee (to keep an employee who has come into contact with an infected person separate from others);
  4. Obey an isolation order issued to the employee (to separate an employee with COVID-19 from others); or
  5. Obey an order issued by the Commissioner of Health regarding the duties of hospitals and other congregate facilities.

In addition, an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee for caring for an individual subject to subsections (1) through (3) above.

The Ordinance became effective on May 20, 2020, and will expire (unless City Council intervenes) when the Commissioner of Public Health makes a written determination “that the threat to public health posed by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that [the] ordinance can safely be repealed.”


Continue Reading Chicago Employers: Allow Your Employees to Obey COVID-19 Public Health Orders, or Else

Are you ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as you reopen? That’s a question the CDC asks in its recently-released guidance for employers considering reopening. And the EEOC recently issued three new Q&As in the “Return to Work” section of its technical assistance guidance for COVID-19, instructing employers on managing “high risk” employees in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The below Q&A provides direction for employers regarding “high risk” employees returning to the workplace and reasonable accommodations to help keep those employees safer at work.

What is my employee required to do to request a reasonable accommodation if the employee has a medical condition the CDC says could put the employee at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

The employee (or the employee’s representative, such as the employee’s doctor) must let you know the employee (i) needs a work accommodation (ii) for a reason related to the medical condition. The request can be made in conversation or writing, and does not need to use the term “reasonable accommodation” or even reference the ADA. Therefore, to ensure you don’t unintentionally run afoul of the ADA by missing a request for a reasonable accommodation, we recommend you review every communication from an employee (or employee’s representative) stating that the employee has a medical condition requiring a change at work as one that may require a reasonable accommodation. It is also important to train managers to be aware of these requests and to immediately inform HR if an employee mentions needing a change at work because of a medical condition.


Continue Reading From Safer-at-Home to Safer-at-Work: the EEOC Issues Guidance to Help Reopening Employers Manage “High Risk” Employees

California residents have some relief from shelter in place orders that took effect mid-March, with the state and several counties relaxing certain restrictions in early May. Despite those welcome changes, employers have much to track as they reopen businesses throughout California. A patchwork of state and local public health orders and guidelines confronts employers as

On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, creating a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness arises out of employment for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. This is not the first order of its kind; other states including Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, and Wisconsin, have imposed similar rebuttable presumptions. However, most of these jurisdictions have limited the rebuttable presumption to first responders. California’s order doesn’t.

At the federal level, House Democrats are looking to follow suit, proposing a similar presumption for certain federal workers under the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (the “HEROES Act”). If enacted as proposed, the HEROES Act would create a presumption that certain federal employees who contract COVID-19 did so in the course and scope of their employment if the employees have a risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work and on-the-job contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers. A similar presumption would apply to certain maritime workers.  The House passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199 on May 15, 2020, but tremendous opposition is expected when the bill reaches the Republican dominated Senate.

Is California’s order likely to stick?

It’s difficult to tell. California business owners are unhappy with the likely significant increase in workers’ compensation liabilities and the inequity of shifting the cost of employees’ COVID-19 illnesses to employers. Challenges to the California order would not be surprising.


Continue Reading Are You Sure You Contracted COVID-19 at Work? California Thinks So

As companies develop their reopening playbook, health & safety is of course the top line concern. Face coverings have emerged as one of the most popular preventative measures for mitigating the spread of the virus. For employers, questions abound about obligations related to face coverings.

We’ve been helping multinational companies navigate the use of face coverings in the workplace. Here are answers to some of the most common questions in the US:

  • Does the CDC require the use of face coverings in the workplace?

No. At this point, there is no federal requirement that employees wear face coverings in the workplace. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. See here.

The CDC also recommends using cloth face coverings, and not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

  • Does OSHA require the use of face coverings in the workplace?

No, except in specific workplaces where there is a higher risk of airborne exposures. OSHA has not required employees to wear masks at work as a result of COVID-19, except in certain settings such as hospitals and other workplaces where Personal Protective Equipment was required before the pandemic.


Continue Reading Face Coverings: Q&A for US Employers

On May 1 certain ILLINOIS employers got the green light to begin reopening, after the entry of a modified statewide stay-at-home order. Employers must require employees to maintain social distancing or must wear masks provided by the Company. We take you through the details below:

What does the order say about face covering, social distancing, and hygiene for business employers?

The order’s requirements for business employers depends on the type of business.

Are there rules for non-essential stores?


Continue Reading Reopening in Illinois? Provide a mask!

The COVID-19 pandemic raises challenging issues for employers, particularly those that have multiple locations, provide a variety of services, and employ a global workforce that may travel routinely for business.

With increasing quarantine and other lock-down requirements appearing across the globe, what should employers be doing now to support the health and safety of their workforces?

An employer’s first priority is to protect the health and safety of its workforce. Recognize that this is unlikely to be a one-time occurrence. Being prepared now will allow employers to iterate in the future.

(1) Understand employer obligations in each affected jurisdiction (which will change).

  • Review applicable government health alerts and requirements for reporting.
  • Review local laws on employee privacy, association, potential for discrimination and leave/benefit/wage & hour entitlements. Remember that the balance between privacy and public health is achieved differently in different countries, but as viruses spread, those restrictions are often relaxed. For instance, primarily due to data privacy laws, employers in most of the EU generally may not notify health authorities that an employee has been infected.
  • Coordinate internally to develop employee communications and plans. Frequent communications with employees and their families is critical. Keeping in contact with official or governmental bodies such as the US State Department or the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is essential to ensure the latest updates are available and to ensure employees are aware of any national contingency plans.


Continue Reading Pandemic Pause — Are you taking the right actions to protect your workplace?

On April 27, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced details of his plan to reopen Texas businesses in phases, so long as the COVID-19 outbreak can be sufficiently contained in the process. In conjunction with the release of the “Open Texas” strategic plan, Governor Abbott also issued three executive orders on April 27, 2020, each aimed at balancing measures to reopen sectors of the state while maintaining sufficient protections. Below are key provisions of the Open Texas strategic plan and the related executive orders. Please use the following links to access the full text of the Open Texas strategic plan and each of Governor Abbott’s executive orders.

Continue Reading Texas Reopens: What Businesses Need To Know

On April 16, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-51-20 (“Order”) requiring employers in the food sector to:

  • Provide employees with paid sick leave due to COVID-19, and
  • Permit employees working in a food facility to wash their hands at least once every 30 minutes.

The type of workers included ranges from farmworkers to those in the retail food supply chain, including pick-up, delivery, supply, packaging, retail, or preparation. Eligible workers thus include grocery workers, restaurant or fast food workers, workers at warehouses where food is stored, and workers who pick-up or deliver any food items.


Continue Reading New California Paid Sick Leave For Food Sector Workers