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COVID-19: Sick Leave and Safety Requirements

Sick Leave and Pay

Employers must continue to comply with wage and hour laws in the face of the outbreak. Issues that may arise include the following:

  • If an employee performs work for the employer while being required to stay out of the workplace due to a reasonable belief that they have been exposed to, or have contracted, Coronavirus, the employee must be paid for time worked.
  • If the employee is an exempt employee, they must be paid for the entire week during which they perform more than a de minimis amount of work.
  • If the employee is non-exempt, they must be paid for the time worked. Depending on the employer’s policy and/or state or local law, the employee may be entitled to use paid sick time or other paid time off (e.g., vacation, personal days, etc.). Otherwise, generally, the employee does not need to be paid for such time out of the workplace. Employers, however, may choose to implement a temporary paid leave policy for employees without accrued or sufficient paid time off, in order to encourage employees who may have been exposed to the virus to take appropriate precautions, to minimize any hardship to them, and to assure the return of employees after any period of absence.

Occupational Safety and Health Laws

Employers must further continue to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations in managing their responses to the outbreak and the risks that it may pose for their workplaces. Under OSHA:

  • All employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace, but certain industries, such as health care, require additional precautions where exposure to an infectious disease is reasonably likely.
  • OSHA is currently directing employers to the CDC’s guidance based on industry.
  • For other workers who may be exposed, OSHA is recommending that workers (i) frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; (ii) avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; and (iii) avoid close contact with people who are sick.