Coronavirus vs. The Minnesota Workplace: What Is The Impact?

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2023 | Employment Law

COVID-19 and its Symptoms

Coronavirus(COVID-19) continues to be a global concern of epic proportions. Many people viewed the coronavirus as something that could be compared to the flu or pneumonia. However, the coronavirus is neither of those types of infections. Coronaviruses can range from  SARS-CoV, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, to the common cold.

Some of the symptoms of the coronavirus include trouble breathing, mild or severe respiratory illness, coughing, and a fever. Many people who have been diagnosed with the virus had symptoms that appeared in a couple of days or two weeks after the exposure occurred. When this amount of time passes, there would be no surefire way to test someone for the deadly virus. Last month(February), lab test kits were being shipped to some labs in the United States and other areas across the globe.

How Can Someone Catch The Virus?

Anyone who has the virus can transmit it to someone else. This deadly disease can spread quickly from one person to the next through mouth and/or nose droplets. Mouth and nose droplets can easily and quickly be spread through a cough or a sneeze.

These droplets can also land on areas that are commonly touched. When someone touches a surface that has been exposed to those small droplets and that person touches his or her face, that person can catch the virus. This is why it is so important to not get close to anyone who has any type of symptoms of the virus. The transmission of the virus can also take place even before anyone exhibits any type of symptoms.

Coronavirus and the Workplace

As more Americans and American workplaces begin to feel the impact of the virus, there have been more conversations about how workplaces can keep their employees safe while still following the state and federal laws.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), employers are obligated to provide a workplace that is safe for all employees. However, the Coronavirus is creating more hurdles and obstacles than some may be able to handle. The recent guidance that was released by the CDC(Centers for Disease Control) can be used by employers to prevent the spreading of the Coronavirus within the workplace.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), employers can help prevent the spread of the virus by doing the following:

  • Make sure your employees stay home and recover until they have not experienced any symptoms for a full 24 hours
  • If anyone in the workplace begins to exhibit any signs of the illness, they should not remain in the workplace
  • Ensure everyone in the workplace has access to hand soaps, hand sanitizers, Kleenex, tissues, etc.
  • Ensure the janitorial staff and employees thoroughly clean the areas that are used and touched often
  • Be aware of the employees who need to travel in order to fulfill their job assignments; encourage them to be checked for any symptoms before they travel
  • Create policies that are flexible enough that it will allow employees to remain home when someone in their home needs to be cared for due to an illness
  • Allowing employees who have a respiratory illness to remain home without requiring them to bring in a note from their healthcare provider

When Employees Feel Sick

If anyone in the workplace begins to struggle with breathing or if anyone has a fever, that person should seek medical attention. While we know that a fever and difficulty breathing can be symptoms of a number of other illnesses, it is still encouraged to receive medical attention due to the impact of the virus. While it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, it is also important to remain as calm as possible in these situations in order to avoid creating more fear in the workplace.

What If Someone In The Workplace Has Been Exposed?

If anyone in the workplace has a spouse, child, or another family member in the home with the virus, the employee should alert the supervisor immediately. If an employee has been tested for the virus and it has been confirmed that he or she has the virus, the supervisor, manager, etc. should alert the other employees. While it is important that other employees are aware that someone has been exposed to the virus, it is important that confidentiality has been maintained.

Can An Employer Ask An Employee To Stay Home?

We understand how concerned many employers can be, especially when they want to create a safe working environment. Employers can ask employees about the areas they have visited recently during the time of the spreading of the virus. Employers can also talk to employees about who they have been in contact with and if they have possibly been exposed to the virus. When it comes to administering tests for the virus or other illness, employees may only do so if a job-related necessity has already been established.

Legal Concerns Surrounding The Virus

Whenever there are concerns in the workplace, these concerns will need to be addressed as long as they follow the regulations that have been established by state and federal laws. We are unable to determine the full impact of the virus as it relates to the workplace, but employers have to be aware of the actions they take as it relates to the virus.

The privacy and safety of all employees should always be a priority. No one should be discriminated against as the virus continues to spread and the concern grows. There are laws and acts that allow employees to take time away from work for illnesses. There are also contractual obligations that have been agreed upon and they should be followed in regards to employees being allowed to take time away from the workplace.

It is important that employers and employees are aware of their leave of absence, paid, and unpaid practices. Many workplaces are experiencing a unique situation that they were not prepared for as it relates to the virus and attendance policies. If the practices that have been put in place are not protected by law, employers can encourage employees to work from home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website provides a significant amount of helpful resources that will allow employers and employees to remain informed. We encourage employers and employees to research the virus and its effects, ask questions, and take the necessary steps to reduce the chances of a widespread office impact.

For more information on this quickly developing situation and future updates, please do not hesitate to reach out to  Villaume & Schiek.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.