During the pandemic, many employers were simply focused on keeping operations going and ensuring that the lights stayed on. There was not much time to consider policies other than the most recent CDC guidelines. Now that we are entering the summer months, it is a good time for employers to consider the following topics to ensure that they have the right policies for their operations and that those policies are compliant with the law.
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The pandemic changed how many of us work. Many employees were forced to work from home during the pandemic, and many employees continue to work from home. Employers need to implement policies that address remote work, including productivity standards, data and privacy expectations, time tracking, and communication expectations. Employers must also be prepared to handle requests from employees to work from home and should identify the positions that can and cannot be accomplished remotely and the frequency of remote work. Finally, employers need to be mindful of disability-related requests for remote work and ascertain whether this is a reasonable accommodation.
Returning to On-Site Work
Many employees appreciate the ability to work remotely; however, some jobs require an employee to be on site. Moreover, it is generally the employer’s prerogative to require employees to work on site. Employers need to have consistent policies addressing any requirements that employees return to on-site work. Additionally, employers may need to revisit dress code, punctuality, and attendance policies, which may have been lax during the pandemic. Now is a good time for employers to clarify expectations as to what is acceptable for both remote and on-site work.
Vaccinations, Masking, and Contact Tracing
While the vaccination mandates seem like a long-ago conversation, employers need to continue to have consistent policies with respect to vaccinations. An employer who previously required vaccinations should revisit that policy to ensure that it continues to be applied. If that policy is no longer being enforced, then it is time for a new policy. Employers should also consider clarifying mask-requirements and adopting policies for returning to work if and when an employee tests positive for COVID as well as policies for close contacts.
Employers may take this opportunity to review their employee leave-of-absence policies. As many states are beginning to pass laws requiring broader leave of absence policies, it may be good to review policies and stay ahead of the game. Employers may consider, for example, ensuring that family leave policies treat adoptive and biological parents the same. Employers may further consider looking at their paternity leave policies and extending family leave to circumstances outside of new births.
Whether it is politics, the weather, or sports teams, every employee seems to have an opinion. As divisions seem to permeate every aspect of our lives, now is a good time for employers to set the tone for workplace interactions. There are certain legal restrictions as to the workplace speech that an employer can limit. Specifically, an employer cannot prohibit an employee from discussing the terms and conditions in the workplace. Practically, it is impossible to monitor every employee’s conversation about their favorite “sports team.” An employer can, however, set the tone for expectations and require respectful interactions between team members. Though policies are only written documents, they serve to set expectations and may form the basis for disciplinary action should the policy not be followed.
Harassment, Discrimination, Wage and Hour, Disability Accommodations, Immigration Compliance
All of the above are perennial topics. Employers need to be sure that their policies are up to date, appropriate training has been provided, and that they are acting in compliance with the law.
This update was prepared by Attorneys Jeff Worley and Ian Brinkman. This update does not constitute legal advice and has been prepared for informational purposes only. Please contact us directly with questions about your specific situation.