When and How to Bring Back Employees

May 28, 2020

While reopening and re-staffing requirements are highly dependent upon the business’ location and current government mandates, there are consistent rules all employers must follow under the New Mexico Department of Health’s COVID-Safe Practices. These include:

  • Arranging work stations to provide at least six feet between individuals where possible
  • Providing for remote meetings where possible
  • Providing face masks, physical barriers such as sneeze guards, hygiene products, and appropriate work space to enable social distancing
  • Restricting use of common areas
  • Training employees on use of hygiene products and safety in the workplace
  • Minimizing non-essential travel
  • Screening employees daily before they enter the workplace (see below)

Retailers have further guidelines, such as requirements for customers and maintaining a daily schedule of cleaning and sanitizing, including disinfecting high-touch items at least every two hours, to help ensure public safety. These are outlined on the COVID-Safe Practices webpage linked above.

As employers brings back staff, they should consider:

  • Staggering reintegration and schedules for minimal contact
  • Communicating clear guidelines on meetings, visitors, lunch breaks and the like
  • Carefully examining any collective bargaining agreements and insurance policies
  • Potential workplace issues/training for supervisors to manage changing employee dynamics

How to Screen Employees

Prior to COVID, temperature checks were considered a medical test and therefore, could not be administered to employees without consent. Today, the EEOC has indicated that temperature checks are generally permissible; employers, however, must ensure they are complying with relevant employment laws such as ADA and HIPAA. Businesses should notify employees about these temperature screenings in advance.

In addition to considering obtaining signed agreements for temperature checks, employers should also think about other screening protocols such as asking symptom-related questions prior to employees entering the workplace. This information must be treated as part of the employee’s confidential medical record.

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