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Bay Area Human Resources Services

Coronavirus Concerns – Addressing Illnesses in The Workplace

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been in the news non-stop since it first surfaced in 2019. Thousands of people worldwide have been admitted to hospitals and tens of thousands more are on lockdown.  Much is unknown about how COVID-19 spreads. Current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. As HR professionals, this latest serious flu-like outbreak raises the looming topic of managing employee illnesses in the workplace. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you work to keep your office healthy.

Develop a Flexible Leave Policy

Actively encourage a culture where employees know if they are sick, they can stay home without fear of losing their jobs. In addition, employees may need to stay home to care for sick family members or children. If possible, encourage employees to work from home if they or a family member feel unwell. Engage with managers and leadership and ensure the message is clear across the board – emphasizing staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends employees stay home until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines. It is best to have a workplace policy that is consistent with your expectations and public health guidance and that employees are aware of this policy.

In California, employees are entitled to paid sick leave. All California employers must post a notice in a conspicuous workplace location notifying employees of their rights to paid sick leave. This notice should be part of the labor law posters hung in your offices already. At minimum, California law allows employees to use at least 24 hours (or 3 days) of paid sick leave per year.  Because several California cities require their own paid sick leave, it is important to know which law applies to your business.

Many employers offer pooled PTO (Paid Time Off) or an unlimited/flexible paid time off program in lieu of paid sick leave. Be cautious, just because you don’t call your program sick leave does not remove the rights and protections employees are entitled to through state and/or local paid sick leave laws.

Can I Send a Visibly Sick Employee Home?

Yes, employers have the right to send sick employees home. The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Non-exempt employees who report to work and are sent home may be entitled to reporting time pay. Exempt employees who do any work should be paid for the full day.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Can I Require a Doctor’s Note?

In California, we strongly recommend you do not require a doctor’s note when employees are using paid sick leave or as a requirement to return to work from sick leave. While the law does not specifically prohibit asking for a doctor’s note, it does state that any action which interferes with the employee’s right to leave is unlawful. Because visiting a doctor can be costly and time intensive for some employees, the common recommendation is to allow employees to take their earned sick leave for up to 24 hours (3 days) without a note. This meets the state sick leave usage entitlement for the year and any additional time off needed can be subject to a doctor’s note. If your employee is experiencing a prolonged medical issue, or they qualify for a leave accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do additional investigation about federal, state, and local leave entitlements before moving forward with any action.

Consider Canceling Work Travel

If your business asks employees to travel domestically or internationally consider canceling or postponing trips until more is known about COVID-19 detection and treatment. Use video and voice technology to keep employees connected in the meantime. If an employee must travel to a high-risk area, encourage them to stay home for up to two weeks after travel (the longest known incubation period of similar viruses) and return to the office once they are sure no symptoms have developed.

What to Do Next?

Human Resources has the duty to plan or assist departments in workforce planning, operations and other areas. Consider the loss of workforce, any functions closed and the ability to temporarily fill positions to keep the company from financial losses. Decisions and actions may need to be taken quickly; however, careful consideration must be made at every step. Employers are encouraged to develop a disease management preparedness plan to reduce their level of risk and liability and to provide a step-by-step action plan to handle the situation most efficiently and effectively.

Here are some helpful links

Check out the CDC’s guide on tackling flu season in the workplace.

The CDC’s latest guidance for employers on CORVID-19.

Megan Coen – Executive HR Consultant – VP

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

States Protect Natural Hair and Hairstyles in The Workplace

Beginning January 1, 2020, California became the first state prohibiting discrimination based on hair. Since the new year, several states and localities have joined California prohibiting hair discrimination – Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Virginia at the state level and New York City, NY and Montgomery, MD at the local level.

Background

Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) has always prohibited discrimination based on race. Historically, courts reviewing racial discrimination claims based a claimant’s physical appearance have distinguished between whether the physical traits are unchangeable or artificial. Disparate treatment based on unchangeable (immutable) characteristics could be a valid claim of racial discrimination, where treatment based on artificial traits could not (e.g. employers that rejected applicants with dreadlocks because the hairstyle was deemed to be an artificial trait). California’s new hair discrimination law, like the others, was passed to expand the protections afforded by Title VII.

California’s CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by expanding the definition of race to include hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks and twists historically associated with race. This law applies to employers with 5 or more employees.

Although California was the first state to prohibit hair discrimination, such protection was first adopted at the local level in New York City. In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued new enforcement guidance to the City’s Human Rights Law, the section of the administrative code that prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodation, and employment. This guidance was the first to legislatively expand the definition of race discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of natural hair, hairstyles, and ethnicity.

Proposed Legislation

Discrimination based on race is illegal – period.  With that being said, supporters are asking why is it still largely legal to discriminate against people because of their natural hair? As this movement continues to gather support, proposed legislations are being considered in other states. Twenty-five additional states are considering the CROWN Act, including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

What Should Employers Do Next?

As laws prohibiting hair discrimination continue to increase, your organization may want to consider modifying policies to ban, limit, and restrict practices associated with hair discrimination. Look at your policies and practices, and train managers on workplace appearance and grooming policies. Consider adopting race-neutral grooming practices that require workers to keep hair clean or secured for hygienic and safety reasons.

Educate those that are part of your organization’s recruiting process to not screen out applicants with braids, twists or locks based on not meeting the company’s “image” or “look policy.”

Consider updating your organization’s harassment prevention and/or diversity trainings to include natural hair and protective hairstyles in the workplace.

Finally, if you fall in any of the states or localities that have such protective laws, consider updating your company’s employee handbook.  Modify appearance policies to including a statement such as “to the extent required by applicable law, the company will make accommodations based on religious or cultural beliefs.” Include an expanded race definition and process for employees to notify a supervisor, or HR, should they experience, or witness discrimination based on race, including hair discrimination.

Marina Galatro – Executive HR Consultant, PHRca, SPHR, SHRM-CP

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

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When is it Time to Leave a PEO?

Author: Saul Macias, MBA, PHR

When you were smaller, partnering with a professional employer organization (PEO) made sense. It shifted some tasks and liabilities off your shoulders and allowed you to afford to offer good health benefits to your employees. Most of all, outsourcing your human resources, benefits, and payroll gave you space to concentrate on growing your business.

Though co-employment had a role in the growth of your organization, many employers arrive at a point where it is appropriate to exit. Here are some key considerations as you decide whether to initiate that transition away from your PEO:

Benefits: Lots has changed in the world of benefits in the past couple of years. Offering benefits in-house would give you the autonomy to design, choose and manage your health and retirement benefits. The desire for greater flexibility in employee benefits can be a key driver to part ways from a PEO. (A lack of knowledge in this area, however, can often delay a PEO exit).

Service: As you grow, your business and your employees’ needs become more complex. In the midst of that complexity, you may find that your PEO lacks the expertise to drive and support your HR, benefits and payroll to meet your unique and evolving needs. Furthermore, a lack of onsite support or expertise to help you cover a multi-state or international expansion can be most challenging under a PEO model.

Cost /Scale: The average employer in a PEO has 15 employees. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the average HR professional supervises approximately 70 employees. Somewhere between 70 and 100 employees the economics may merit managing your benefits, payroll and HR in-house. But what will it take to build a team that can handle this role?

Co-employment: Under a PEO, one key area of managing your employees is done by a different company whose culture and identity could be very different from yours.

Once you have decided to exit, how do you make it happen?

PEO Transition:  Working with an experienced partner like ABD can help you analyze and manage the critical transition away from your PEO. Our team of multi-disciplined experts can help you plan, select the best technology platform, build the required work flows, and transition into your new program while keeping daily operations running smoothly. We can also help you hire an internal team or uncover new options that offer more flexibility than a PEO, but still allow you to outsource some or all of your human resources function. Contact us today to explore the possibilities.

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services