Return-to-the-Workplace Considerations Part II (Audio Only)
Created on June 15, 2021
This program, led by Skadden Counsels Anne Villanueva and Helena Derbyshire, highlights the various legal and practical considerations in connection with employees returning to the physical workplace in a COVID-19 setting.
After over a year of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more employers are beginning to consider if and when they will require or allow their employees to return to the office. Some employers may make the decision to transition back to the office a voluntary one. Concurrently, employers must decide whether or not to mandate that employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations before returning to the office. In making these decisions-each with its own legal risks and potential liabilities- employers can look for guidance from various agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and equivalent bodies, such as Public Health England. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Employers should consider a number of variables, such as country, state, and county orders, industry, geography, and practical concerns for employees, such as childcare. Specific return-to-office approaches may apply on a broad scale, such as developing or updating building infrastructure and facilities, which includes clean air management (e.g., air filter changes); fixtures (e.g., installing touch-free trash, removing revolving doors, etc.); physical space (e.g., reconfiguring workplace layouts by ensuring working spaces are at least six feet apart); and cleaning services (e.g., ensure all building staff wears PPE).
However, certain return-to-office approaches will be jurisdiction-specific and dependent on the employer's business preferences or realities. Some employers may choose to administer COVID-testing procedures, whether on-site or through a third-party vendor; others may mandate vaccines for all employees, or at least a subset of them, such as employees who interact with customers, clients, or vulnerable people, or travel for work. COVID-19 vaccinations, whether mandatory or not, implicate issues related to reasonable accommodations, potential disability, discrimination, or retaliation claims, vaccination-related data tracking and collection, privacy, and cybersecurity. The program is primarily directed at attorneys and employers navigating current and evolving workplace topics relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consider issues related to mandating or encouraging a return to the office and/or COVID-19 vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, storing confidential medical records, and providing reasonable accommodations for employees
Explore the intersection of new and preexisting laws regarding COVID-19 that implicate the workforce, and how such laws interact with guidelines and rules promulgated by OSHA, the CDC, the EEOC, and other administrative and government entities
Discuss COVID-related legislation in Europe, specifically in England where COVID-19 testing and contact tracing are commonplace but not mandated, return to work guidance has been issued by Public Health England and case law is supportive of employers who follow the Government's guidance
Identify additional COVID-19 workplace considerations, including facilities management, and remote work considerations, such as the potential application of multiple state or country-specific leave and anti-discrimination laws
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