NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) — Louisiana hospitals, grocery stores and other businesses considered essential during the coronavirus pandemic rely on their employees to provide needed goods and services. But how far do their employers have to go to provide a safe workplace?
Attorney Michelle Anderson practices labor and employment law with Fisher Phillips in New Orleans. She said the Centers for Disease Control guidelines are a good place for businesses to start. In her opinion, any additional measures businesses take to protect staff from the virus exceed what existing workplace safety laws require.
“Employers that are adding plexiglass, sneeze guards and having not so many people in the store at one time, and things like that, they are going above and beyond,” Anderson said. “I think they’re doing what they need to do to keep people safe.”
Even if workers are given protective masks and gloves, employees are still expected to follow basic health protocol, she said. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, that includes regularly washing their hands and social distancing among co-workers.
One issue Anderson said employers need to consider involves employees with compromised immune systems who previously were able to work under normal conditions. Under the heightened threat of the coronavirus, these workers qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We are learning there are certain conditions that make people more susceptible, where now there may be a need for a particular accommodation,” Anderson said. “When an employer is put on notice that they have to accommodate someone with a disability, it requires them to engage … to determine what can be done that’s reasonable.”
Businesses should encourage their employees to come forward with any safety concerns during the pandemic, Anderson said, adding that there are federal labor laws in place to protect workers who feel their jobs would be threatened if they speak out.
By: Greg LaRose