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Monday, 20 April 2020 13:26

Small Business Task Force Proposes Initial Plans to ‘Reopen Alabama Responsibly’

Written by Robert S. Ellerbrock III, Sierra J. Gray and David Carl Williams Jr., Ogletree Deakins

Index

The Alabama Small Business Commission Emergency Task Force and the Subcommittee to Reopen the Economy on April 17 released "Reopen Alabama Responsibly," a detailed report and series of recommendations on resuming business operations during the next stage of the fight against the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.

The subcommittee has released its “Phase One” recommendations for specific industries. The recommendations, which have been sent to Gov. Kay Ivey for consideration, are intended to guide Alabama’s small business owners in implementing measures that align with the economic and health interests of the state “to balance both reduction in the spread of COVID-19 and an increase in economic activity.”

 

Many of the safety measures recommended by the task force and subcommittee are similar across industries, such as:

 

  • monitoring the health of employees and sending home any employee who displays symptoms of COVID-19;
  • limiting the number of people inside a business;
  • continuing social distancing;
  • enhancing sanitation measures; and
  • increasing employee education regarding COVID-19.

 

The recommendations for several industries include temperature screenings---the taking of employees’ temperatures prior to the employees entering the workplace.

 

Though there has been some reluctance to implementing this practice due to potential data privacy and employment law issues, on March 17, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided additional guidance for employers with workforces returning to work.

 

The guidance made clear the implementation of screenings during the present COVID-19 pandemic, including taking temperatures and asking questions about symptoms prior to entering the workplace, is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which permits inquiries and medical examinations because the coronavirus is considered a direct threat, and such inquiries are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities.

 

Further, employers can require employees to wear protective gear and observe infection control practices. However, when an employee needs a related reasonable accommodation because of a disability under the ADA or a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the employer should provide modifications when feasible and does not cause undue hardship to the business.


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