The Cartwright Law Firm believes that everyone should have a healthy and safe working environment. Employers should closely follow all recommended measures, and if you believe your employer is putting you at unnecessary risk of exposure, you should report the problem. If your employer refuses to address the matter or make changes, speak with a San Francisco employment attorney right away.
Cities around the United States have begun phased reopening, and San Francisco is no different. The current plan allows only essential office workers to return to the physical office, and only if they cannot telework. However, the next phases will allow more people to report to office environments, and it is important that employers and employees understand the risk of doing so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released guidance that addresses how companies can make changes to reopen offices in a manner that promotes health and safety for office workers.
First, companies should assess the state of an office building before it reopens. This can include:
- Making sure the office has properly working ventilation systems
- Open doors and windows, use fans and otherwise increase air circulation
- Make sure the office is free from pests, mold, and other hazards that can develop after prolonged closures
Employers should then identify the potential for hazardous areas with increased exposure of employees to COVID-19. This can include break rooms, conference rooms, cafeterias, and more. Decide whether to keep these areas closed or implement strict rules and limitations regarding the use of these areas.
Next, companies should consider the usual activities of office workers and adjust these to comply with recommendations. This can include:
- Rearranging seating and desks for proper social distancing
- Installing physical barriers to separate employees
- Giving visual social distancing cues, such as lines on the floor
- Removing high-touch items, such as coffee pots or water coolers, and replacing them with single-serving and pre-packaged items
- Ensuring proper sanitation of all surfaces and high-touch areas, and possibly using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)
In addition to considering the office environment, employers should consider any necessary changes to how people work. This can include:
- Having employees wear cloth face coverings while in the office
- Staggering start times and break times
- Training employees on regular disinfection of work stations
- Having clear policies for social distancing, including prohibitions of handshakes or another contact
- Conducting health checks, including questioning employees about possible symptoms or temperature screening
- Openly encouraging employees to stay home (teleworking or time off) if they or a household member show symptoms or were possibly exposed
By changing the setup of offices, as well as the attitude toward time off and sick leave, employers can strive to keep office employees as safe and healthy as possible.
Consult with a San Francisco Employment Law Attorney