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Legal Alert: Recommended Practices for Employers in Response to Coronavirus

Resources and education on nonprofit and small business employers’ responsibilities to their employees and best practices on providing services and information to the community with respect to the coronavirus.

This legal alert is to provide resources and education on nonprofit and small business employers’ responsibilities to their employees and best practices on providing services and information to the community with respect to the coronavirus.

Generally speaking, the best course of action for employers is to proactively follow recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health – Seattle & King County to keep yourself and your workforce safe.

All employers are under a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace, under federal and state laws. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Read Coronavirus – Employer Liability Mark A. Lies II and Daniel Birnbaum, Seyfarth, for a summary of how employment laws may affect your nonprofit because of the coronavirus. These laws include the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Worker’s Comp – Disability Benefits, Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Premises Liability.
  2. Train all employees on prevention techniques:
    • Recommend washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (We recommend singing “Happy Birthday.”)
    • Post reminders about hand-washing guidelines.
    • Sanitize the restroom before and after use.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Notify supervisors when you experience symptoms and believe you may be sick.
    • Stay home when sick and contact your healthcare provider by phone to discuss your symptoms.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Keep your immunity strong through getting rest, drinking fluids, eating healthy foods, and managing stress.
  3. Do not discriminate and educate your employees and urge them not to spread misinformation:
    • Do not discriminate on the basis of perceived country of origin, travel history, association, or other factors. See King County Anti-Stigma Resources.
    • State and Federal law protects employees with disabilities and having the virus may be considered a disability under state and federal law.
  4. Respect employee’s right of privacy. Do not identify employee(s) with COVID-19.
  5. Clarify sick, paid time off and unpaid leave policies:Have a conversation with employees regarding time off policies with respect to the coronavirus:
  6. Events and gatherings:
    • Consider postponing events and gatherings.
    • If you cannot postpone events, follow public health recommendations for holding events.
  7. Travel:
    • Limit unnecessary travel (including use of public transportation) and avoid work assignments that increase the likelihood of exposure to and increase the potential spread of COVID-19, particularly to vulnerable populations.
    • Explore telecommuting options with your employees.
    • If telecommuting is not an option, consider creative scheduling and/or time off for hourly workers.
  8. If your organization is not able to perform the terms of a contract with vendors, independent contractors, government agencies or grantors, give them advance notice and have a conversation with them.

Additional Resources


FREE WEBINAR: Covid-19 What Your Nonprofit Needs To Know

March 11, 2020 (Tomorrow)
9:30 -10:30 am

Venable LLP is holding a free nonprofit webinar about novel coronavirus. The topics include questions surrounding, workers, contracts, insurance, events, travel and workplace situations and how to handle them. To RSVP (or to receive the materials link to the recorded webinar, if you can’t join), click here. For questions, contact events@venable.com.


Legal Disclaimer

Please note that this legal alert is general legal information and not legal advice, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. If your organization needs legal advice, contact us for information on how to apply for services or find our applications for legal services on the Wayfind site.


Legal Services Delivery Continues

Communities Rise continues to provide legal services to our nonprofit and microenterprise clients. Our attorneys will continue to serve their clients’ legal needs by phone or e-mail, depending on clients’ access needs. Learn more about adjustments to Communities Rise programs.

Take care of yourselves and your neighbors.

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