The novel Coronavirus now called COVID-19, unheard of more than 10 weeks ago has now been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a pandemic.
On February 29, 2020, the Washington state governor declared a state of emergency in response to the continued diagnosis of COVID-19 cases in the state and has restricted large gatherings in Seattle. The CDC reported yesterday that there are over 113,702 confirmed cases worldwide, including cases in 34 states in this country.
The CDC has stated that the current goal is to slow the spread of the virus so that healthcare providers, facilities, and governments do not become overwhelmed.
Employers have an obvious duty to their customers, partners, and boards, but OSHA regulations make it clear that employers also have an obligation under the general duty clause to provide employees with a workplace that is free from known hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. The U.S. Department of Labor has published a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 to assist employers.
The CDC and OSHA recommend the following:
Washington employers should be aware that employees who miss work as a result of COVID-19 issues, including but not limited to employee or family illness, quarantine, school closure, reduced work schedule, business closure, lay off, etc. may be entitled to benefits under various programs including FMLA, Washington Paid Sick & Safe Leave, Unemployment benefits, Worker’s Compensation.
Employers should do their best to try to keep up with the types of benefits available and emergency rules developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington’s Employment Security Department has issued emergency rules designed to make it easier for individuals who miss work as a result of a COVID-19 issue (including individuals directed by a doctor to self-quarantine or those individuals who miss work because an employer needs to shut down operations) to receive benefits.
Various entities have rules or programs which may assist or affect employers facing issues related to COVID-19, including the Washington State Department of Revenue. DOR has the authority to grant extensions to the due date for excise tax returns and waive penalties in certain circumstances.
Continue to check with governmental entities if your business is affected by the declared state of emergency in Washington or COVID-19.
Additional information and resources may be found at the following:
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.