Take the necessary steps to establish a positive environment
During these stressful times, I’ve tried to provide some words of encouragement and comfort. As we move forward, I think that the same attitude needs to apply. I’m naturally a positive person so don’t find it that difficult to maintain my cheerful demeanor.
I’ve been thinking about the reopening of the businesses in our country. All of the states are reopening on their own schedules with diverse requirements. If you have locations in several states, I’m sure you are exhausted with trying to keep up with it all.
If we approach reopening with a plan, we should have more success when we begin the process. And, if we consider the process one step at a time, it does not seem as daunting. Between steps in your plan, consider taking a break, and then re-evaluating your plan. If you need to amend it, do so and move to the next stage in the plan. Moving forward in a careful way will serve you well if your plan ever comes into question.
Remember that all of the anti-discrimination laws that were in effect before the shutdown will still apply when your company resumes operations. Don’t forget the basics when thinking about all of the other factors you have to consider.
If you are recalling employees to return to work, think about how you should recall them. If you have had a recall in the past, you may want to use the same process this time. If you have never had a recall, think about how that recall should be structured and who should be involved in the process. In all cases, you should have records of what you did, how you did it and why you did it. A paper trail is very important.
I also want you to think about possible accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. You may have unique requests under our current circumstances. Please consider each one separately, and be sure to engage in the interactive process with the requester. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a fabulous resource and they have specialists to assist with questions related to COVID-19. JAN is a free and confidential service. Their website is askjan.org. I have used their services in the past, and they are great. EEOC has published technical assistance several times since the shutdown began, and I would suggest checking for the latest guidance on their website, eeoc.gov. Please use all of the resources you have available to you to help you in the decision-making processes, especially regarding accommodation issues.
I would encourage you to reinforce your harassment policy with all employees either before or shortly after they return to work. As the employer, you have the responsibility to provide a workplace free of harassment, whether the harassment is due to a supervisor, co-worker, vendor, or customer. Be mindful of harassment of employees who are Asian. There has been an increase in harassment due to the COVID-19 virus against Asians. Also be watchful of harassment against individuals with disabilities. Hopefully, your policy encourages employees to report any behavior they consider to be inappropriate even if it does not rise to the level of harassment. You want to end any type of inappropriate and/or offensive behavior before it becomes an issue.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects individuals age 40 and over. Be sure that age is not a factor in your decisions regarding who may be recalled and/or hired.
Now is the time to make your plan to be ready as soon as you can return to the “new normal.” Be mindful, thoughtful and realistic with your plan. Take care and stay safe!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 553-7648.