Oregon Health Authority Releases Reopening Guidance for Oregon Employers

On May 7, 2020, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released a series of sector-specific guidance as well as general guidance to assist employers in making decisions regarding reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sector-specific guidance is available for Outdoor Recreation Organizations, Personal Services Providers, Retail Stores, Shopping Centers and Malls and Restaurants and Bars. “Phase One” of Governor Brown’s Oregon reopening plan may start as early as May 15 for approved counties with few or no COVID-19 cases. In anticipation of reopening, employers are encouraged to review the guidance and begin making plans consistent with these recommendations. Employers should also refer to the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when determining the most appropriate actions to take.

The Oregon Health Authority’s general guidance directs employers to:
– Comply with any of the Governor’s Executive Orders that are in effect.
– Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if employees develop symptoms at the workplace.
– Understand how COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another—namely, through coughing, sneezing, talking, touching, or via objects touched by someone with the virus.
– Make health and safety a priority by implementing safeguards recommended or required by OHA and CDC to protect employees and the public.
– Consider modifying employee schedules and travel to reduce unnecessary close physical contact (physical distance of less than (6) six feet between people).
– Be aware of protected leave requirements and plan ahead for any anticipated workforce adjustments.

The guidelines recommend employers consider:
– Modifying employee schedules and travel as feasible to:

  • Identify positions appropriate for telework or partial telework, including consideration of telework for employees who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications due to underlying medical conditions identified by the CDC.
  • Stagger or rotate work schedules or shifts at worksites to ensure employees are able to sufficiently maintain physical distancing.
  • Limit non-essential work travel.

– Implementing workplace safeguards as feasible or when required:

  • Implement physical distancing measures consistent with the Governor’s Executive Orders and state guidance.
  • Increase physical space between workers. This may include modifications such as markings on the floor demonstrating appropriate spacing or installing plexiglass shields, tables or other barriers to block airborne particles and maintain distances. Review and follow any sector-specific guidance issued by the state that recommends or requires specific physical distancing measures.
  • Restrict use of any shared items or equipment and require disinfection of equipment between uses.
  • Reinforce that meticulous hand hygiene (frequent and proper handwashing) is of utmost importance for all employees. Ensure that soap and water or alcohol-based (60-95%) hand sanitizer is provided in the workplace. Consider staging additional hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer for employees (and customer use, if applicable) in and around the workplace.
  • Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces (workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, doorknobs, etc.), as well as high traffic areas and perform other environmental cleaning.
  • Employers may encourage or require employee use of cloth or disposable face coverings as indicated by sector-specific guidance. If employers require use of cloth face coverings, employers must provide cloth or disposable face coverings for employees.
  • Consider upgrades to facilities that may reduce exposure to the coronavirus, such as no-touch faucets and hand dryers, increasing fresh-air ventilation and filtration or disinfection of recirculated air, etc. Consider touchless payment method when possible and if needed.
  • Limit the number of employees gathering in shared spaces. Restrict use of shared spaces such as conference rooms and break rooms by limiting occupancy or staggering use.
  • Restrict non-essential meetings and conduct meetings virtually as much as possible. If in-person meetings are necessary, follow physical distancing requirements.
  • Consider regular health checks (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) or symptom self-report of employees, if job-related and consistent with business necessity.
  • Train all employees in safety requirements and expectations at physical worksites.

– Becoming familiar with federal and state protected leave and paid leave laws (if applicable) and requirements for health insurance coverage:

  • Advise employees to stay home and notify their employer when sick.
  • Review and comply with any applicable requirements for maintaining employee health insurance coverage.
  • Healthcare provider documentation is generally not required to qualify under federal and state leave laws due to COVID-19 related circumstances or to return to work.
  • Review and comply with any applicable required federal and state leave law protections for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 related circumstances.
  • Determine whether your business can extend paid or unpaid leave and if feasible adopt a temporary flexible time off policy to accommodate circumstances where federal or state law does not provide for protected or paid leave.
  • Develop an action plan consistent with federal and state guidance if an employee develops symptoms while in the workplace, tests positive for COVID-19 or is determined to be presumptively positive by a public health authority.

– Adhering to applicable state and federal requirements regarding notice of layoffs and recalls for affected workers if downsizing or other workforce adjustment measures are necessary:

  • Determine whether alternatives to layoff may be feasible such as furloughs or reduced schedules.
  • Refer employees to resources including filing for unemployment benefits and community services.
  • Create a plan for recalling employees back to work.

– Determining obligations to bargain with the union or unions which represent your employees, if the workforce is unionized.

The guidelines are brand-new and contain a lot of information. If your business needs assistance implementing or understanding the guidelines, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at rensley@sbhlegal.com or (503) 595-6112.