With the federal government aiming to get 200 million Americans vaccinated by May, and some restrictions on events being lifted in parts of the United States, nonprofit executives could be faced with questions of how to reopen workplaces on a limited basis or simply how to handle staff returning to the office.
The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and Nonprofit New York issued “COVID-19 Resources For Nonprofits: Nonprofit Return to the Workplace Advisory,” a 25-page guide to help nonprofits navigate legal questions about returning to work and best practices for maintaining a safe workplace. The guide was written by NYLPI with attorneys at Morgan Lewis.
The guide makes clear that a safety plan should focus on places, people, and processes:
- Modifications to the physical workspace, including social distancing and increasing cleaning protocols;
- Limiting in-person interactions and physical conduct; such as encouraging employees to work remotely where possible, scheduling fewer in-person meetings, and limiting the size of in-person gatherings and events;
- Training for employees and managers on social distancing policies and protocols, which could include having an employee on-site sending regular updates to the remote site safety monitor periodically throughout the day; and,
- Updates to employee scheduling, such as, reducing the number of staff present in the office, staggering shifts, or alternating teams.
All businesses must implement daily health screening protocols for all employees and, if possible, other visitors. Screening protocols can include temperature checks, questionnaires regarding COVID-19-related symptoms and recent travel.
New York State requires businesses and other organizations to adopt a social distancing or safety plan in order to reopen. If your organization already has a social distancing or safety plan, it may need to be updated to reflect current directors by federal, state or local authorities, or industry-specific requirements.
Businesses must ensure physical distancing by ensuring that workplaces are not filled beyond the 50% maximum area occupancy limitation as set forth by the certificate of occupancy. Additionally, occupancy of small workspaces, such as elevators, supply rooms, personal offices, and vehicles, must never exceed 50% unless it is designed for use by a single occupant.
Organizations must make acceptable face coverings available to employees who report to an office or work site location at no cost to the employee and keep an adequate supply on hand if an employee needs a replacement. OSHA recommends face coverings that are made of at least two layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric that can be worn snugly over the nose, mouth, and chin. Employees must be permitted to use their own face covering as long as it is appropriate for the role performed by the employee.
While an employer is not responsible for issues surrounding an employee’s commute or transportation to the workplace, the guide suggests updating commuting policies to reimburse for taxis or shared ride services, or mileage and parking for those who previously took public transportation, and for whom driving is practical.