April 30, 2020

Planning For The Rebound: Step 4 – Ready To Go Back To Work? Not So Fast …

As the country slowly begins to open back up following the COVID-19 lockdown measures, employers should not expect an immediate return to normalcy, and may need to gradually return employees to the workplace. As stay-at-home restrictions begin to be lifted, employers should strive to bring employees back to work in a safe and effective manner. In doing so, employers should consider the following:

Employee Health: First and foremost, employers should not allow the return of employees who are suffering from COVID-19, display symptoms of COVID-19, or have known exposure to someone with COVID-19. Employers should also have an open dialog with employees as to any health conditions that may make them higher risk for complications from COVID-19.

Continued Teleworking: Employers should consider to what extent continued teleworking (as may have already been implemented during the stay-at-home restrictions) may still be a viable option. If certain positions, duties, or tasks can be performed just as efficiently through continued remote teleworking, consider keeping such teleworking policies in place, and focus on bringing back only workers who perform tasks that need to be (or are much easier) performed on-premises.

Employee Willingness: Some employees may be ready, willing, and able to return to work, whereas others (perhaps due to childcare, etc.) may find returning to work to be more difficult. Employers should consider first returning healthy employees who affirmatively want to return to work.

Work/Shift Modifications: Employers should also consider modifications to work and shift scheduling that can address both personal scheduling issues (e.g., for those with childcare needs) as well as social distancing practices. For example, to the extent practical, staggering shifts could allow those employees who prefer to work at different/non-conventional times to do so, and would also limit the number of people at the workplace at any given time, allowing for greater social distancing while at work. Additionally, employers can split workers into different days of the week, allowing flexibility of scheduling for employees, as well as allowing more employees to return to some degree of work while the business is not yet ready to operate at full capacity.

Application: Employers should ensure that any of these return-to-work policies are implemented in a consistent and non-discriminatory fashion. To ensure this, employers should clearly communicate the options it is providing, as well as the expectations they have employees.


Questions about COVID-19 and the workplace? Contact the Hirschfeld Kraemer lawyer who normally provides your legal advice, or you can reach out to Ben Treger in Hirschfeld Kraemer’s Los Angeles office, btreger@hkemploymentlaw.com, (310) 255-1824.

Did you miss previous posts in our Planning For The Rebound series? Click on the links below:

Step 1 – Requirements For Returning To The Workplace

Step 2 – Do I Have To Bring Back Furloughed or Laid-Off Employees?

Step 3 – Do Employers Need to Bring Back Under-Performers?

For additional employer-focused information about COVID-19:
Click here to see the Hirschfeld Kraemer EMPLOYER’S GUIDE TO CORONAVIRUS