Florida Phase 3: Employees Returning to Work and What It Means for Employers

With Florida’s governor implementing Phase 3 of re-opening the state, businesses should update their COVID-19 response plans and anticipate issues that may arise as more employees are permitted to return to work. Among other provisions, Executive Order 20-244 provides for:

  • Unrestricted staffing of worksites and implementation of the final phasing-in of employees returning to work;
  • Continued prudent and practical measures to ensure employees do not come to the worksite if they believe they are infected with COVID-19 or show symptoms of influenza-like illness;
  • Resumption of nonessential travel and adherence to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding isolation following travel; and,
  • Retail businesses operating at full capacity.

With more employees returning to the workplace, businesses must continue to evaluate the safety measures in place to protect employees and customers–including continuing to monitor CDC and OSHA guidance regarding recommended precautions. Because employees have been working under alternative arrangements (or not working at all), as they return, businesses should remind employees of important policies governing the workplace, such as anti-discrimination and code of conduct policies.

Furthermore, supervisors should be prepared to answer employee questions or know who will have appropriate answers to questions about the employer’s response plan and continued employee performance expectations. And, although many restrictions have been lifted, there will still be issues relating to safety and leave of absences under both the Family First Coronavirus Relief Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Businesses should also be prepared for employee requests for accommodation–including requests to continue to work remotely. Finally, businesses should anticipate employees refusing to comply with company safety requirements (such as mask wearing) and be prepared to respond.

Businesses should not assume that supervisory personnel will be prepared to handle the foregoing issues. Instead, businesses should prepare supervisors and have systems in place to provide support to them. In addition to reminding supervisors about important policies, this is a very good time to remind them about the importance of documentation. It is anticipated that there will be an uptick in employment-related litigation as a result of COVID-19 and employer decisions relating to COVID-19. Making sure that supervisors are prepared to accurately and appropriately document issues relating to their subordinates may prove invaluable. If supervisors have not been trained on how to prepare accurate, clear, complete, and factual documents that will be helpful in the event there is litigation, it may very well be the time to implement a training program. As businesses adjust to the new work environment,  many are turning to remote training options, such as Zoom or other virtual conference programs to make sure their supervisors are prepared.