COVID-19 continues to roil the nation with increasingly large numbers of new infections. The problem is so bad that some states are rolling back their reopening plans.

If you're an employer with workers in multiple states, knowing how to manage the variable work rules around COVID-19 by state can be difficult. 

Managing workplaces with spiking infection rates can also be complicated.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Monitor COVID-19 infection levels on a state-by-state and county-by-county basis.
  • If you employ staff in a state requiring the re-closing of that state's office(s), follow all state and local rules. Some states may choose to close on a county-by-county basis. 
  • If you see a spike in cases at one of your business locations, reconsideration of a remote work plan may be required, regardless of state and local edicts.
  • If there is a spike in new cases in a region where you have a facility and there are no state or local mandates on re-closing, how you space the workers in each effected facility becomes a critical consideration.
  • Spiking cases in a region or facility may require a re-evaluation of the job functions performed by employees there. If some or all employees can work remotely, allow them to do so whenever possible.
  • If you decide to require your employees to work at your facility, only do so if you can provide personal protection gear while also meeting all local and state requirements.
  • Avoid confusion in your workforce by making sure to communicate with employees about why certain precautions are being taken in one or more locations—but not in others.
  • If you decide to close one or more locations independent of a government edict, always use consistent criteria for closure (i.e., percentage of infected employees, etc.).
  • If you're forced to keep one or more facilities open while closing others, expect impacted employees to challenge your decision.  
  • If you must close a location entirely, weigh the pros and cons of layoffs versus furloughs. Furloughs often provide employers with greater flexibility while avoiding the need to hire and train new employees when the crisis ends.

About the author: Fred Dorsey is a partner at the labor and employment law firm Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Hartford.