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Fisher Phillips: Comprehensive And Updated FAQs For Employers On The COVID-19 Coronavirus

This page is updated daily.


Fisher Phillips has assembled a cross-disciplinary taskforce of attorneys across the country to address the many employment-related issues facing employers in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus – especially now that the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak as a pandemic. The COVID-19 Taskforce has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which has been continually updated since first published on March 3 and will continue to be updated as events warrant. It has been completely updated to address the many additional workplace law rights and responsibilities given the pandemic designation. You can contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any member of the Taskforce with specific questions, and a full listing of the Taskforce members and their practice areas is at the end of this publication.

FROM FOUNDATIONS HUMAN RESOURCES CONSULTING:  Checklist for Small to Mid-Size Manufacturers

Information on COVID-19 (aka the coronavirus) is seemingly non-stop and changing at a head-spinning pace. How are small and mid-size manufacturers supposed to keep up? What steps should you be taking? What are all the considerations you need to take into account?

Many of you may not have dedicated resources to handle every facet of this rapidly-evolving situation. However, with many of these coronavirus issues affecting the workforce, your Human Resources professionals are on the front lines.

To help HR and your company’s management team, Foundations Human Resources Consulting has compiled a comprehensive checklist of questions every business should consider, ranging from issues that may arise specifically in a Human Resources context to overall strategic questions involving your workforce. In addition, we have an initial employee communication template that you can use to let your workforce know about issues related to COVID-19, a door sign to provide information to visitors, and a poster from the CDC that we recommend you post throughout your facility.

We hope you find these resources helpful in these trying times. If you don’t have the answers to all of these questions, Foundations can help. Our consultants have decades of real-life HR experience working in a manufacturing environment and we can assist you with reviewing your checklist, reviewing or revising specific policies, developing a plan of action for COVID-19 or other emergency situations, or drafting a communications plan to get through the coronavirus crisis. You can reach Foundations at 859.286.1100 or

From Frost Brown Todd’s Coronavirus Response Team: Our attorneys have been fielding questions from clients around the clock about what to expect if the pandemic escalates, as many predict it will, and what proactive measures businesses can take in the meantime to minimize disruption and market risks. Recognizing the growing need for reliable intel, our multi-disciplined Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Team is here to help you understand and better navigate the issues that matter most to your business.

Our Coronavirus Response Team has the industry-focused resources necessary to help companies navigate the many interrelated issues impacting their business and workforce as this pandemic reaches an inflection point. Our attorneys are recognized thought leaders, working nationally and internationally in several key industries. We can quickly assess the sector-specific implications of COVID-19, help businesses address these challenges, and work with your leadership team to identify commercially viable solutions to achieve sustainability into the future.

Manufacturing Topics
  • Global Supply Chain Interruptions
  • EEOC’s Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
    & the ADA Guidance
  • FDA Regulatory Issues

More: Coronavirus Guidance for Employers provided by Frost Brown Todd

Dinsmore: COVID-19 Business Strategies Hub

In an ongoing effort to help business leaders sort through information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have created this user-friendly hub with updates, insights, and best practices. You will find articles to help you prepare and respond to the legal, regulatory, and commercial implications of this pandemic.

We recommend bookmarking this page and checking it often, as our attorneys continue to provide updates and insights. You may also subscribe to our alerts to directly receive information as we send it. For specific questions regarding your business, please contact your Dinsmore attorney.

Go to: LATEST UPDATES  |  COVID-19 Task Force

FROM DEAN DORTON5 things organizations can do to brace against coronavirus (COVID-19) fallout

If your business currently lacks an emergency plan to respond to the situation, you can still take steps to mitigate risk and minimize negative effects of the coronavirus fallout. Here’s a look at five things businesses can do to develop resilience in the face of this outbreak, and which can also be helpful in preparing for other emergency scenarios:

Develop a crisis communication plan

A clear crisis communication plan in the case of an emergency helps organizations gird against reputational risk as well as confusion among employees, leaders, and clients. Businesses should have plans that outline: who the primary and alternate leaders are in each segment of the business; which people have the authority to make final decisions; guidelines on acceptable communication methods, escalation timeframes and notification procedures within the organization; and guidelines for who is designated to handle contact with external entities (such as the media or regulatory agencies).

Examine the essentials

During a crisis, businesses must determine which processes are critical in order to continue operations, and which processes can be suspended temporarily. (For instance, a manufacturer may be able to suspend its marketing and training operations for a period of time, but keep its plant systems running.) Organizations need to understand what resources are required to support critical operations.

Develop staffing strategies

Much like determining the most critical processes within an organization, businesses need to understand the minimum level of staff needed to support those core operations. Developing a staffing matrix that clearly outlines primary and alternate staff, along with job functions for each role, can be helpful. Businesses should train employees who might be able to offer support, but who may not have experience in specific roles where they may need to step in. In preparing for disruption, it’s also important to plan on having employee absences (whether those absences stem from employees falling ill, having ill family members, dealing with government and business closures, or transit limitations). 

Hone remote work policies

Businesses should review their policies and capabilities for remote work in the case that employees prefer to or must work from home or somewhere else that is not their usual location. Staffing plans should identify which processes can still function if employees are working remotely. Organizations should ensure that employees who work remotely are able to access the necessary systems and data, technical capacity can handle a spike in remote use, and IT support teams are in place for remote users.

Identify vendor dependencies

In the wake of a disease outbreak, businesses not only need to evaluate their own internal systems; they must also assess how the crisis affects their vendors, and in turn, affects them. Businesses should identify the vendors associated with their critical business operations, identify substitute vendors, in case they are needed, and develop schedules that build in expectations of potential vendor delays.

Businesses also need to keep up with guidance and updates from their local and regional public health agencies as the coronavirus situation evolves. The CDC has helpful guidelines about measures employers should take to promote proper hygiene in the workplace to limit the spread of the virus. All of this is a broad overview of what businesses should review amid the coronavirus outbreak and the economic uncertainty that comes with it.

As a reminder, as coronavirus has captured the attention of just about every nation, once again cybercriminals are attempting to capitalize on this unique event as people search for more information about the virus. There have been many reports of phishing scams that are attempting to steal personal information or to infect electronic devices with malware.

As an example, a phishing email used the CDC Health Alert Network logo and claimed to provide a list of local active infections. Recipients were asked to click on a link in the email to access the list. Next, recipients were asked to enter their email login credentials, which were then stolen. It’s a great time to look into cybersecurity awareness training for you team members; we have a dedicated cybersecurity team ready to help.

it is impossible for anyone to predict the spread of the coronavirus and fully understand its impact, it does not alter Dean Dorton’s focus on continuing to serve you and meet regulatory deadlines. If there is anything we can do to help, please reach out to Lance Mann at

Sources: RSM US LLP (Used with permission as a member of RSM US Alliance).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) poses particular concerns for employers for several reasons, beyond the obvious need to protect employees who may be at risk and the need to address employee concerns: coronavirus might be transmittable in the workplace, and is serious; medical experts are still searching for a test to detect its presence; the incubation period after exposure but before symptoms appear is believed to be a minimum of several days; and early symptoms can mimic less severe respiratory problems, such as the flu.

From Paycor’s Center of Excellence: How Businesses Can Prepare For Coronavirus

NEW: Paycor’s Payroll Relief Fund aims to save American SMBs $1M in payroll expenses

Why is Coronavirus Different than Ordinary Flu?

Though there are similarities in the symptoms of ordinary flu and COVID-19, some key differences make it potentially far more dangerous. According to the New York Times, the mortality rate of seasonal flu is around 0.1%, while the mortality rate of COVID-19 is thought to be considerably higher, perhaps above 1%. Similarly, it is possible that COVID-19 is more infectious than ordinary flu. A crucial difference is that as there is currently no vaccine, it is harder to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the old. That’s why it’s so important to slow the spread of the virus however possible.

How Can Businesses Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

Even if your business does not operate in the vicinity of any reported cases, there are steps that employers can take immediately.

  • Maintain Standards of Cleanliness
    1. Regularly clean all office surfaces and objects. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissues and disposable wipes. Educate employees, especially about official recommendations for hand hygiene. (However, you should be doing all of this even when there isn’t an epidemic!)
  • Send Sick Employees Home
    1. If an employee shows signs of fever or respiratory illness, encourage them to stay home and not come to work until all symptoms have been absent for at least 24 hours. If symptoms arise while an employee is at work, try to ensure they are separated from their co-workers.
    1. Your leave policies should be consistent with public health guidance and if possible should be updated to be non-punitive, so as not to incent coming to work while sick. This should also be true for any agencies who provide your business with temporary staff.
  • Encourage Social Distancing
    1. As the virus appears to spread primarily through proximity to infected persons, it is good practice to avoid unnecessary closeness in workplace. If it possible for employees to sit further apart or even to work from home, this should be encouraged, especially for particularly vulnerable people: those who are elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised or live with those who are.
    1. To enable this, reduce unnecessary meetings/large gatherings and ensure all employees (in industries where this is possible) are equipped with software allowing them to ‘tele-commute’.
  • Track Recent and Future Travel
    1. If an employee has recently returned from a region with high risk of Coronavirus (currently China, South Korea, Iran and Italy), consider allowing them to work from home till 14 days have passed since their return.
    1. Keep track of all international travel by employees, in case of further outbreaks elsewhere. When planning business travel, check the CDC’s latest travel advice.
  • Keep Employees Informed
    1. During epidemics, rumors can spread fast and employers should provide employees with accurate information to avoid false panics. Ensure that you are able to communicate with all employees directly, to immediately inform them of any important updates.
    1. Employers should stay informed by regularly consulting the CDC’s latest Coronavirus updates and guidance for businesses.
  • Create/Update a Pandemic Preparedness Plan
    In the event of the Coronavirus outbreak become more severe, or in case of any future pandemic, businesses should prepare plans establishing possible action that can be taken to ensure employee safety while reducing business disruption.

What Should a Pandemic Preparedness Plan Include?

Planning for a pandemic—whether Coronavirus or any other—requires establishing essential and non-essential parts of your business. How resilient is your business to increased absences? Remember, employees will not only be absent due to their own sickness, but that of their relatives and may well also have increased childcare responsibilities due to the closure of daycare facilities and K-12 schools. Who are the critical employees upon whom your business relies day-to-day? In the event of an office closure, are they able to work from home? And if they are sick, do they have colleagues capable of stepping up into their roles? You may also have to consider the resiliency of your supply chains and possible alternatives should they fail. Additionally, you should be clear when any plan will be put into action. It could be the moment a pandemic is declared, when a virus case confirmed in the vicinity of your business or only when a staff member shows symptoms. Whenever possible, decisions should be made prior to the event.

There are Coronaviruses Cases in Our City. What Now?

Your response to a local Coronavirus outbreak will likely depend on your business needs. In industries where remote work is possible, it may be advisable to simply close your offices and encourage all employees to work from home. In industries where remote work is not possible, it’s essential that sick employees do not feel obligated to go to work. Remind them that the importance of staying home is about preventing spreading the disease to others. If necessary, a temporary adjustment to your leave policy may be required. Most importantly, business should always follow advice set out by the CDC and other government agencies.

What if Employees Have a Sick Relative at Home?

If employees discover that a family member has been infected by Coronavirus, consult the CDC risk assessment criteria for the next steps to take.

Should Businesses Check Employees’ Temperatures?

According to EEOC guidance, it is legal to take workers temperatures in the event of a pandemic, as the virus could pose a “direct threat” to the health of others. However, it is not necessarily recommended. It could easily cause long delays and harm employee relations for little benefit. Bear in mind that medical experts warn that so-called “thermometer guns” (infrared forehead thermometers) are often unreliable and even if an employee is proved to have fever, that does not imply they have Coronavirus. Similarly, the absence of fever does not mean that an employee is healthy.

Employers Are Embracing Work from Home Policies

As of this writing, more than 35 U.S. states have reported cases of coronavirus. In response, many employers are adopting risk reduction strategies and encouraging employees to work from home.

Paycor Can Help Facilitate Remote Work:

Paycor Mobile

Employees can punch in and out on our mobile app from home.

Paycor Scheduling

Employees can receive emails and push notifications on shift updates and changes while working from home.

Paycor Scheduling Pro

Fully customizable group chat allows you to attach documents and to communicate with pre-selected teams (e.g., all employees or all managers, etc.).

Want to learn more? Talk to a Paycor consultant today.

Visit Dentons’ COVID-19 Hub

March 11, 2020

United States: The COVID-19 news changes daily. Here are some guideposts to assist employers in keeping a steady course as we all strive to maintain safe workplaces and keep workforces vigilant, prepared, and clear-eyed in the face of the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Over the coming weeks, we will “dive deeper” into particular topics of interest to employers.

  • Guiding principle – employers’ general duty to maintain a safe workplace: Generally, when developing policies for the workplace in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should be guided by the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide each employee a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” In some contexts, a specific OSHA standard could apply. Further, there could be specific requirements in states with OSHA-approved state plans.
  • Travel restrictions: Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization websites for the latest updates on travel restrictions and identification of high-risk countries, as COVID-19-related policies should be tailored to the risks identified, which may change. For protection of employees and the workplace, employers should consider developing a policy of avoiding nonessential travel by employees to countries designated at CDC Level 3 (currently, China, South Korea, Iran and Italy) and even Level 2. Employees who must travel for essential business should be given relevant safety information from trusted sources, warned about possible travel delays or disruption, and contact information for CDC and the local health department. Overseas employees should be warned that travel to the US may be delayed by closure of certain overseas US consular posts, embassies and USCIS field offices and by travel restrictions imposed by Presidential Proclamation.  
  • Consider alternatives to essential travel: Even if an employee has essential travel to a high-risk country, consider alternatives to travel, such as remote conferencing, email communication or rescheduling travel. This is particularly the case for employees who inform an employer of underlying health conditions that would make travel to CDC Level 3 or 2 countries risky to their health. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the employer has a duty to make reasonable accommodations on a case by case basis. 
  • Managing employees returning from travel to restricted areas: For employees returning from high-risk countries, an employer may legally inquire about whether the travel was to high-risk areas and can require health screenings and working remotely temporarily. An employer may inquire if the employee traveled to a country designated by CDC or World Health Organization as high-risk or if employee was possibly exposed to a contagious illness while traveling there. An employer can require medical testing without violating the ADA, even if the employee is symptom-free if: a) the exam is job-related per business necessity; or b) the employee reasonably poses a direct threat to health or safety. An employer may also require the returning employee to work from home for the coronavirus incubation period (14 days) and return to work only if he or she is symptom-free. 
  • Laws applicable to employees who contract COVID-19:  Employees who become ill with COVID-19 should be instructed to stay home until they are symptom-free and cleared by a doctor to return to work. Laws that may apply to employees who contract COVID-19 (depending on employee headcount, amount of time worked by employee) include federal and state family leave laws (unpaid leave under federal Family Medical Leave Act for care of family member or employee’s serious medical condition; unpaid leave under various state laws to care for family member with serious medical condition, sometimes employee’s serious medical condition too; paid leave in a few states to care for a family member with serious medical condition); temporary disability insurance (if illness was not work-related or caused by the job), worker’s compensation (if illness results from work or working conditions), unemployment insurance (UI) (if employee hours are reduced or employer shuts down); a few states require paid time off for school closureswork share programs (several states allow employer to reduce temporarily employee hours with employees receiving some portion of UI benefits).
  • Respect privacy of an employee tested for or who contracts COVID-19: If an employer requires a health screening for an employee returning from travel to restricted areas, employer has a duty under the ADA to keep such information confidential. Although the employer or coworkers may be curious about medical information or diagnosis of an employee who contracts COVID-19 and have an urge to share such information with the workforce, DO NOT ASK, DO NOT SHARE. Ask employees to report flu-like symptoms or COVID-19-type symptoms but beware of disclosing protected health information or violating employees’ rights under disabilities laws. It is likely CDC or the local Department of Health will contact the employer with directives, as healthcare providers are legally required to report COVID-19 diagnoses to health authorities.
  • Do not discriminate: Anti-discrimination laws require employers to treat similarly-situated employees equally. Employees should not be singled out for questioning about travel, exposure, symptoms, etc. based on citizenship, race, ethnicity, national origin or other categories protected under Title VII and state non-discrimination laws. 
  • Educate, communicate, coordinate: Be vigilant, plan, do not panic. Inform and educate employees about prevention and health safety policies and plans before an outbreak or health emergency in order to minimize speculation, rumors, false information, concerns and fears. Such advance planning and education can also help quell workforce concerns if employees do contract COVID-19 by showing that the employer is prepared and taking appropriate precautions to protect employees. Develop or revisit an Outbreak/Pandemic Response plan, Business Continuity Plan, remote access capabilities, emergency communication procedures, and policies on leaves, employee travel, work arrangements, personal protective equipment and other well-workplace measures.

For employers who are facing coronavirus-related workplace issues, Dentons professionals are available to help employers meet their legal obligations in the face of a fast-moving environment and to advise on best practices.