COVID-19 and Small Business Owners: Top Questions Answered
As the pandemic continues to change and evolve, so do the guidelines and strategies for how to prevent and reduce the transmission of the disease at your small business.
Recently, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services loosened its mask guidance for indoor settings due to a decrease in cases and hospitalizations and increased access to vaccines and treatments. This move indicates that the state is moving toward a post-surge stage.
Although guidance from the MDHHS indicates the state may be headed toward a recovery phase of the pandemic cycle, employers are still required by law to adhere to applicable federal, state, and local policy and procedures concerning COVID-19 in their places of business.
Below are a few of the top employer questions and answers regarding COVID-19 and the law. Business owners with specific questions regarding the pandemic should consult their attorney.
My business has fewer than 100 employees. Am I required to establish COVID-19 policy and procedures?
Yes, all business owners are required to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s General Duty Clause which requires all employers to have a written COVID-19 control and prevention plan. OSHA provides language, model plans, Guidance on Returning to Work, and other helpful guidance for business owners on its website.
Should I require my employees to wear masks while at work?
It depends on your type of business. MDHHS recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks and practice universal masking in high-risk congregate settings such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, healthcare facilities, jails, and correctional facilities. The MDHHS recommends business owners consider local conditions and consult with local health departments when determining mask policies for public meetings and large events.
Do I need to require that my employees receive testing and/or the COVID-19 vaccine?
On January 26, 2022, the federal OSHA withdrew its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Vaccination and Testing. As a result, business owners are not required to proceed with the adoption of the emergency standards. As a reminder, employers are still subject to the General Duty Clause and are expected to make reasonable efforts to protect their employees from pandemic hazards.
I have other questions regarding COVID-19 testing at work, proof of vaccination status, and other issues. Where do I turn for help?
There are several federal and state websites to turn to for assistance in answering COVID-19 related questions, including OSHA, MIOSHA, CDC, MDHHS, and others. If you require assistance beyond what’s provided by these agencies, please call the attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio at 586-726-1000 or visit our website.