Last Updated: 3.27.2020 @3:25 pm
Q: What are Essential Businesses?A: The Director of the Ohio Department of Health issued an order on March 22, 2020 requiring all Ohio businesses and operations except essential businesses and operations cease all activities within Ohio. The list of essential businesses is broad and includes:
- • businesses that sell supplies to work from home,
• grocery stores,
• restaurants for consumption off premises,
• laundry services,
• hardware and supply stores,
• gas stations,
• post offices,
• hotels and motels,
• funeral services,
• schools for purposes of distance learning,
• professional services including legal services,
• critical labor union functions,
• home-based care and services,
• distribution and supply chains for critical products and industries which include:
- transportation, and
- communications industries
Q: What are the requirements for the businesses allowed to remain open under the Stay at Home Order?
- Social distancing including designating 6-foot distances between employees and customers in line with signage, tape or other means of spacing to maintain appropriate distance is required.
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products must be available for employees.
- The order also requires separate operating hours for vulnerable populations and online and remote access.
- Businesses are asked to post online whether their facilities are open and how best to reach the facility remotely and by phone.
- Essential businesses are required to allow as many employees as possible to work from home and encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Businesses are required to ensure sick-leave policies are up to date and non-punitive to allow employees to care for sick family members and themselves and return to work without punishment.
- The order also requires employers to separate employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms from other employees and send them home immediately.
- Employers must clean the workplace frequently and be prepared to change business practices.
- The EPA has released a list of cleaners/disinfectants approved for use against COVID-19. Employers should ensure they are using cleaners on this list to clean and disinfect the workplace.
Q: Could you address the right to refuse, regarding if an employee refuses to come to work, but does not have COVID symptoms? As far as employee rights versus employer rights?
A: Typically, employees can only refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. OSHA defines “imminent danger” as “any conditions or practices in any place of employment which are such that a danger exists which can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated through the enforcement procedures otherwise provided by this Act.” Most work environments do not meet the threshold of an “imminent danger” standard, but each employer will need to determine on a case by case basis whether an employee is able to refuse work. It is also worth noting that employees may be protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act for discussing the safety of the workforce with other employees and participating in a concerted refusal to work in unsafe condition.
Additional concerns regarding the Stay at Home Order
• Governor Dewine recommends all businesses that remain open create a document explaining why they are an essential business and how the business is creating a safe workplace.
• Businesses are asked not to call law enforcement, the health department or the #COVID19 helpline to ask for advice on whether they are an essential business
• Governor Dewine announced they are starting to take action against a nonessential business that remains open in defiance of the order. He expects more activity against similar businesses in the near future.
Additional recommendations for Keeping Employees Safe at the Workplace
- Governor DeWine encouraged business owners to begin taking the temperature of employees when they arrive at work in an effort to identify anyone who was becoming ill. If this is not feasible, Governor DeWine asked that employers require workers to take their own temperatures prior to arriving at work. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher should self-quarantine with members of their household.
- The CDC recommends employees clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand-washing reminders by email. Employers should create habits and reminders to employees to cover their coughs and sneezes and avoid touching their faces. Employees should stop handshaking and use non-contact greetings such as waving instead.
- The CDC also recommends employers disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails regularly and increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.
- Employers should use videoconferencing for meetings when possible. When not possible, meetings should be held in open, well-ventilated spaces and attendees should be at least 6 feet apart. Employers should consider adjusting or postponing large meetings, gatherings and business travel.
- Finally, the CDC recommends limiting food sharing and strengthening health screening for cafeteria staff and their close contacts. Cafeteria staff and their close contacts should practice strict hygiene.
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DISCLAIMER: This is a guide, not legal advice. Every situation is different and people should contact us with specific questions.