14 Mar Legal advice for COVID-19 response & preparedness: start now.
On March 12, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued several actions to protect the state of Maryland from the escalating COVID-19, ranging from event limitations and school closures.
What will be the impact of VCOVID-19 and these measures on small businesses in the state of Maryland? Matt the lawyer explains what you need to know during this critical time.
If you have legal questions, please use this link to schedule a consultation with us.
FAQs featured in the video
Does this mean I have to close my business?
No. Think about an emergency management plan, but you do not need to close. Events and conference planning companies will face the largest adjustments.
Can I force my employees to telework?
Yes. Considering that schools are closed for two weeks, you will most likely get many requests to work from home. I encourage employers to be as flexible as possible.
What about employees who cannot telework?
The Maryland Department of Health, CDC, OSHA and Department of Labor recommend social distancing strategies to minimize contact between employees. You may want to consider staggering some of the employee work time, so that employees come in early and others come in late. This may also be useful to stagger child care for employees with children.
Do I have to pay employees if I require them to be at home?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees (typically your hourly employees) typically get paid for the hours that they work. If they do not work any hours, you technically do not need to pay them.
For exempt employees (salaried employees), if they work at least some part of a work week, they are required to be paid for the entire work week (even if they only work one day).
If you are an eligible employer and have paid sick and safe leave under Maryland law, you can allow your employees to use that time. Another option is to voluntarily pay your employees. If you are a smaller business with 14 or fewer employees, your employees are eligible for unpaid sick leave.
If my business closes, do I have to pay my staff?
This is a moral question for which I don’t have a great answer. Each employer will need to assess their financial situation and do their best to support their employees.
If my business stays open, what questions am I allowed to ask my employees?
Employers are allowed to ask employees if they have travelled to countries on the CDC travel ban list, and you can ask if they have had contact with someone who has travelled to those regions. To avoid issues of discrimination, ask everyone. Do not single out any employee. You cannot prohibit personal travel, but you can ask them to stay home.
Can we ask employees to take their temperature?
This is a gray area. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Taking temperatures could be considered a medical examination, which is prohibited by ADA. You can ask employees to stay home (and work from home if possible) and self quarantine.
If you are asking employees for medical information, please seek legal counsel before doing so. Contact us and we’d be happy to help.
What can I do if my business is open, but an employee refuses to come to work?
Under OSHA law, an employee can only refuse to work if there is an imminent threat of physical harm to the employee. My imminent, that is immediate death or serious bodily injury. It is unlikely that an infectious disease would be considered an imminent threat. So while you can technically discipline them, it is not a good idea. You will need to find ways to be flexible with your time off policy.