Businesses around the world are starting to recommend their employees work from home if possible. Plans for telecommuting are already being measured here in the Rochester area. The preparations are in response to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in New York state.
Right now, the virus has not been confirmed in anyone in the Rochester area or the surrounding counties.
Law firm Nixon Peabody teamed up with the Rochester Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to talk to some local employers about how they can prepare and in some cases help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"My expertise is with respect to how employers can protect their employees and what their obligations are under the law vis-à-vis their employees what their policies should say, how sick leave applies, how the FSLA applies when you're quarantining employees and not letting them come to work," said Kim Harding, Nixon Peabody labor and employment attorney.
Harding says companies should review their travel policies too — making sure travel is only be required if absolutely necessary. It's a balancing act between an employee's risk of exposure and the needs of the business.
Employers also need to know what's legal with paid time off, when should you ask for a doctor's note, when can you ask about an employee's medical status.
And then there are even an employer's obligations when it comes to having a clean and sanitized workplace.
"There are precautions and steps that businesses can take to ensure they remain in business and have their doors open and are able to serve their customers and clients appropriately, even in the face of uncertain times," said Dr. Mike Mendoza, Monroe County public health commissioner.
Dr. Mendoza says it's important for communities to plan and prepare for what could come. That helps prevent further spread and further illness.
According to Dr. Mendoza, if you don't start making some of these decisions early, if and when the virus hits, it could be much worse. That's why we're seeing so many events being canceled in and around our area, the state, and the country.
Dr. Mendoza says until there are confirmed cases in the Rochester area, everyone should continue to wash their hands well and often, sanitize surfaces as much as possible, and if you are sick, stay home and away from others.