URGENT: Employer Information when a shelter-in-place/stay-at-home order is issued

  • What actions do I have a take as an Employer if a shelter-in-place/stay-at-home is issued?
Unless an essential service such as a grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, etc., employers must abide by these orders and keep employees at home. This is a matter of both employee and public safety and OSHA regulations demand that employers keep their business reasonably safe for employees and the public.
  • What to I tell my Employees?
Employees need to be told to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to leave such as for groceries or pharmacy items. If at all possible, employees must be told regardless of whether they display symptoms to hunker down and stay at home and work remotely (if possible).
  • Do I lay off Employees? Do I furlough them?
Employers should be mindful of the difficult economic times ahead for all their employees and do whatever they can to continue to compensate them. Furlough is better than laying people off. There are going to be government checks being sent to individuals in need and that can help supplement the losses caused by a furlough. If the business will go under if required to pay people, lay-offs are acceptable. Companies should contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) to find out about emergency loans. FEMA may also have such loans, as may local governments. Layoffs also require both federal and potentially local notices be sent to employees. The federal law governing layoffs is WARN and while there are notice requirements there are also exceptions during crisis situations. For CA employers, the Governor has just enacted an order modifying the notice requirements for CA’s mini-WARN notice requirements and we will be sending out a separate alert on those newly ordered provisions.
  • Can Employers use PTO/Vacation/Sick during a shelter-in-place/stay-at-home? Do I have to allow it?
Employees should be given the option to use accrued vacation/PTO. Employers only have to permit where required by law, such as during a leave of absence caused by the Coronavirus. For example, having to stay home to take care of kids, sick family or oneself due to the virus triggers the leave of absence under the emergency legislation and that law permits employees to use accrued vacation/PTO to help them through the difficult economic times. Also, employers should consider the hardships of employees forced to shelter in place and who may be furloughed or laid off as a result. If being laid off that is the same as a termination and as a result, some state laws may require that all available accrued vacation/PTO must be paid out immediately. In a furlough situation, it is recommended to allow employees to substitute vacation/PTO to cover the financial losses they are suffering as a result of the furlough.
  • Where can my Employees go for more support?
Contact the SBA, FEMA and local State, County and Municipal governments. In addition, we urge you to visit the Guardian HR Forms Library in the Client Portal for continuously updated materials on this and other topics.
  • You can find Coronavirus specific information, template letters and policies on communicable diseases in the “Safety” Folder.
  • The document “Coronavirus 2020 Q&A” is updated frequently and will provide you with the most recent answers to the most common employment questions.
  • Remote working policies and plans can be found in the folder “Telecommuting”.
A large variety of information, guidance, procedures and documents on layoffs/furloughs can be found in the “Termination” folder.