Businesses with employees are required to provide a hazard-free workplace under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. At the same time, employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the federal anti-discrimination law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Resources are now available to assist REALTOR® associations and brokerages who have employees meet their obligations under both federal laws.
To remain compliant with OSHA, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration has compiled its advice for employers in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.
The guidance provides employers with detailed steps they can take to protect employees, including:
- Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan;
- Prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures;
- Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation sick people, if appropriate;
- Develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections; and
- Implement workplace controls
NAR has provided a Sample Preparedness Plan for Circumstances Relating to COVID-19 that any real estate brokerage or REALTOR® Association may adapt and implement in their workplaces.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces the ADA, has released a “What You Should Know” statement to assist employers who are grappling with employment-related issues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To be clear, the ADA rules still apply to employers with more than 15 employees, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the CDC’s guidelines and suggestions for businesses and employers. The CDC is updating this page as more information and guidance become available, so be sure to check it regularly.
Additionally, the EEOC statement directs employers to review their 2009 guidance, Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and The Americans with Disabilities Act. Although the guidance was written for an influenza pandemic, it is applicable to the current coronavirus pandemic. The guide is available online and answers questions frequently asked about the workplace during coronavirus-like events, like:
- How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce?
- When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during a pandemic?
- Does the ADA allow employers to require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of the pandemic coronavirus?
- When an employee returns from travel during a pandemic, must an employer wait until the employee develops symptoms to ask questions about exposure to the pandemic virus during the trip?
The EEOC states that during a pandemic, employers should rely on the latest CDC and state or local public health assessments. (A list of state public health departments is available on the CDC website.) While the EEOC recognizes that public health recommendations may change during a crisis and differ between states, employers are expected to make their best efforts to obtain public health advice that is contemporaneous and appropriate for their location, and to make reasonable assessments of conditions in their workplace based on this information.
Disaster Preparedness Resources
NAR has several guides and tools to assist brokerages and REALTOR® associations create and execute disaster plans:
- Transaction Guidance after a Natural Disaster: How to guide clients through difficult times.
- When Disaster Strikes: How to Prepare Your Association. Learn practical strategies and guidance for how to create a disaster recovery in this short video from the 2019 NAR Legal Education Seminar for Association and MLS Counsel.