Menendez, others call for employers’ flexibility in event of COVID-19 outbreak

Menendez, others call for employers’ flexibility in event of COVID-19 outbreak

By:  Anthony Vecchione
NJ Biz


U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Thursday joined with 14 Senate colleagues to urge U.S. employers to commit not to penalize workers for following recommended health procedures in order to protect the public from further spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter to major industry groups, which together represent thousands of companies employing millions of Americans, the senators wrote: “As the United States mobilizes to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we write to urge your member companies to prioritize their employees’ health, economic well-being, and security during this response. The companies you represent are some of the largest, most high profile companies in the United States.  The broader business community watches their actions closely and we believe they have an opportunity, and an obligation, to lead in this moment.”

Specifically, the senators called on employers to ensure that workers will not lose their jobs if they are forced to self-quarantine or stay home to care for a sick family member; not require employees under quarantine to deplete sick or annual leave; offer flexible scheduling options, including telework and unscheduled leave, if employees are unable to report to work; ensure workers have access to financial assistance in the event of a sustained or widespread disruption due to coronavirus; and work with insurance providers to ensure that workers can affordably access preventive care and treatment for coronavirus.

“No one should be penalized by their employer or put in any financial duress for following CDC guidance,” the senators said. “To that end, we encourage your member companies to commit to ensure that any employees or contractors who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities can count on basic protections like preservation of their employment status and basic financial forbearance.”

In addition to Menendez, the letter was signed by Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia; Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, all Democrats.