In response to an increase of inquiries regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Indiana Dept. of Labor hopes to provide Hoosier employers and workers with information to keep themselves healthy and informed.
The Indiana Dept. of Labor has no legal authority to declare a workplace emergency or change employer policies regarding infectious diseases. Our guidance is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Labor, and Indiana's Wage and Hour laws.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses commonly found in humans and many species of animals, such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Information thus far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, however older people or people with certain underlying health conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes) may be at a greater risk to experience severe illness.
History of COVID-19
According to the CDC, the respiratory disease was first detected in China, and has now been diagnosed in almost 70 locations internationally, including the United States. On January 30, 2020, the International Health regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern."
Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Call your doctor if you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled from an area or community with widespread or ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Prevention of Spread
The best way to prevent spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases is to avoid exposure. The CDC recommends the following preventative actions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, or coughing.
- If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home as much as possible
- Maintain physical distance between yourself and other people; The CDC recommends a physical distance of at least 6 feet at all times
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover while around others
- The cloth face covering is meant to protect other people in case you are infected
- Do not place face coverings on children under age 2, anyone with trouble breathing, or unable to remove the mask without assistance
- Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker
For a complete guide on preventing spread of COVID-19, please see the CDC's prevention webpage: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
OSHA Standards and Directives Applying to COVID-19
No specific OSHA standard addresses the spread of respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure. Among the most relevant are:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
- The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker "employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
Governor Holcomb's Executive Order EO 20-08
On March 23, 2020, Governor Holcomb ordered for Hoosiers to remain in their homes except for essential work activity or permitted activities, such as taking care of others, obtaining necessary supplies, and for health and safety. Executive Order 20-08 (Stay At Home) orders all non-essential businesses and operations to cease from March 25 to April 7, 2020. For the full executive order, please visit www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm.
For Frequently Asked Questions about the executive order and essential businesses, please visit https://calendar.in.gov/site/gov/event/indiana-stay-at-home-order-faq/
Fair Labor Standards Act Information
The federal Department of Labor has provided guidance on federal Wage and Hour laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and how they pertain to the pandemic.
Please visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic for information about FLSA and more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can my employer stop me from wearing a facemask at work?
A: Facemasks are crucial for health workers and people taking care of a person in close settings (at a home or health care facility). If it is not otherwise required by your job as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), your employer may ask you to not wear facemasks while working. Please refer to the CDC recommendations above regarding the use of a facemask
Q: Can my employer require me to come to work during a public health emergency?
A: Employers in Indiana may set work hours at their own discretion, and no Hoosier or federal law or statute requires an employer to close or make accommodations during any emergency situation.
Q: Are employers required to pay employees for time missed due to public emergencies?
A: Employees in Indiana must be compensated for all hours worked. Barring a collective bargaining agreement, contract or company policy that states otherwise, employees are not required to be paid for time they did not work.
Q: Can my employer require me to stay home if I only have a cold?
A: Yes, with limitations. An employer may tell an employee to leave or stay home from work if the employee shows symptoms of an infectious disease. The CDC recommends ill employees stay home until at least 24 hours after a fever ends. Employers may ask for a doctor's note stating that the employee can return to work before allowing the employee to return. However, policies such as these are very tricky to implement and can sometimes run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before implementing any such policy, employers should consult with a human resources specialist or a knowledgeable attorney.
Q: Can I allow my employees to work from home/telework?
A: Yes. Employers may allow employees to work from home (telework) to reduce face-to-face interaction with co-workers, clients or customers. Regardless of the working location, employees must be still paid for all hours worked.
Q: If my employees choose to voluntarily wear facemasks, do I need a written respirator program?
A: Employers may allow the voluntary use of surgical masks even where an exposure assessment shows respirator use is not required. Surgical masks are not considered respirators by OSHA and, as such, are not covered by 29 CFR 1910.134.
Filtering facepieces (dust masks), however, are considered respirators. If the employer determines that respirator use will not in itself create a hazard, employers may provide respirators at the request of employees or permit employees to use their own respirators. If the employer determines that any voluntary respirator use is permissible, the employer shall provide the respirator users with the information contained in 1910.134(d).
Q: Am I required to provide my employees with facemasks and/or hand sanitizer?
A: Employers are required to maintain a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." Unless otherwise required as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for a particular duty or task, employers are not required to provide facemasks to employees. Facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent spread of the illness. Facemasks are crucial for health workers and people taking care of a person in close settings (at a home or health care facility). If you are not infected, the CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness.
The OSHA standards are silent on the use of hand sanitizer and, as such, there is no requirement to provide it to employees. The bloodborne pathogen standard specifically requires, “employees wash their hands immediately or as soon as feasible after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment. Employers shall ensure that employees wash hands and any other skin with soap and water, or flush mucous membranes with water immediately or as soon as feasible following contact of such body areas with blood or other potentially infectious materials.”
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