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As businesses begin to slowly reopen throughout California, many offices might expect employees considered to be “essential” back into the workplace.

Employers should allow employees to continue to telework whenever possible, though it is inevitable that some people will need to start reporting to work at least part-time. 

As offices open for partial capacity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  released guidance regarding how employers should ensure the maximum safety and health of employees as the pandemic continues. Employers should take careful steps to prevent unnecessary exposure risks, and employees should expect a significantly different office environment than before. If your employer has not taken proper safety precautions, you have certain rights. 

Health and Safety Recommendations

Back to office after covid

Many offices have been sitting empty for months without their regular maintenance. First, employers should ensure the office is free from mold, pests, or other health hazards that can occur during closures. Also, the office should be well-ventilated by opening doors and windows, turning on fans, and ensuring the ventilation system is properly working.

Then, employers should review how employees usually work and identify high-risk situations. These might include meetings in conference rooms, employees congregating in break rooms or common areas, and cafeterias and food services, among others. If possible, these areas might need to remain closed for the time being. Employers should replace communal coffee pots or water stations with pre-packaged single-serving items. Workstations should also be spread out to maintain proper social distancing, and barriers might need to be installed between workstations. 

Changes to the office itself are not enough, however, as employee procedures should also be adapted. Employees should receive proper training on the new policies for health and safety. These might include:

  • Regular disinfection of high-touch areas and workstations
  • Maintaining social distancing from others and avoiding physical contact
  • Wearing cloth face coverings when social distancing is not possible
  • Reporting possible symptoms, undergoing temperature screenings or health checks, and staying home if an employee does not feel well or has household members with possible symptoms

These and more are all important measures employers should take to ensure maximum safety if employees must return to the office.

What if Your Workplace is Not Safe?

Some employers might think they covered all the bases, but there are still obvious exposure risks. Others might not take the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as seriously as they should. In either case, you should not be expected to work in an unhealthy and unsafe environment. First, report your concerns to your employer. It might have been an oversight that they are willing to rectify immediately. 

However, if your employer refuses to take action or even retaliates against you for voicing your concerns, you should speak with a California employment law attorney who can advise you of your rights. 

California Employment and Defense Base Act Lawyer David MaraSpeak with a California Employment Law Attorney Today

At Mara Law Firm, we help employees stand up for their rights when employers violate employment laws. Call (619) 234-2833 or contact us online for a consultation today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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