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Providing a Safe Workplace for HOA Employees Guidance for Boards & Managers

Editor’s Note: During this crisis, New England Condominium will be passing along information, tips, and FAQs submitted by our network of industry professionals, including attorneys, managers, and other subject matter experts. The views and opinions expressed are those of the contributors, and as the situation evolves in the coming days and weeks, those views and opinions may evolve as well. We encourage readers to be mindful of this; check posting dates, make note of contributors’ locations and industries, and above all, consult with your own community professionals as you and your neighbors navigate this challenging landscape.

On Monday, May 11, 2020, Governor Baker announced a four-phase plan to re-open Massachusetts starting on May 18, 2020. While more details and guidance on the Massachusetts plan will be coming out in the coming days, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already issued guidance for various industries and employers to provide safe work environments for their employees. If you have not started to plan for re-opening your business, and have not prepared a COVID-19 Workplace Policy, you should do so immediately.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is not new. This law states that employers have an obligation to assure safe and healthy working conditions for their employees. If an employee has a “good faith belief” that their workplace is not safe, they can file a complaint with OSHA. In addition, the law also provides that if an employer retaliates in any way against an employee for making a good faith complaint of an unsafe work environment, the employer can be liable for retaliation under the law. An example of an act that could be perceived as retaliation is an employee complaining to his supervisor that he does not feel safe at work because the workplace has not been cleaned. The employer tells the employee that if they don’t feel safe, they can stay home, but must use their vacation/sick/personal time. This is not permissible. An employee should not lose an employee benefit because the employer does not want to provide a safe work environment. The appropriate response would be for the employer to institute a cleaning policy.

Employers should do whatever is necessary to minimize fear due to unsafe working conditions in the workplace. In order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers and the public, it is important to plan now.

1. The first thing that you must stay on top of is ensuring that you are complying with all Federal, State and Local orders, regulations and laws.

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