Human Resources Guidance Relative to COVID-19

Human Resources

Guidance Relative to COVID-19

Human Resources Guidance Relative to COVID-19

These frequently asked questions (FAQs), which supersede and replace the guidance previously issued on March 14, 2020, are applicable to all departments that report directly to the Fulton County Manager. It is highly recommended that elected officials, who are appointing authorities or department heads that report directly to a Board, follow these parameters and/or contact the Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) and/or County Attorney’s office for guidance if they seek to implement a protocol inconsistent with these guidelines. These FAQs are subject to change as the COVID-19 situation develops. The County reserves the right to rescind or modify this guidance at any time. (*issued April 10, 2020)

WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS OR COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Some limited person-to-person transmission has been reported in countries outside China, including the United States. By comparison, other respiratory illnesses such as seasonal influenza, are currently widespread in many US communities.

WHAT DEFINES COVID-19 RELATED ABSENCES?

Effective March 1, 2020, and until further notice, Fulton County is granting the use of Administrative Leave to support our employees during the declared Public Health State of Emergency related to the spread of COVID-19. Administrative leave may only be granted and used for the following COVID-19-related reasons:

• The employee is exhibiting symptoms of acute respiratory illness (i.e., fever of 100.4° F or greater, cough or shortness of breath) or has been diagnosed with a presumptive or confirmed positive case of COVID-19;

• The employee has come into prolonged close contact as defined by guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) with someone with a presumptive or confirmed positive case of COVID-19;

• The employee is the parent or legal guardian of a child (under the age of 18) whose school is closed for a COVID-19 related reason and the employee needs to be absent from work to care for or supervise the child;

• The employee has traveled to one of the countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (e.g., China, Iran, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and most European countries) within the last 14 calendar days;

• The employee has traveled domestically to one of the three U.S. states subject to the Domestic Travel Advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (e.g., New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut);

• The employee suffers from one or more serious underlying medical conditions communicated by the Governor of the State of Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), and/or the employee’s personal health care provider as likely to cause an increased spread of COVID-19; and/or

• The employee is the caretaker of a household member who must practice social distancing due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or prolonged close contact with someone with a presumptive or confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

This leave may only be granted to an employee if telecommuting or reassignment is not a viable option. Fulton County reserves the right to request documentation to substantiate the basis for using this leave at a future time.


Human resources guidance

COVID-19 RELATED ABSENCES

If the worksite is closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19, will employees be placed on administrative leave (authorized absence from duty)?

It depends on whether the employee has been designated as “Non-essential;” “Hazardous Emergency Essential;” or “Standard Essential.” Administrative leave, an authorized absence from duty without loss of pay or charge to accrued leave, is appropriate where a “Non-essential” employee is prevented from working due to the County’s action (e.g., office closure) and the employee is not able to work from home or at another alternative worksite, or cannot be reassigned. “Hazardous Emergency Essential” employees are required to report to or remain at their assigned work site or an alternative Fulton County work site regardless of weather or other emergency conditions. “Standard Essential” employees may be required to report to work, be on-call or to work remotely during an office closure.

I have come into close contact with an individual with a presumptive or confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Am I required to stay at home?

Yes. We are asking any employee who has been exposed to COVID-19, even if asymptomatic, to remain at home. If you have the ability to telework, you will be required to telecommute. Any employee who is unable to telecommute may be granted the use of administrative leave. Fulton County reserves the right to request documentation to substantiate the basis for using this leave at a future time.

If I am caring for someone with COVID-19, who qualifies as a family member under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), can I also inquire about FMLA protection?

Yes, you can contact the County’s third party vendor, Sedgwick, at 888-436-9530 or via the company’s employee portal at timeoff.sedgwick.com, to determine your eligibility and qualification for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Any supervisor who becomes aware of this type of situation, which could be a qualifying event under the FMLA, is obligated to contact Sedgwick to request that an FMLA packet be sent to the employee.

HUman Resources Guidance

COVID-19 Employee Relatons 

Should I report to work if I am experiencing any of the symptoms related to COVID-19 (i.e., fever, cough or shortness of breath)?

No, any employee who is experiencing any of the three main symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e., fever of 100.4° F or greater, cough or shortness of breath) is strongly encouraged, out of an abundance of caution, to remain at home rather than report to work. Pursuant to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, an employee should remain at home until he or she has been free of symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of symptom-masking medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or cough suppressants.

If an employee comes to work and shows symptoms of respiratory illness, what should the supervisor do? May the employee be placed on administrative leave (authorized absence from duty), and if so, for how long? What is needed before the employee can return to work?

Any employee exhibiting symptoms of acute respiratory illness (i.e., fever of 100.4° F or greater, cough or shortness of breath) should be isolated and should immediately consult with the Department of Human Resources Management and/or the County Attorney’s Office. Employees with the ability to telework may be required to telecommute.

Consistent with generally applicable County policy, an employee may be required, as a condition of returning to work, to obtain and present certification from the employee’s health care provider that the employee is able to resume work and can safely perform the essential functions of the employee’s job. Before an employee returns to work, the department should consult with the Department of Human Resources Management and/or the County Attorney’s Office concerning County policy on requesting medical documentation from an employee returning from leave.

Can a department mandate an employee exposed to COVID-19 remain at home for a specified period?

Yes, the CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health or other health agency will provide information related to the length of time an individual remains contagious, as well as current recommendations for social distancing, etc. Generally, a department should not prohibit an employee from reporting to work unless it has evidence or a reasonable concern that an employee is physically unable to perform his or her job, or their presence in the workplace poses a risk of infection to others. If the employee has the ability to telecommute, that option should be explored prior to considering any leave options.

Under what circumstances should a department communicate to its employees that there is a confirmed case among one or more of its employees (without identifying the person/specific office)?

The infected employee’s privacy should be protected to the greatest extent possible; therefore, his or her identity should not be disclosed. In an outbreak of COVID-19, management should share only that information determined to be necessary to protect the health of the employees in the workplace. If social distancing, information sharing, or other precautions to assist employees in recognizing symptoms or reducing the spread of the illness can be taken without disclosing information related to a specific employee, that is the preferred approach.

Can an employee refuse to show up to work for fear of contracting COVID-19?

In an effort to exercise flexibility and support our employees during this difficult time, Fulton County may permit employees to telecommute as appropriate in accordance with the Telecommuting Policy and Procedure (335-16). If telecommuting is not a viable option, Fulton County may permit an employee to take leave without pay for up to five (5) business days. Absent extraordinary circumstances, thereafter failure to report to work following the leave without pay period would result in dismissal for job abandonment in accordance with the Separations Policy and Procedure (330-19). Employees are still required to follow Fulton County and departmental protocols for reporting absences.

I have been notified that I am being reassigned to another function during the declared state of emergency? Can I refuse the reassignment?

The Board of Commissioners has authorized the County Manager to redeploy County personnel to any assignment for which they are deemed qualified regardless of the area of assignment. An employee must accept the redeployment in order to continue to receive compensation from the County. If the employee declines redeployment, Fulton County may permit the employee to take leave without pay (LWOP) for up to five (5) business days, thereafter if the employee still refuses the assignment, it would result in dismissal for job abandonment in accordance with the Separations Policy and Procedure (330-19). Employees are still required to follow Fulton County and departmental protocols for reporting absences.

Can I refuse to perform assigned work if I have the ability to telecommute?

No. Employees with the ability to telecommute must continue to perform their job duties, including completing assigned tasks and projects in a timely manner. Absent extraordinary circumstances such as a legally protected reason, any employee who refuses to complete assigned tasks by established deadlines will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with applicable Fulton County Policies and Procedures.

Will Fulton County require an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to undergo a medical evaluation prior to returning to work?

It is possible that an employee may be required to undergo a fitness for duty evaluation prior to returning to work. Fulton County’s Fitness for Duty Policy and Procedure (312-16) authorizes a fitness for duty examination following an employee’s return from leave when the County has a reasonable belief the employee may pose a direct threat to his/her safety or the safety of others due to a medical condition.

Given the declared state of emergency, will the Incremental Compensation Strategy (ICS) and the Chamber Staff Compensation Strategy (CSCS) still be implemented in July 2020?

No, the Board of Commissioners has made the decision to delay implementation of both the ICS and CSCS until further notice.

human resources guidance

questions about previous travel

Can my department ask me about my personal travel or future travel plans?

Yes, it is permissible for a department to ask an employee whether the employee has traveled to any of the
following high-risk areas or has future plans to do so:

• Countries for which the CDC has issued Level 3 Travel Health Notice (e.g., China, Iran, South Korea, the
United Kingdom, Ireland and most European countries); or
• One of the three U.S. states subject to the Domestic Travel Advisory from the CDC (e.g., New York, New
Jersey, and Connecticut).

What if i recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19?

Fulton County is requesting that any employee who has traveled to any of the countries that have a Level
3 Travel Health Notice (e.g., China, Iran, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Ireland and most European
countries) or any of the U.S. states subject to the Domestic Travel Advisory from the CDC (e.g., New York, New
Jersey, and Connecticut) within the last 14 calendar days, take the following actions:

a. Self-Identify – Please contact your department head and/or HR Liaison before attempting to
  return to work to let them know that you recently have traveled to an area with widespread,
  ongoing community spread of COVID-19; and

b. Provide proof of travel to an area of widespread, ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

You may be asked to telecommute if you have the ability to do so. Any employee who is unable to
telecommute may be granted the use of Administrative leave. Fulton County reserves the right to request
documentation to substantiate the basis for using this leave at a future time.

I am scheduled to participate in County-sponsored out of state travel to a conference in the next thee months, what should I do?

Due to Fulton County Government’s commitment to employee safety in light of COVID-19 community
spread, effective immediately, all nonessential business travel has been suspended until further notice.
Fulton County will continue to monitor the situation and provide guidance as needed. If nonessential
business travel has already been booked, please work with you department’s travel coordinator to cancel
and properly receive an airfare and hotel refund or credit if applicable. If you decide to travel on your own to
the non-essential training, you will not be reimbursed by the County. 

human resources guidance

expectations for essential employees

As an employee how do I know if my position is designated as an operationally "Essential" employee?

Department Heads have determined which employees are needed to maintain essential services while
Fulton County offices and facilities are closed and will ensure that staff know whether they are considered
“Hazardous Emergency Essential” “Standard Essential” or “Non-essential” personnel. Hazardous Emergency
Essential and Essential Employees should know their status prior to an event. Check with your supervisor,
department head or the Department of Human Resources Management if you are uncertain of your status.

I have been designated by my department head as an “Essential” employee. County offices are closed due to a COVID-19 event, but I am required to report to work. Will I be compensated for working?

An employee deemed essential will be designated as either “Essential Emergency” or “Standard Essential.”
“Hazardous Essential Emergency” employees are responsible for performing duties and/or providing
services without which the safety, health or welfare of the community would be endangered. “Essential
Emergency” employees therefore are not eligible to telework and must report to, or remain at, their assigned
work site or an alternative Fulton County work location during a declared state of emergency and/or office
closure. (continued on the next page)

Continued: i have been designated by my department head as an “Essential” employee. County offices are closed due to a COVID-19 event, but I am required to report to work. Will I be compensated for working?

Examples of “Hazardous Emergency Essential” personnel include, but are not limited to, law enforcement
officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians,
nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management
personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized
equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work
for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the
facility.

“Standard Essential” employees are also expected to continue to perform their job duties during a declared
state of emergency and/or office closure. “Standard Essential” personnel may be required, at the discretion
of the Department Head, to work on-site, be on-call or telecommute.

Examples of “Standard Essential” personnel include, but are not limited to, department heads, payroll
personnel, PBX operators, court administrators, judicial staffers, and critical facilities personnel.

All essential personnel will be compensated at their regular rate of pay. In addition, any “Emergency
Essential” employee who works during an office closure or declared state of emergency will receive accrued
leave banked as “holiday earned” at a rate of 1.5 for each hour actually worked, up to a maximum of 120
hours. Any “Standard Essential” employee who performs work during an office closure or declared state
of emergency will receive accrued leave banked as “holiday earned” at a rate of 1.0 for each hour worked,
up to a maximum of 80 hours. (The ability to accrue “holiday earned was discontinued by the Board of
Commissioners at its April 1, 2020 meeting. All holiday earned up until that point will remain on the record.)

I have been designated by my department head as an “Essential” employee. County offices are closed due to a COVID-19 event, but I am required to be on call. Will I be compensated for being on call?

Yes, employees will be compensated for their on-call/call-in time in accordance with the On-Call Pay Policy
and Procedure (107-16). On-call employees shall be paid at their normal rate of pay for any time actually
worked while on-call. In addition, any on-call employee who performs work during an office closure will
receive accrued leave banked as “holiday earned” at a rate of 1.0 for each hour actually worked, up to a
maximum of 80 hours. Employees will be paid any applicable overtime rate if the time actually spent
carrying out assigned duties during the call-in time qualifies as overtime hours. Employees who are not
required to perform any work during their on-call shift will be paid $2.50 per hour.

What will the county do if the essential employees is demonstrating symptoms of acute respiratory illness and/or compromised health -- should they be removed from Essential Employee List?

Yes, any employee who is experiencing any of the three main symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e., fever of 100.4° F
or greater, cough or shortness of breath) is strongly encouraged, out of an abundance of caution, to remain
at home rather than report to work. The employee should be removed from the Essential Employee List and
should remain at home until he or she has been free of symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of
symptom-masking medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or cough suppressants. The employee
may utilize the leave specifically allotted to employees for COVID-19 related absences.

May I use administrative leave in lieu of reporting to work if I have a serious underlying medical condition?

It depends. Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19
include people aged 65 years and those who have certain underlying medical conditions. Those
underlying chronic conditions include chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, cardiac disease
with complications, diabetes, renal failure, liver disease or immunocompromising conditions (i.e., cancer
treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and
prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications). In addition, people of any
age with severe obesity might also be at risk. An employee suffering from one or more of these serious
underlying medical conditions or any other condition communicated by the Governor of the State of
Georgia, the CDC, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), and/or the employee’s personal health
care provider as likely to cause an increased spread of COVID-19 may be request to use administrative leave
to isolate, quarantine, or shelter-in-place.

Administrative leave may only be granted to an employee if telecommuting is not a viable option. Any
employee seeking to use administrative leave due to an underlying medical condition will be required to
complete a “Declaration to Support Request for Administrative Leave” form. Fulton County reserves the right
to request documentation to substantiate the basis for using this leave at a future time. 

The Governor of the State of Georgia has issued a shelter-in-place for the entire state. Am I still required to report to work?

Yes, you are still required to report to work. Georgia residents are required to stay at home, except to access
or perform essential services or activities including reporting to work to perform essential government
functions.

Since I may not be able to get into my Doctor’s office, what alternative are available?

As we navigate this public health concern, we are further suggesting that employees leverage the
telemedicine option available under both the Kaiser and Anthem|Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. Employees
may contact their respective provider telemedicine services as follows:

Anthem | Blue Cross Blue Shield
www.LiveHealthOnline.com

Kaiser Permanente
Members will have to download the Kaiser Permanente App or call 404-365-0966.

As a reminder, employees who are BCBS members can also seek medical attention for COVID-19 at any
Grady Facility without a need for a co-pay. The Georgia Insurance Commissioner has also directed all
insurance providers to waive all co-pays related to COVID-19 testing.

COVID-19 is an emerging respiratory disease and there is much more to learn about its transmission, clinical
course and populations at increased risk of disease and complications. Everyone can do their part to help
plan, prepare and respond to this emerging public health threat. Fulton County will continue to monitor the
situation and provide guidance as more information becomes available.