Threat of COVID-19 impacting the workplace

Updated: Mar. 10, 2020 at 6:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Companies across the country are stopping business travel, enacting work-from-home policies and putting restrictions on employees returning from international travel.

One Memphis employment attorney said COVID-19 could forever change the workplace as we know it.

“Five years from now, we may look back and say the winter and spring of 2020 was the beginning of the telecommuting age,” said Alan Crone.

Crone said COVID-19 has his clients, employers, scrambling. The goal is not only minimizing impact to the bottom line but also making sure the virus doesn’t show up in the workplace.

“An employer can tell you, don’t come back to work, for whatever reason. They don’t owe you a day’s work,” he said.

Crone said it’s a given that ill employees should stay home. But now people who traveled internationally or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are being asked to keep home, according to some corporate policies.

Crone said at first glance it’s legal, given the atypical situation.

“I think we have to develop policy for how much are we going to compensate folks for taking one for the team,” he said, “This is a wake-up call to employers to go back and look at their sick leave policy.”

Jennifer Kruchten is President and CEO of Travelennium in east Memphis. Her firms handle leisure and corporate travel, and she said corporate bookings are drastically down.

“That’s part of that company’s responsibility to take care of their employees,” she said.

Kruchten believes travel of all types will pick back up in a few months. But in the meantime, she said, travel at your own risk.

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