- Microsoft will continue to pay vendor hourly service providers as Seattle-area office employees work from home during novel coronavirus spread in the area, it announced March 5.
- The company has a reduced need for the hourly workers who support its campuses in Puget Sound and northern California, including cafe staffers, shuttle bus drivers and on-site tech and AV workers. However, Microsoft pledged to provide regular pay for these workers "regardless of whether their full services are needed."
- "While the work to protect public health needs to speed up, the economy can’t afford to slow down," Smith wrote. "We appreciate that what’s affordable for a large employer may not be affordable for a small business, but we believe that large employers who can afford to take this type of step should consider doing so."
The novel coronavirus is affecting employers in sweeping and myriad ways, and unexpected shifts in on-site coverage is a primary one.
Microsoft isn't alone in encouraging workers to work from home when possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had encouraged businesses to develop remote work plans and replace in-person meetings with video or phone conferences.
In executing a response to the outbreak, employers must be careful not to run afoul of nondiscrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, one expert told HR Dive.
While it may be reasonable, for example, to ask someone to stay home for 14 days — the incubation period for the virus — because the person has recently traveled to China, Italy or another hard-hit area, it would not be permissible to make this request on the basis of race or national origin.