How U.S. Federal and State Governments are Supporting Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Both Federal and State governments have sought to support employees during the Coronavirus pandemic. The responses fall into three categories: the extension of leave provisions, the extension of workers’ compensation, and changes to occupational health and safety regulations. As of 1 December 2020, thirteen states had adopted COVID-19 worker health and safety protections. Most of these protections had similar provisions relating to workplace hygiene and other measures to minimize the transmission of COVID-19. While we could not identify specific campaigns that recognized compliance, several organizations have recognized employers who have protected their employees throughout the pandemic. The most notable being Forbes, who has created several tools to accurately measure the response of companies.

Click through this research reports to discover information on COVID-19 vaccination plans for all states, COVID-19 Vaccine Packaging and Distribution and COVID-19 Vaccine for African Americans respectively.

1. Extension of Leave Provisions


  • This is a federal law that will remain in place at least until 31 December 2020. It requires employers to provide employees with special leave related to Coronavirus. The legislation applies to “public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees,” although certain employers with less than 50 employees are exempt. There are three main changes that employers need to comply with.
    • Where an employee is unable to work due to quarantine or when they are experiencing the symptoms of Coronavirus, the employee is entitled to two weeks paid sick leave at their normal rate of pay.
    • Where an employee is unable to work due to a need to care for someone who is quarantined or a child whose school is closed due to Coronavirus, the employee is entitled to two weeks paid sick leave at two-thirds of their normal rate of pay.
    • Where an employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school or childcare has closed due to Coronavirus, the employee is entitled to up to ten weeks paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds of their normal rate of pay.

2. Worker Safety Protections

  • Most of the state changes to worker safety protections include the following:
  • The details of the thirteen states are set out below.


  • A new emergency standard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was adopted on 19 November 2020.
  • An aerosol transmission standard covering first-response and healthcare workers was adopted in April 2020.
  • LA County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal in July 2020 that facilitated worker-led councils to monitor the compliance of employers with public health orders that aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19.


  • An executive order was issued by the Illinois state government on 30 April 2020. This order set the public health requirements Illinois businesses are expected to comply with. As well as setting the workplace protection standards, this order set out how essential businesses were expected to operate.
  • A further executive order was issued on 29 May 2020, which aimed to redefine public health requirements while restoring business operations in the state. In addition to the aforementioned requirements, it set maximum capacity levels for retail stores and required manufacturers and offices to downscale operations if social distancing could not be maintained.
  • Additional guidance for food and meat processing facilities was provided on 24 June 2020. This provided guidance around infection control, screening, contact tracing and testing, cleaning, disinfecting, sanitizing, education, and shutdowns.


  • Kentucky at Work is the state’s phased response to the reopening of the economy. The first Executive Order was issued on 11 May 2020 and set the minimum requirements for businesses reopening, as well as establishing industry-specific requirements.
  • With the resurgence of COVID-19, new restrictions were implemented on 20 November 2020. These restrictions will remain in place until 13 December 2020. These restrictions are related to capacity limits at gyms, restaurants, bars, and other indoor facilities.


  • In May 2020, the Massachusetts state government instituted mandatory standards that businesses were expected to follow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to employees and customers. Standards were set relating to social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting. The standards were last updated on 20 November 2020.


  • On 14 October 2020, the Michigan OSHA issued emergency rules relating to COVID-19. These rules set basic infection prevention measures, established health surveillance protocols, instituted workplace controls for employers, and provided industry related standards.
  • Michigan’s Governor had previously instituted two executive orders, one in March 2020 and the other in April 2020, setting a range of industry-specific standards specific to COVID-19 that businesses were required to follow. However, the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on 2 October 2020 ruled that the Governor’s use of emergency powers was without authority, and the executive orders as a consequence have been ruled invalid.


  • On 13 May 2020 the Governor of Minnesota issued an emergency executive order that prevented retaliation against employees that reported unsafe workplaces during COVID-19.
  • On 25 July 2020 the Governor of Minnesota issued an executive order requiring employees to wear masks.
  • An executive order requiring employers to follow the CDC’s guidelines that protect employees was issued by the Governor of Minnesota on 5 June 2020. These guidelines cover the protections detailed above.


  • On 29 April 2020, the Governor of Nevada issued Declaration of Emergency Directive 016, requiring businesses to follow the Nevada Department of Business and Industry guidance.
  • The Nevada Department of Business and Industry issued guidance relating to the reopening of businesses on 4 May 2020. This guidance required employers to develop a plan relating to infection control and managing their workforce in light of COVID-19.
  • On 7 May 2020, the Governor of Nevada issued Declaration of Emergency Directive 018. This declaration set rules around masks, social distancing, employer assessment, and cleaning. It also required employers to accommodate vulnerable people caring for children and set minimum requirements for restaurants and food establishments.


  • On 8 April 2020, the New Jersey Governor issued Executive Order 192. Aiming to protect New Jersey’s workers during the pandemic, the order set rules relating to the operation of essential businesses. It included social distancing requirements and infection control requirements similar to those detailed above.
  • The New Jersey Governor issued Executive Order No. 192 on 28 October 2020. This order set mandatory health and safety standards to protect New Jersey’s workers, including hygiene standards, health checks, and the provision of protection control equipment.


  • The New York Governor signed an executive order on 12 April 2020 requiring employees to wear face masks provided at the expense of the employer.
  • Protocols designed to protect the safety of employees were made by executive order by the Governor on 31 May 2020. The order made provision for social distancing, monitoring of the employees, and the cleaning of the workplace.


  • Oregon OSHA adopted the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Rule that addressed COVID-19 risks in the workplace on 6 November 2020. This required employers to establish a worker safety plan for the workplace and addressed the issues detailed above.
  • The aforementioned Emergency Temporary Rule replace previous executive orders relating to masks, physical distancing, and industry-specific orders.


  • On 15 April 2020, the Secretary of the Department of Health in Pennsylvania issued an order to protect critical businesses’ employees during COVID-19. The order related primarily to social distancing, including provision for staggered start times.
  • A similar order was made on 19 April 2020 and was designed to protect employees in businesses that were permitted to maintain in-person operations.
  • These orders are summarized in the Guidance for Employers issued on 4 May 2020. The provisions are in line with those detailed above. The Guidance for Employers was last updated on 23 November 2020 to incorporate changes made in light of the latest resurgence.
  • On 25 June 2020, the City of Philadelphia enacted an ordinance to protect workers against retaliation should they raise concerns or refuse to work in an unsafe workplace due to COVID-19.


  • Virginia OSH passed the first Emergency Temporary Standard for workers in the US. It became effective on 27 July 2020 and contained minimum standards relating to social distancing, ventilation, hygiene practices, and infection control.


  • Enforceable guidance was issued on 24 July 2020 by the Washington state government to protect workers and customers. This provided both general and industry-specific guidance. Links to industry-specific documents are available on the Washington state coronavirus response web page.
  • On 15 November 2020, the industry-specific guidance was updated, and new guidance relating primarily to capacity was revised in light of the resurgence of COVID-19 in the state.
  • The General Coronavirus Prevention Under Safe Start — Stay Healthy Order was issued by the Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health on 31 May 2020. It was revised on 25 September 2020. This order sets out what employers must do to keep employees safe and contains most of the provisions detailed above.
  • On 10 September 2020, the Washington state government enacted an emergency rule relating to worker housing. This rule covered occupants’ education, community worker visits, social distancing rules, and hygiene procedures.

3. Worker’s Compensation

Publicity and Social Media Campaigns Recognizing Employers

  • The pandemic has been predicted to have an adverse effect on Americans’ mental health, with many experiencing anxieties around staying safe and healthy while coping with a lack of social contact and potential isolation that comes with working remotely. Few of the changes by state governments specifically address this aspect of the pandemic.
  • Mental Health America has recognized the efforts of eight employers attempting to protect their employees’ mental health at this time through a publicized list that acknowledges eight companies that have focused on improving the mental health outcomes of their employees.


  • The pandemic has served to emphasize the financial vulnerability of many Americans. However, a number of companies have risen to the challenge and are going the extra mile to look out for their employees, using flexible financial benefits to lessen the impact of the pandemic. TLNT Talent Management and HR have publicized a list recognizing these companies.


  • Forbes has recognized the world’s best employers by using a global survey to identify the companies that are best supporting their employees during the pandemic. The employers were identified from a Statista survey of 160,000 employees in 58 countries.
  • The actions of US employers during the pandemic has also been recognized in another list publicized by Forbes. After analyzing the employment policies of the top 100 US public companies and their response to the pandemic, Forbes has produced a list of those that are best protecting their employees. This list has been widely publicized through social and other media channels.


  • Just Capital has created a tracker used to assess US companies’ response to COVID-19. The tracker uses “data analysis on key issues (paid sick leave, hazard pay), polling insights from ongoing survey work with The Harris Poll, as well as corporate leadership stories, interviews, and events” to determine the companies that are best supporting their employees during the pandemic.


  • SHRM is another organization that is publicly recognizing the companies that are putting their employees first during the pandemic. The companies that SHRM has recognized have all gone the extra mile to acknowledge that employees are the organization’s backbone.


  • Business Insider is another organization that is recognizing the response of major companies to COVID-19. The organization has evaluated the way that organizations are protecting their employees and attributing a strong positive response to having a compassionate leadership team.


  • People have recognized the top 50 companies that have supported both their employees and their communities during the pandemic. People said they consider these companies to have gone above and beyond to look out for their employees during the pandemic.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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