Spring’s in the air, more people are getting vaccinated, and we’re all waiting for the moment when life returns to some version of normalcy.
In the excitement, it can be easy to get focused on reopening and forget about the logistics. But for business owners, that can be a critical mistake. As a business, there are certain legal issues you need to consider when reopening.
Have a plan
As you prepare to bring employees back to more regular or in-person work, it’s important to have policies in place. Look to local, state, and federal requirements to inform your reopening plan. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) can also be good sources of information.
Having a plan is helpful for you, as the employer, because it shows you’re following the law and not pressuring your employees to face unnecessary risks. Your employees will also appreciate knowing what to expect—the pandemic’s already created enough anxiety, thanks.
In particular, you may want to consider if or how you’ll address the following issues:
- Phasing or staggering employees as they come back to work
- Changing layout and workspaces to allow for social distancing and/or reducing congregation in frequently used areas
- Providing your employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Requiring hand washing, surface sanitizing, and other infection prevention measures
- Deciding if or what kind of screening measures you want to take as employees return to work
- Remaining flexible as guidelines continue to change
Having a set policy helps everyone operate according to the same standard. There have been many different reactions to Covid prevention measures, but as a business owner, it’s important to minimize your legal risk. This mindset of wanting to continue your operation as a place of employment should be a pragmatic approach that everyone can get behind.
Respect employee privacy
In some ways, Covid has brought awareness around mental and physical health to the fore. Business owners understand that employees who fall into high-risk categories, or who have family members that do, will want to take extra precautions. Similarly, employees whose mental health has been negatively impacted by Covid may also need different considerations.
Yet it’s important to remember your employees have a right to privacy—including around their mental and physical health. If you’re not a medical professional, then you’re not liable under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or other patient privacy laws.
But you do still want to avoid invading an employee’s privacy or discriminating against them.
If you require health screenings or Covid tests for your employees, you need to be mindful of these potential liabilities, too.
Protect your clients
You bear different legal responsibilities to your clients than to your employees, but you still must take preventative health measures to protect them.
One of the key considerations for businesses when it comes to the clients’ well-being is tort liability, including negligence. A tort is something you didn’t do—that resulted in injury to someone else.
While proving that a client or customer became infected at your place of business may be challenging, it’s not impossible. And leaving yourself open to accusations of negligence by not following legal health guidelines isn’t a risk you need to take.
Consider liability waivers
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the potential liabilities business owners face as they reopen, having a legally-sound liability waiver makes for a good start.
To support business owners and our community’s economy, we’ve put together liability waivers that we’re giving away. Contact us to learn more!