Legal considerations while operating in a pandemic crisis.
When a person catches COVID-19 they go into quarantine and are otherwise inoperable. Businesses, as a precautionary measure, are doing the same in order to prevent potential spreading to their customers and employees alike – almost as though the business itself has caught the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily halted the way businesses are capable of operating. Some have closed their doors indefinitely while others continue to operate but are being forced to work remotely as a precautionary measure. Even still, some businesses continue to operate as though nothing has changed.
The exact course of action for any business to take is in the discretionary authority of its owner and the right course of action is muddled by media coverage of the crisis.
Some things that should remain clearly seen, however, are the legal issues that must be considered during this troubling time.
Governmental public health organizations all have official websites with which a business owner may stay up to date and informed on recommendations and mandates over specific cities, counties, and states. The Kendrick Law Group is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations in business governance. Demonstrating corporate policy alignment with official recommendations is an important legal safeguard for you and your business.
Maintaining effective communication is an effective barrier against panic and confusion in a time of crisis. Employers should be wary of communicating with their employees which practices and precautions they have decided to take and should require that employees communicate if they have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms. It is always better to be safe than sorry. If you are continuing to operate, then consider limiting who or how many people you have working. Additionally, connect with your customers and clients to communicate that, unless absolutely necessary, they should avoid coming to your office or workplace in order to best mitigate the risk of exposure to both themselves and your employees.
Working from Home
While not all businesses or business structures allow for it, working from home may be a strong option for many businesses for a number of reasons., but most importantly:
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protects employees from workplaces with “known hazards” that are likely to “cause death or serious harm,” and knowingly having an employee that may expose other employees to the virus or risk contaminating others could result in liability. Having everyone work remotely can circumvent this issue entirely.
Developing a Strategy
Employers who choose to temporarily cease operating will need to consider how or if they will want to extend leave or sickness benefits to their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and worker’s compensation laws may apply, so be sure to review your own corporate policies to make sure that your choice falls in line with both those statutes and your own contractual language. It is important to remember that employees who have caught the virus will have to be dealt with differently than those who have not in terms of payment schemes and sick leave.
Communication and the transmission of information are the most important parts of getting through times of crisis and panic.
The Kendrick Law Group staff and all of our attorneys will be working remotely and will continue operations as normal to provide our clients with the best possible service. If you have any questions regarding a Business Law Matter or other legal consideration, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-written by: Kyle Wilhelm, J.D.