Are You Ready to Return? Legal Issues Every Employer Should Consider

Are You Ready to Return? Legal Issues Every Employer Should Consider
As business owners, it is essential to plan and prepare for the reopening of normal work functions.

In the wake of COVID-19, we will see changed economies, consumer behaviors and expectations of both employers and employees. A gradual and systematic return to work will prove impactful to slowing the potential spread of COVID-19.

To achieve success, employers will need to review and understand directives and regulations from the government and devise a plan that is specifically tailored to that particular business and implements physical, administrative and legal controls.

Employers should consult with their counsel about which of the following measures are most suited to their workplace.

Physical Controls:

  • Requiring employees to wear protective devices like masks and gloves
  • Supplying protective devices for employees and patrons
  • Having hand sanitizer and antibacterial products readily available
  • Deep and specialized cleaning of common spaces
  • Posting of signs encouraging proper hygiene
  • Physical barriers at checkout counters
  • Creating opportunities for social distancing within the business
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Administrative Controls:

  • Establishing a slow, staggered and systematic re-entry program for employees
  • Reminding sick workers to stay home
  • Having employees fill out health assessment forms prior to returning to work
  • Educating employees on the spread of COVID-19
  • Providing work-at-home opportunities for employees
  • Continuing digital means of communication with employees and patrons

Legal Controls:

  • Interpreting government regulations and guidelines for timing and manner of reintegration
  • Interpreting the ever-changing “essential” vs. “non-essential” business functions
  • Interpreting government regulations and guidelines for testing employees
  • Properly reinstating furloughed employees
  • Understanding the loan forgiveness requirements for government loans, such as what is required for forgiveness of funds received pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program
  • Identifying the permissible uses of loans received from the government and effectively documenting the use of the loan proceeds
  • Staying abreast of the regularly updated guidance issued by the Small Business Association and the Department of Treasury
  • Remaining compliant with OSHA and DOL requirements and reviewing their published guidance
  • Potential liability to employers upon unsuccessful reintegration
  • Drafting waivers to insulate the business from potential liability from employees who contract COVID-19 as a result of returning to work
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While there is no prescription or fail-proof method to protect businesses, employers, employees or patrons through this reintegration process, businesses need to begin devising a plan for effectively and safely resuming operations in an effort to reduce liability and the spread of COVID-19.

Without a purposeful plan, the success of a business may be compromised as we see expected spikes in this virus over the next several months.

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