Many businesses are reopening after weeks of closing their doors because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. In Florida, Phase 1 of Governor DeSantis’ “SAFE. SMART. STEP-BY-STEP” plan began on May 4, allowing restaurants and stores to open in diminished capacities. “Full” Phase I began on May 18 and restaurants are now allowed to serve more customers. Gyms have also reopened, as well.
However, we may be entering Phase 2 very soon, which will allow other businesses to reopen their doors, too.
While everyone tries to navigate this uncharted territory, our firm is looking at the legal issues that may arise from reopening. We are not yet sure whether Congress will pass a law that immunizes business owners from coronavirus-related suits – but, we do know that you certainly don’t want to find out when it’s too late.
Whether you are a business owner that has already reopened or you are planning to reopen soon, this post is for you. Business owners cannot ignore the possible liability that may ensue from improperly reopening.
Here are four steps you can take with your business to limit your legal liability potential:
Step One: Solidify Your “Return to Work” Employee Policy
- Have a “Return to Work” Employee Policy set in place before you reopen.
- Your policy must comply with the rules and regulations published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and your local and state guidelines.
- If you live in Florida, here are our guidelines. If you live outside of Florida, you will need to look up your state’s guidelines.
OUR TIP: Call us for help with your legally solid Return to Work Employee Policy. It is not enough to state your policy verbally; the policy must be properly documented and signed to be legally sound.
Step Two: Reconfigure Work Spaces and Work Schedules
- Stagger employees’ work schedules so that only a limited number of employees are at the office at once.
- If some of your employees have shown that they can work productively and efficiently from home, consider allowing those employees to continue working remotely.
- Reorganize your workspace.
- Make sure that no employees are facing one another and are spaced out at least 6 feet apart.
- Ensure that everyone can easily maneuver the workspace without having to come into contact with anyone else. Mitigate high traffic from certain areas by having a more open furniture plan.
- Post signs around your office on the doors and walls reminding your employees of the procedures and policies.
Step Three: Have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for your Employees
- Require employees to use personal protective equipment or PPE.
- Have PPE ready for your employees when they return back to work.
- Train your employees on the appropriate usage of PPE.
Step Four: Establish Your COVID Screening Process
- Your Return to Work Employee Policy needs to include a screening process for your employees’ COVID symptoms. Be aware of the symptoms listed by the CDC, which you can view here.
- Remind and require your employees to stay at home if they show any symptoms.
- Require employees to report when someone has shown symptoms in their home.
- If they have reported a household member who has tested positive for COVID, make sure that the employee stays home for at least 14 days.
IMPORTANT: Failure to have a written policy can subject you to privacy law and/or discrimination law.
ABOUT THE BENKABBOU LAW FIRM
The Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC, is a boutique law firm located in Tampa, Florida. Our firm focuses on business law, immigration law, business immigration law, and intellectual property law. At our firm, we treat our clients like family and treat their interests and dreams as our own.
OUR COMMITMENT TO OUR CLIENTS
At the Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC, we value keeping our clients informed of all possible problems they may face. We provide proactive legal solutions to help our clients avoid the possibility of liability, which saves our clients money, time, and resources. In uncertain times like these, we are prioritizing the long-term interests of our clients and their livelihoods.
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