Ten Take-Aways: What Businesses Should Know in a COVID World

Matthew S. Veech, Whitney Brieck

November 19, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, business owners and executives are navigating changes that affect their operations and employees. At this uncertain time, there is a pressing need to be informed, aware, and mindful about maintaining a safe environment while effectively communicating to employees.

BoyarMiller offers guidance and strategies to help businesses adapt to a changing world. Firm Shareholders Matt Veech and Whitney Brieck hosted a webinar titled “What Businesses Should Know in a COVID World” on October 29, 2020. Here are ten take-aways from the one-hour webinar.

  1. As always, exercise reasonable care to avoid foreseeable risk of injury to others with respect to COVID.
  2. Provide a reasonably safe workplace by following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines posted on their respective websites. Follow the local ordinances and state mandates regarding distancing and personal protection equipment. Independent contractors and visitors to a business must follow established and posted guidelines.
  3. Revisit sick leave policies that may have required a doctor’s certificate for a medical-related absence. Policies may have to be relaxed if employees are out because of COVID-related symptoms.
  4. Make workplace adjustments related to people and related to space. Some employers are instituting phased returns to the workplace and alternating shifts to accommodate distancing. For safety, consider providing hands-free options where possible to limit high-touch points, adding ventilation areas, and conducting routine cleaning as outlined on the CDC website.
  5. Legal challenges are often viewed through the lens of what is “reasonable” in establishing rules for the safety of employees and the warning of hazards.
  6. Consider posting notices detailing any unique risks presented by your specific space, so employees and visitors can understand and choose to accept those risks by entering.
  7. Employers generally cannot ask for liability waivers or pre-injury waivers or general releases from their employees. For unknown future injury due to negligence, risk-shifting in any context is considered “extraordinary” and must meet specific requirements to be enforceable.
  8. Stay informed about state and federal legislation that may protect you from potential COVID-related liability or provide new protections for your workforce in connection with COVID.
  9. When a vaccine becomes available, employers should develop policies that require vaccination where allowed by applicable law and so long as an individual employee does not object on religious grounds or for disability related reasons. Employers are required to accommodate employees in such situations.
  10. The COVID pandemic has created many situation-specific considerations related to safety and the workplace. It is always best to speak to a lawyer and get advice if there are any questions to make certain adequate steps are being taken to protect a business and its employees.