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The 10 Commandments of Reopening Your Business in the Time of Covid-19

With guidelines changing frequently as new information comes to light, in these unprecedented COVID-19 times, many employers are wondering what to do and where to start.  How can I keep myself and my employees safe?  How do I maintain productivity?  How do I not get sued?

Foremost, stop and breathe.  Then, be a good scout and get prepared!  Draft a plan for the reopening of were openyour business with the most recently available materials, but also be prepared that it will change with new federal, state and local guidelines and orders.  As you draft the plan, note the difference between what is suggested (best practice guidelines) and what is required (applicable Court orders).

We all know that common sense is not common enough, but please, let’s try to follow the following overarching common sense rules.

  1. Follow the rules! If there are industry and location specific guidelines that apply to your business, follow them.  Bear in mind that if your state or locality has an order in place requiring face masks, ensure you follow it appropriately.
  2. Maintain access for employees to personal protective equipment, including masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectant wipes.
  3. Plan conferences and meetings in appropriate spaces, maintaining appropriate distances between participants, and limit the maximum number of participants to 10 or fewer.
  4. Virtual technology works, so keep using it! The past months have demonstrated the success of virtual meetings, so use them where appropriate.
  5. Document your efforts to create a safe workplace. Take photos of the hand sanitizer stations, the signs reminding of proper social distancing, etc.
  6. Be reasonable. The standard to be applied is that reasonable measures are taken to maintain a safe workplace.  You do not need to Lysol®
    the entire office building every 10 minutes, but high traffic areas should be disinfected regularly.  The reasonable determination will depend on the nature of the business, number of employees and other factors.
  7. Be flexible. Bear in mind that some employees fall into higher risk categories, and flexibility in working arrangements will be needed.  Again, bear in mind the overall reasonableness of employee’s requests for flexibility.
  8. Be consistent in granting flexible arrangements. If one employee is allowed to work remotely due to a lack of childcare, be prepared to allow all employees with childcare issues to work remotely.  If such arrangements are not dealt with consistently, you open yourself up to discrimination issues.
  9. Do unto others…Don’t place your employees in a situation that you would not want to be placed in.
  10. Get advice when you need it. Employment law issues are complex at the best of times, let alone in the current climate. It is much quicker and ultimately cheaper to hire an employment lawyer for a few hours to discuss your reopening plan and any concerns, than to defend a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled employee.  Please reach out to a specialist for advice if you have any concerns regarding your business reopening plan.

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