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

Lauren Dentone

Lauren Dentone

By Lauren Dentone, Esq.

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

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

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. For assistance in interpreting regulations and successfully developing and implementing a plan for reopening your business, contact the attorneys at Gawthrop Greenwood, PC.

Gawthrop Greenwood and its team of lawyers will continue to review legislation and governmental decisions as they unfold, as we are committed to providing guidance to our clients. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at 610-696-8225.

Gawthrop Greenwood

Gawthrop Greenwood, PC has offices in West Chester, PA and Wilmington, DE serving clients throughout the greater mid-Atlantic region and nation. For more than a century, the firm has stood behind its core principle of providing high-quality legal services with personal attention. Gawthrop Greenwood’s diverse portfolio of clients comprises entrepreneurs, businesses, and governmental entities that entrust the firm with their representation in a wide range of matters including mergers and acquisitions, commercial litigation, estate and tax planning, land use and development, and domestic relations. A complete listing of the firm’s practice areas and attorneys, as well as a variety of legal resources, can be found at www.gawthrop.com.

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