By Janell M. Stanton, JD, myHRcounsel
Can your business safely reopen? If you are a nonessential business and are weighing whether you are going to reopen your workplace, there are three important questions to consider. If you can say yes to all three questions below, I definitely think reopening is safer for your business and something that will help you avoid potential surprise claims.
1. Has community spread slowed to the point where you can safely reopen?
Are safe-at-home, shelter-in-place types of orders lifted so you can appropriately send employees back to the workplace? If you can say yes to that, that’s a big step in the right direction. With the resurgence of COVID-19, we can fully expect there to be states coming out here in the near future that may re-institute stay-at-home type of orders, so make sure you are paying attention to what your governor or mayor is doing in the cities or states that you’re in.
2. Are you able to limit nonessential employees to a close geographic area?
What I mean by this is, we don’t want nonessential employees, employees that aren’t necessary for the operations of our business, to be commuting a long distance to come to the workplace. A longer commute, especially on public transportation, can open up the risks for higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19 and then bringing it into the workplace. So, if you can limit those nonessential employees to a close geographic area where maybe they can drive in from home and they don’t have to take public transportation, I definitely encourage that.
3. Are you able to adequately protect and accommodate employees who might be higher risk?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers accommodate qualified employees that have a disability unless it would be an undue burden on the employer. That’s just a very generic statement of what the ADA is. Employees that have disabilities that make them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 are suing based on claims that their employers refuse to extend accommodations to the employees that they needed to perform their work safely. To avoid these claims, make sure you can accommodate high-risk employees.
If you can honestly answer yes to the three questions above, you could consider reopening your business.
The information above is provided for educational purposes and should not be considered legal advice.