As the economy reopens, many businesses of all sizes are adopting pandemic-related rules to tell customers, workers and tenants how to implement requirements on matters such as physical distancing, screening, washing, disinfecting, wearing of protective equipment, training and monitoring. For example, with respect to screening to keep infected workers away from the site, the business’s rules may specify, among other things, where the screening is to be conducted, the questions to be asked of workers seeking to enter the site, how to test for fever while maintaining physical distance, and possible modifications to the business’s sick leave policy to encourage workers with symptoms to answer the screening questions honestly and stay home if necessary.
Such rules are an essential part of a plan to ensure compliance with state, county, city and landlord-imposed pandemic-related restrictions. Failure to comply with such restrictions can result in citation and punishment.
Beyond compliance with strict legal requirements, businesses must act prudently to avoid civil liability in case a claim is brought down the road by a worker or employee who thinks (s)he has been exposed to the virus by the business’s operations or at the business’s site. At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued pandemic-related guidelines that are voluntary, but compliance with such guidelines may be a factor in determining whether a business has been negligent.
We strongly recommend that each business adopt COVID-19 rules in consultation with legal counsel. It is important that such rules be tailored to your business because each business faces a set of circumstances—including, for example, its location, the industry in which it operates, the size of its premises and the number of associated employees and customers—that is unique. With constantly evolving rules and recommendations from myriad sources at all levels of government, it is impossible for non-lawyers to keep up to date on their own.
If you have questions or would like to explore developing a set of pandemic-related rules for your business, please feel free to contact Sandy Sakamoto ([email protected]), Marc Manason ([email protected]), or Paul Kim ([email protected]).