The economy has largely ground to a halt thanks to coronavirus, especially if you are not considered an “essential” business. Everyone from the Trump Administration down to state governors has started discussing how to reopen the economy. Aside from the logistics, however, there is a looming question of what risks and liabilities businesses could face. The attorneys of Rosenbaum & Taylor are here to guide you and your organization through any challenges you may face.
Businesses have expressed concern they may face a number of legal, regulatory, and liability issues upon reopening. Coronavirus has changed the way these companies could do business for long into the future. Here are a few of the matters that many businesses feel have to be addressed:
Businesses, especially those dependent upon high-density gatherings, may need clarity on acceptable social distancing practices. It is unclear how long the current guidelines issued by the CDC and others will need to stay in place. If someone becomes sick after the guidelines are lifted, will the business be held liable?
State and federal laws protect employees’ health privacy. But employers may need to verify the health of their workers before and even after reopening. It’s a catch-22: not ascertaining an employee’s health could harm other workers and customers. Doing so, however, may run afoul of privacy laws. Employers could benefit from safe-harbor provisions to the laws.
Some employers may choose to evaluate the medical or health risks of employees with coronavirus. The same is true for those who are particularly at-risk groups. This could open the door to disability and related lawsuits alleging discrimination. Clear guidance on acceptable medical and health evaluations is sorely needed.
To what extent would an employer be held liable if an employee caught coronavirus on its premises? And will all employers be required to make personal protective equipment available, or just certain ones? OSHA regulations and workers’ compensation laws could also factor in this determination.
Coronavirus has raised a number of issues for employers. For example, will they have to accommodate employees who insist on returning to work even if they haven’t been screened? What procedural requirements may need to be followed to lay off workers due to government-mandated closures? The employer-employee relationship could drastically change, and the laws and regulations might not keep up.
What happens if a customer gets sick on your business premises? Would they be held liable under a negligence theory? Lawsuits could drive businesses into bankruptcy. But a safe harbor rule for companies following public health guidelines could be a solution.
These and other concerns are largely intertwined with one another. Legal observers are already predicting a wave of coronavirus-related lawsuits once the pandemic eases. Lawmakers could take action to prevent or minimize some of these business risks, but likely will not. That leaves companies vulnerable to financially catastrophic litigation.
Lawsuits are not only damaging to the defendant companies immediately involved. They will have a chilling effect on efforts to revive the economy. If a business notices that others are being sued, it could remain closed to err on the side of caution. This hurts consumers as well as employees who depend on these businesses for their livelihoods.
Turn To Us For Your Business’s Legal Needs
Plaintiffs’ lawyers are busy lining up potential lawsuits against companies, and many have already been filed. The impending challenges will necessitate aggressive legal defense. You can count on the experienced and dedicated attorneys of Rosenbaum & Taylor. We defend our clients against litigation threats and work to minimize their liability. If you’re concerned about the effects coronavirus will have on your organization, give us a call today.