As a trusted advisor in the recruiting industry, part of my role is to introduce you to other experts in their fields. This month, Theresa Phelps, a member of Rosenblum Goldenhersh’s Litigation and Labor and Employment Practice Groups and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee has shared her knowledge.
COVID-19: Best Practices for Businesses Today
COVID-19 brought with it many new challenges to businesses and employers. From managing remote workforces for perhaps the first time to navigating through the ever-changing landscape of government emergency orders, the pandemic has caused much anxiety and uncertainty for businesses trying to keep their people safe while also attempting to keep their doors open. So what are the best practices for businesses today?
One of the most common fears among businesses today is the fear of being named in a lawsuit in the event that a customer or employee comes down with COVID-19 after visiting your business. While many had feared that re-opening businesses would lead to a floodgate of litigation and liability for business owners, so far, this hasn’t come to pass, presumably because proving that someone contracted COVID-19 from your business would be virtually impossible.
Nevertheless, business owners would still be wise to take precautions to ensure that they are maintaining a safe environment not only for their workers, as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but also for their customers who have come to expect businesses to use COVID-19 “best practices” and mitigation strategies.
What to Consider For Your Business
So, what are the COVID-19 “best practices” and mitigation strategies? Here are a few that your business should consider:
- Following CDC Guidance – First and foremost, follow the most up-to-date guidance issued by the CDC applicable to your business. The CDC has formulated and published, and frequently updates, recommendations for specific industries to help businesses determine what they should (and should not) do in dealing with COVID-19. Following the guidance from the nation’s highest authority on infectious diseases provides a strong defense to potential liability should someone in your business contract COVID-19.
- Keep Informed Of Local Mandates And Restrictions – We all learned during 2020 that federal, state, and local mandates and restrictions varied from location to location. Make sure that you know which mandates and restrictions apply in your locality and jurisdiction and also make sure that your business is complying with those mandates and restrictions. Failure to comply with local mandates and restrictions can lead to costly penalties and fines for businesses.
- Implement A COVID-19 Policy And Mitigation Strategy For Your Workplace – Policies are a priority for all workplaces. If you haven’t yet formulated a policy for how your business will handle COVID-19, you should enact one right away. Employees who are feeling ill or exhibiting COVID-like symptoms should not come to work and should stay home. Large crowds and crowded spaces should be avoided if possible, and people should spread out and maintain a safe social distance as much as possible. Sanitize workspaces and shared space and equipment often. Encourage employees and visitors to wash and sanitize their hands, and consider making available convenient sanitizing stations in your business. You should require your employees to promptly notify you of any COVID-like symptoms, positive COVID-19 test results, and COVID-19 “close contact” exposures and you should provide an explanation to your employees outlining when employees will be quarantined and/or tested for COVID-19 and when they can return to work following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure.
- Communicate Your COVID-19 Policy And Mitigation Strategy – Policies are only good if they are communicated. Your employees should know what your COVID-19 policy and protocols are. Your customers and visitors should also know what is expected of them while they are on site at your business. Post clear signs at the entrance of your business and train your staff on how to best handle noncompliance by employees or customers who are on site. Knowing how to handle these situations in advance can help diffuse what might otherwise turn into a confrontational or aggressive situation. Remember that you are dealing with people and formulate an approach and strategy that is conducive to the “human” side of the situation.
- Remain Flexible – COVID-19 is an entirely new disease about which all of us are still learning and the guidance continues to change as we learn more. Businesses must stay flexible and adapt their strategies as the course of the pandemic shifts and changes. Above all else, try to remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with something that none of us have ever really experienced before. Flexibility is the name of the game. Someone once reminded me that a person who remains flexible will never get bent out of shape or broken. Those are wise words for such a time as this.
One final note is worth making. Many businesses have recently enacted vaccine mandates for workers, with some going even further and requiring proof of vaccination in order to enter a business. Given the novelty of the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine mandates have become somewhat controversial, and their future is uncertain. There have been some legal challenges to vaccine mandates, and these challenges will continue to play out in court.
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