Employer Liability Considerations for Re-Opening After COVID-19

Employer COnsiderations Hearne and Bailey sqSBY

By Reena Patel

As Maryland has started to reopen its businesses, many in the business community are wondering how Covid-19 will affect their business and what additional liability will they face.  On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual webinar to address these concerns. The webinar was facilitated by Reena Patel, an attorney for the Salisbury-based law firm, Hearne & Bailey, P.A..

There are numerous legal areas where businesses are already facing litigation such as violations of the Families First Corona Virus Response Act, traditional Family Medical Leave Act requests, Americans with Disabilities Act, Wage and Hour Claims, discrimination, and Workers Compensation.

Although employers can’t completely stop someone from filing a lawsuit, there are many things they can do to enhance safety for their employees, customers, and clients.  For example, employers should think about how they will routinely clean and disinfect the office, how to handle employees who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, and accommodate employees at high-risk for complications of contracting COVID-19, spacing employees, providing PPE, and permitting employees to continue to work remotely.  Employers should also ensure that any new policies and procedures related to COVID-19 precautions are communicated in writing and applied equally to all employees.

Most importantly, employers should follow all government guidelines including, but not limited to those issued by EEOC, CDC, OSHA, federal, state, and local governments. Useful links for that guidance are provided below.

Lastly, employers should keep an eye out for new legislation regarding their liability related to COVID-19.  There has been a push to enact a law to shield businesses from liability if they follow all applicable guidelines.  Conversely, the AFL-CIO has filed suit seeking a short deadline for OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard protecting workers from COVID-19.

As with many issues related to COVID-19, laws related to COVID-19 employer liability is rapidly changing. More changes are expected.  Stay vigilant and stay informed.

Resources:

Salisbury Corona Recovery Taskforce – https://salisbury.md/crtf

Wicomico County Health Department – https://www.wicomicohealth.org/preparedness/coronavirus-covid-19/

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  – https://www.eeoc.gov/coronavirus

Centers for Disease Control – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html

OSHAhttps://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

Executive Ordershttps://governor.maryland.gov/category/executive-orders/

Court Administrative Ordershttps://mdcourts.gov/adminorders

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