Legal Issues for Businesses Re-opening During COVID-19

June 25, 2020

Restrictions are being lifted, new guidelines have come out, and San Diego businesses are slowly re-opening to the public. But, how can you protect your business from liability when re-opening on the heels of a global pandemic? 

In this blog post, we discuss the legal issues to watch for, how to make your business safe, and how to limit your business’ risk of liability.

Legal Issues Business Owners Should Know About Before Re-Opening

Negligence-based claims are possible with the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Infected persons coming into contact with other employees, vendors, or patrons within a business can open the door to liability if the business owner has not taken reasonable steps to limit on-site exposure. As such, business owners need to make the appropriate adjustments to business practices to keep everyone safe.

Business owners must be aware of the duty owed to employees, vendors, and customers, and take careful measures to properly warn, provide protection, and make the premises safe to avoid premises liability actions. In the very worst cases, there could be the potential for personal injury and even wrongful death cases, so it is important to take safety concerns seriously when planning to re-open.

Business owners should also be careful in making claims about keeping the business safe for patrons. Any advertisements about the steps a business is taking to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure on-site opens the door to false advertising claims. This does not mean business owners should not publicize their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. It just means that business owners should be careful to ensure all claims are factually accurate, complete, and not misleading as any inaccurate claims, especially making guarantees about the lack of exposure, will almost definitely result in liability in the event someone does contract COVID-19 which can be traced back to the business.

Additional legal issues business owners should keep in mind when re-opening after COVID-19 include employment and worker’s compensation matters. With many businesses temporarily closing during the pandemic, employees were furloughed, laid off, or lost benefits or pay. While many of these employees qualified for unemployment benefits, returning to work will pose new challenges with schedule adjustments, new safety measures, exposure risks, and other changes.

How Businesses Can Keep Their Customers and Employees Safe

For many businesses, returning to routine business practices may not comply with health guidelines for re-opening. Before re-opening, businesses must have a plan in place to navigate the changes needed to allow the business to thrive while keeping customers and employees safe. A few things you could consider doing include:

  • Adjusting operating hours, work shifts, and/or employee schedules to accommodate social distancing and allow adequate time for new cleaning and sanitization procedures.
  • Limiting the number of patrons present in your business.
  • Implementing safety measures are appropriate for your business, such as wearing masks and gloves.
  • Implementing a screening process with temperature checks.

With so much information and constantly changing guidelines, it can be overwhelming for business owners when re-opening. An attorney can help you navigate these liability issues after COVID-19. If you have questions about liability for your business, contact our office today.

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