Steps to Reopen Businesses - Soto Law Group, P.A.

Steps to Reopen Businesses

Written By: Oscar Soto, Esq

As States start reopening sectors of the economy, it is important to have a plan in action to facilitate this transition. Below you will find a list of recommendations for the construction industries and other businesses.

Check Best Health Practices and Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) website should be checked for updates. Moreover, recommendations and executive orders of the concerned State and the local health agency should be closely monitored.

For the construction industry, it is wise to communicate the status of construction and what contractors are doing to maintain safe and productive job sites, it is advisable to cover which standards and practices are in place on job sites and how to best approach the decisions on which projects should be permitted and how to phase in those decisions.

The procedure for communicating changes to employees and management should be regularly set. Training of staff should be implemented on both general knowledge of virus (symptoms, spread, and resources, etc.) and proper sanitation process. Businesses will have to create ways to adapt operations as these standards are put in place.

Meet terms of Employment Laws

Businesses should be aware of and conform to the employment laws, which include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other state and local discrimination laws. Under ADA, it is prohibited to limit access to information that employers may request from or share with employees. It can be personal medical information, family medical history, and participation in medical exams.

Remember to check the updates with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as it contains extensive provisions, including employee benefits. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act require all employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees who have been working for at least 30 days the right to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for the employee’s minor child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed or is unavailable due to COVID-19 and the employee is unable to work or telework.

Create leave entitlements and other accommodations for those employees who are affected by COVID-19. You also need to figure out whether a case of COVID-19 must be documented or reported under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Businesses should set a procedure and protection on how to respond to employees’ complaints and concerns.

Plan for Safe Interactions

 The businesses dealing with the public every day should follow CDC, state and local public health authorities, and OSHA recommendations. These recommendations are applicable to both employees and customers. All must maintain the required social distancing measures.

For protection against droplet exposure, masks are recommended. For those working in the construction industry, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County have established orders that enforce the use of masks, social distancing, and daily self-screening check-ins.

It will be wise for businesses to use online and social media selling strategies to minimize physical contact with customers/ clients to satisfy OSHA standards and social distancing rules.

 Create Guidelines for Space Sharing and Control Issues

Many businesses have shared control and responsibility over space. In this scenario, the following steps can be taken.

Considerations for Landlords

Develop a plan to comply with guidelines of CDC, OSHA, State, and local agencies regarding social distancing, disinfecting procedures, monitoring, and other issues in the common areas, namely garages and elevators. Share plans with your tenants to ensure they are following the rules. Similarly, tenants should communicate their needs and plans with landlords. Best practices of return to work can be added to owners’ association or building rules and manuals.

Landlords should convey to their tenants about the precautions to prevent the spread of  COVID-19. Warnings should be given if an infected person has used any common areas.

Determine who is responsible for the additional costs associated with social distancing and sanitation practices. Bylaws and covenants laid down in leases should be consulted to ascertain how responsibilities and expenses can be borne.

Considerations for Invitees/Vendors/Third Parties

 CDC, state, and local guidance should be followed for third parties. You should inquire about cleaning or disinfecting services used by vendors. Limit where invitees, vendors, and third parties can go in the building.

In case of detection of any COVID-19 case, both landlords and tenants will determine whether some or the entire building should be closed for cleaning. In the event of the total shutdown of the building, you should know who is responsible for the damages under each potential scenario. An appropriate business interruption insurance policy can be developed.

Effectively Communicate with all Stakeholders

Businesses should make sure that each communication has clarity. They should consider their effects. Practical advice should be given to employees and third parties regarding new and updated guidelines. Information and updates can be displayed physically or communicated through website, social media, emails, or text messages. The public should be reassured that the business is aware of and has implemented best practices for the spread of the virus. Employees should be made aware of their legal rights and obligations under applicable laws. If there is a case of specific potential exposure to COVID-19, businesses should comply with their confidentiality obligations under the ADA.

Businesses, while reopening and operating, should give health the highest priority. By following the above laws, you can curb COVID-19 even after the reopening of your businesses.

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