Not Business as Usual: Legal Considerations during COVID-19
In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world and forced communities to reevaluate everything. Despite the unpredictability that has accompanied this global crisis, it is not too late to implement changes to protect you, your employees, and your business. Here are some tips and strategies to help your business navigate these challenges and the ones to come.
Participate In and Promote Social Distancing Practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that employers “explore establish[ing] policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others.” At the time of this writing, the President has discouraged gatherings of more than ten individuals. As an employer, creating a safe and healthy environment is critical for your company’s success. Thus, employers must work toward complying with the guidance provided by local and federal leaders. Be sure to maintain the cleanliness and sanitization of any facilities where your business operates. Failure to maintain safe environments could result in loss of the goodwill you have already established within your community.
Review Contractual Obligations. Given the widespread economic impact of this pandemic and the sweeping restrictions many businesses and individuals face, it is quite likely various contractual obligations will be in question. Consequently, you should review your various contracts to determine (1) the extent to which the spread of COVID-19 has impacted either party’s ability to complete tasks, (2) whether the contract has provisions that address potential delays, and (3) how a party may terminate or require performance of the contract. This may specifically involve reviewing the common force majeure provision. Upon review, you may find that you need to reach out to the other party to the contract to figure out how to best proceed. Please bear in mind that termination of the contract is likely not required or even the best step to take. The country and the world as a whole are facing similar challenges, which can open up opportunities for greater collaborative problem-solving. The contracts in question may need to be revised to reflect a new joint decision made by both parties given the extenuating circumstances.
Communicate Clear Plans and Expectations to Employees. As a business owner, you must create policies that keep your employees aligned with your stated business objectives. As a result, when you implement COVID-19-related changes, it is critical to communicate these changes as quickly and clearly as possible. This may mean hosting virtual meetings to announce any new initiatives your company decides to take. It also includes documenting these initiatives and reviewing other procedures that are more relevant during this specific crisis. With thi