Business Considerations for a Reopening World
As vaccination rates continue to increase in the United States, many businesses are trying to navigate what that means for their operations, employees, and next steps. While things are looking more optimistic, it’s still important to keep in mind the risk of COVID-19, to keep up to date on guidance, and to know how to keep your team safe while hopefully boosting revenue!
First, make sure you’re familiar with the latest guidance. In Pennsylvania, COVID-19 restrictions changed on April 4th, with many businesses able to increase to 75% capacity and the food with alcohol rule eliminated (among other changes). However, many recommended safety procedures have stayed the same, and as businesses get more customers and things reopen, it is important to make sure that you are still keeping up to date to keep everyone safe. PA lists and updates its guidance for businesses here: https://www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/business-guidance/.
You also want to make sure your operating procedures are updated. Have you checked your contracts, COVID-19 addendums (do you have one?!), waivers, safety measures, and customer terms to make sure they reflect the latest guidance and best practices for safety? Now is a good time to speak with an attorney or make updates to account for the upcoming season. Especially businesses that do work related to events, weddings, and in-person activities should decide what those activities look like in 2021 and clearly communicate safety expectations (and that they may change) to employees and customers.
If you’re a business with employees, research and speak to an attorney about developing a COVID-19 vaccination policy. Some employers are requiring vaccination, while others may choose to simply incentivize it, or not require it. When deciding what policy is right for your business, consider your operations and your risks:
Do your employees all have to be on site?
Are they working close together and/or with the public?
What will it mean for employee/company relations?
Also remember that despite vaccination, employers should still follow applicable CDC, state, and local guidance related to COVID-19 precautions and workplace safety measures.
Employers should also be mindful of the interplay between vaccination policies, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), religious exemptions, the Rehabilitation Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other protections for employees who cannot receive vaccination. Employers have to be careful of making sure policies comply with these laws and do not improperly inquire about employee medical conditions or reasons for not getting vaccinated. The U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a guidance document for employers to reference which covers these laws and their relationship with COVID-19 protocols and vaccinations (among other considerations), which can be found: here. (Section K deals with vaccinations)
Finally, if you and your team have been working remotely, developing a back to work policy or strategy can be important. This can be as simple as stating that you are not currently planning to be back in the office but will communicate a plan once developed. Then work with your attorney and human resources professionals to determine a strategy that accounts for your team, your vaccination policy, and current federal and state guidance.
Things are constantly changing with COVID-19, but the best course of action is to plan for what you know now, how vaccinations play a role in your business operations, and how you and your team will tackle changes going forward. Planning ahead and good communication results in a smoother process for business owners, employees, and customers.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should discuss their specific situation with an attorney.