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Doug Currier, Chairman of the Verrill Dana Labor and Employment Group, offered these tips to companies on how to protect themselves from a possible coronavirus-related lawsuit after they reopen:
– Keeping up with the governor’s orders and federal recommendations on health standards: The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development maintains a page with the various security checklists for businesses that can open. Governor Janet Mills regularly issues executive orders that may overwrite the above requirements. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USA They also offer general security guides for companies.
[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]
– Carefully communicate with customers and employees: This could start with signage upon arrival that informs customers of any unique policies that your company has implemented during the pandemic. Employees must also know the reasons for these policies and be able to articulate them.
– Inform employees of their rights: Workers are eligible for up to two weeks of paid leave for virus-related reasons under a federal stimulus program. The US Department of Labor. USA Offer a poster about the law in the workplace.
– Maintain social distancing plans, even if they are not mandatory: Social distancing has become the norm, so even if your place of business has ample space, keep in mind that customers may feel more comfortable seeing active efforts to maintain physical distances.
– Training of employees and supervisors: Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them so that they and their clients are safe, whether it is frequent hand washing or not meeting in a break room.
– Maintain detailed checklists and records: This will help establish routines to maintain a safe and clean workplace.
– Monitoring to ensure that the rules are applied: If you are sued, the documentation will be important to show that you met the safety requirements.
– Exploring testing options, especially in high-risk businesses: This additional step shows your employees and customers that you are concerned about them and that they take their safety seriously.
– Be proactive if you can file a lawsuit: File the first injury report with Workers’ Compensation Insurance if an employee becomes ill and the business owner believes it may be from work.
– Educating yourself about employee rights: Please note that there may be legal protections for employees who cannot come to work because they have children at home or if they or their loved ones have COVID-19 or symptoms of the disease.
– Know the details of government requirements: For example, the US Small Business Administration. USA Has a detailed guide to the Paycheck Protection Program, which includes important loan forgiveness provisions that apply if at least 75 percent of the funds are used for payroll costs if the rest is used on a mortgage , rent or utilities.
– Know when to stop: Take a conservative approach when in doubt.
Look: Janet Mills outlines her plan to reopen