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Don’t Panic: Prepare For The Coronavirus

Author: Ginny Cascio Bonifacino, Natasha M. Nazareth Date: 03/04/2020

Categories: Employment Law & Litigation

By now you have been hearing a lot about the Coronavirus (Covid- 19), which has spread to the United States from other parts of the world.  While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that this is not yet a pandemic, it is important that you plan now on how to protect yourself, your employees, and your business from the impact of this virus.  You should not panic, but you should be prepared for a potential emergency of unknown scope and length. 

A few recommendations are as follows: 

Take Preventative Measures.

It is important to ensure that your workplace is properly cleaned, that there is hand sanitizer, tissues, and other cleaners readily available, that sick workers are encouraged to stay home, and that your employees are properly educated.  The CDC has a lot of resources and advice on the steps to take here.  You also should audit your workers’ travel to determine the level of risk versus its importance and limit travel, as needed.  

Ensure your Business Continuity Plan is updated.

You also should review (or create) your business continuity plan.  It should answer the question of how the business will respond and continue if it is affected by the virus, such as: 

  • If the business must close, how will the business continue to function?
  • If a portion of the workforce is affected (such as, if schools close and all parents must stay home), how will the business continue to function?
  • If workers cannot work, how long will you pay them?
  • Are your workers set up to work remotely and do you want them to? 
  • Can you adequately protect the confidential information of your business and of your clients if your workers are working remotely?
  • Do you have business continuity insurance?  If so, what will it cover?

Communicate with your Employees.

During this time of uncertainty, it is important to communicate clearly with your employees about how you are planning for a potential emergency, your expectations of them, and how they will be affected (i.e. paid v. unpaid leave).  Emphasizing an open-door policy to discuss any concerns is helpful to keep up morale. It is also equally important to ensure that you remain their employer — do not advise on medical issues or make any representation that you will provide any extra help if an employee becomes sick.  Refer all questions regarding the virus itself (i.e. likelihood of transmission, potential medical consequences, etc.) to the coronavirus websites of the Centers for Disease Control or the Maryland Department of Health. These resources are updated frequently.    

Remember to follow employment laws. 

Remember to follow all applicable employment laws.  The laws are not suspended by a health emergency. Employers must still ensure they are following American with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, anti-discrimination and harassment; and other relevant federal, state and local laws.   You should monitor your workplace to ensure employees are not singling out certain races or ethnicities because of the current outbreaks around the world. You also need to ensure you remember to maintain the confidentiality of anyone who is sick or whose family members are sick as required by law. 

Maintain optimism. 

In times of difficulty, businesses of all sizes can leverage the planning process to strengthen their culture, optimize operations, and perhaps even offer additional value to their clients.  In the event of an economic downturn or prolonged public health crisis, the best businesses will think creatively and emerge stronger on the other side.  

If you have questions as you are preparing for this potential emergency, please feel free to contact Ginny Cascio Bonifacino at gcbonifacino@mcmillanmetro.com or Natasha M. Nazareth at nnazareth@mcmillanmetro.com