As businesses seek to reopen during a global pandemic amid continuing health concerns, questions linger on how to do so safely. Here are some common questions from businesses and individuals, as well as guidance on how to reopen safely:
- Can I be sued as an employer if someone contracts coronavirus while on my premises? The short answer to this question is yes, and the Governor’s press conference yesterday (in which he announced the opening of close-contact businesses as of Monday, May 18th) seemed to stop just short of encouraging individuals to do so. Of course, whether such a suit would ultimately be successful is another question; however, no business (let alone, individual) wants the headache of having to defend against such a suit with so much else on their plate. Accordingly, all businesses would do well to follow the recommendations contained in http://www.accelerate.sc.gov, as well as abide by all DHEC recommendations for their business. Further, note that Executive Order 2020-34 gives DHEC the ability to make any further rules or regulations necessary to clarify the governor’s order. Expect for the DHEC recommendations to change and be prepared to stay abreast of any such changes which could impact your particular business.
- Can I be sued as an employer if an employee contracts coronavirus while on my premises? While South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law does address occupational diseases as compensable injuries, it remains to be seen whether coronavirus would be considered an occupational disease, as it depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the workers’ employment. It would be a novel question for the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and while many employers bemoan the workers’ compensation system, the reality is that the alternative could carry far greater financial consequences for businesses (and potentially their owners) Bottom line: Talk to your workers’ compensation carrier so you are clear on what is covered under your policy and what you need to do to maintain coverage.
- Should I reopen my business? In addition to following the latest news regarding your particular business and whether it is allowed to reopen, listen to the science behind the politics and ensure you are properly protecting your clients as well as your employees. Your future depends on it.
If you have questions, contact a business lawyer today.
Thanks to our friends from The Miller Law Firm, P.A., for their insight into reopening businesses.