The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges most businesses have ever faced. Many companies already closed down permanently as a result. As companies start the arduous process of re-opening physical locations or choosing to continue social distancing protocols, there are legal implications to consider. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding the COVID-19 crisis and potential legal vulnerabilities for your business.
Face masks, protective shields, and disinfectants are in short supply and difficult to buy. If your company doesn’t have access to PPE, hand sanitizer, and other materials needed to keep employees safe, it is possible that employees could try to hold their employers responsible for putting them at risk. Employees could file class action lawsuits or go on strike to try to force companies to provide them with the supplies they need to stay safe.
Employee and Customer Infections
If your restaurant or retail store opens and customers or employees become infected, it is possible that they may choose to pursue legal action against the company. Who becomes responsible for healthcare costs? If a large outbreak occurs at your business location, it could also be terrible in terms of public relations and customer confidence.
Securing Data Remotely
For companies able to have companies working from home, cybersecurity becomes even more important. Your company is obligated to secure customer data, no matter where employees work or what devices they use. With remote employees, managers have less control over which devices employees access and who may see the data. Certain controls and policies, including working with only reputable and secure tech vendors, can help.
Current conditions can make it more difficult to meet contractual obligations. If disruptions in supply chains leave one of your vendors without access to necessary raw materials, it is possible that they will not be able to honor the terms of your contract. You, in turn, may not have the inventory that you need and could end up facing your own contractual breaches.
Some countries banned international trade and travel, which could have a significant impact on companies that rely on globalization to operate. What happens if trade and travel are not a part of your company’s operations for the next few months? Will there be shortages? For companies that deal in trade and travel, such as cruise lines, what legal vulnerabilities are present for canceled trips and infuriated customers?
Most individuals and companies want to honor essential workers and government officials who are doing good for the community. However, you cannot give gifts to government agencies in many cases. It could be seen as a bribe. It is important to know the rules for your particular industry and locality for gifts to officials.
Business Continuity Plans
During this unprecedented time, all businesses should update or create disaster recovery and business continuity plans that reflect current priorities. If a sole proprietorship’s owner dies, what is supposed to happen with employees? What happens if employees can’t work onsite? These decisions should be detailed in your company’s business continuity plans.