Business Protocols for Returning to Work

Alex Almazan

Do you open?  Do you stay closed?  Rehire employees or leave them colleting unemployment until you can fully reopen?  These are some of the myriad of questions businesses have been pondering as we now begin to all reopen in some new manner.  However, the well being of the employees that especially small business owners see as integral to their company culture, is critical and of utmost importance.

87% (13 of 15) of closed or significantly restricted states in America have Democratic governors despite governing a much smaller 48% (24 of 50) of all 50. That means clear evidence of politics influencing decisions as there is an equally damaging inverse openness policy for states run by Republican governors yet COVID-19 doesn’t treat a New Yorker and a Texan differently.  Politics is playing too large a role over math and science in what we are being told is best for us.  Emotion also has no place in these political decisions made by our elected leaders but it will for those business owners that must decide how much longer they can stay closed without closing permanently or how to reopen with caution so their business and employees can return to work.

Barbershops and salons are able to open but pursuant to Florida guidelines for reopening can only do so by appointment, wearing masks but no gloves required and must have 15 minutes in between appointments to allow time to sanitize their stations between clients.  Who would have ever thought a barbershop would basically be accepting spaced out appointments for a haircut like a golfer’s tee times?   They are also asked to follow Florida sanitation regulations applicable to these services and these locations as promulgated in Rule 61G3-19.011 (Barbershop Requirements) and Rule 61G5-20.002 (Salon Requirements) of the Florida Administrative Code.

Restaurants are allowed to open in 65 of 67 Florida counties with Miami Dade and Broward County as the lone exceptions and Miami looking to do so as of Monday, May 18th.  What does their new business model look like?  The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in partnership with the National Restaurant Association has guidance available online as to food safety, cleaning/sanitizing, employee health and addresses other issues as well.  Here are some things restaurants must do pursuant to Executive Order 20-112 issued by Governor DeSantis on April 29, 2020 that took effect as of May 4, 2020:

  • Abide by social distancing measures, including for outside seating
  • Open at no greater than 25% of their capacity
  • Maintain at least 6 feet between parties
  • Not seat more than 10 people at any one table and bar counters must remain closed

Here is what restaurants will likely need to additionally and voluntarily do:

  • Stagger shifts for employees and employ less people to reduce congestion
  • Implement rigorous and scheduled sanitization intervals with increased cleaning potencies
  • Require staff to wear masks and gloves and wash hands more regularly
  • Take temperature readings of employees before they begin their shifts to reduce liability and keep sick employees at home
  • Post signage restricting customer access if you have a fever or COVID-19 symptoms
  • Provide hand sanitizer stations for customers.

For other companies that have offices with primarily desk job employees it will depend on the configuration and size of the existing office and available mobilities therein.  Staggering employees daily or weekly depending on spacing to continue working remotely, requiring employees to wear masks when leaving their desks and requiring them to stay home when having a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms such as muscle aches, chills, headaches or a sore throat.  While Congress goes back and forth considering whether and how to shield businesses from liability, it rests on the business owners to make decisions that are common sensical and potentially with the advice of legal counsel.  Joining the well being of  employees with the abilities of the business that employs them to make enough money to continue to operate.

If you are in the service industry it is to be expected that your clients will not be coming back with the same or similar regularity to see you in person anytime soon but should they need to for any reason, they should be required to wear a mask in order to enter your business and be socially distanced for any meeting with anyone there.  They should wash their hands before meeting with you and have hand sanitizers available for added use.  Employees should be given wider flexibility to be outside where possible and have restrictions on their ability to congregate inside such as having lunch together in closed spaces.  Meetings should be conducted via video chat like Zoom or Microsoft Teams (maximum 4 participants) when possible or in person adhering to social distancing while still wearing masks if in a conference room for example.  Requiring employees to wear masks when getting up from their desks for any reason and ensuring they have hand sanitizers within reach at all times along with plenty of soap in bathroom and kitchen areas for hand washing should be part of your guidelines for re-opening day.

Have open communications with your employees and listen to them.  Do not let political affiliations influence what common sense, your employee’s concerns and caring for your employees and the business that employs them tells you is right.

Alexander P Almazan, Esq
Managing Shareholder
Almazan Law, P.A.

Almazan Law is a full service litigation, insurance defense and real estate law firm with 8 lawyers headquartered in South Miami with an office in Palm Beach.  Alex is the managing shareholder and a 20 year practicing attorney handling real estate transactions, title insurance and closings of properties in all 67 Florida counties who also advises and defends large corporations and insurance carriers in liability, workers compensation and business disputes.

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