As of the date of this article, several states are beginning to lift their shelter-in-place and social distancing orders. As a result, many more people will be returning to work in the weeks and months ahead.
From a public health perspective, it is yet to be seen whether this is a wise decision or not. However, the prospect of people being out of work for an extensive period can have devastating economic consequences. As a result, state governors are weighing the balance of these two competing interests.
As companies begin returning to work, there are a variety of coronavirus legal issues which companies will need to address and navigate. In this article, we will address three major issues affecting businesses and will continue to affect businesses in the weeks and months ahead. As we proceed through this public health crisis, these legal issues will need to be addressed, and ultimately, a portion of these disputes will be decided by the courts in litigation.
Inability to Meet Contractual Obligations or Delays in Delivery of Goods and Services
First, prior to the pandemic and the economic shut down, companies had contractual obligations with vendors for products and services. Many of these were long-term contracts.
As a result of the pandemic, for many businesses these commercial contracts were suddenly not being fulfilled. As companies go back to work, there will be disputes regarding the proper way to resolve these unfulfilled obligations.
Switching to Different Suppliers, or Using Different Products Due to Product Shortages and Price Changes
Second, due to the public health crisis and economic shutdown, there will be shortages of products which were under contract — for example, raw materials used in the home building process. This may result in breach of contract issues with current suppliers, and new contractual issues with new suppliers when negotiating price.
Failure to Adequately Protect the Health and Safety of Employees
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic will also bring unique repercussions to businesses from employees. As nearly everyone will admit, this is a unique issue facing the world today and facing businesses. For example, state governors had to define and issue orders regarding the difference between essential and non-essential businesses.
Recently, there were reports that several New York Amazon warehouse employees contracted COVID-19. As more employees go back to work, public health experts are cautious that we may see infections increase, but perhaps not as many as and not at the same rate of the last few weeks and months. Employers will need to develop policies to address and protect the health and safety of their employees.
The failure to develop adequate policies to protect employees — as well as control the spread of COVID-19 in the event of an infection at their place of employment — will likely to lead many businesses to litigation.
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As the economy reopens and more people go back to work, there are a variety of legal issues which businesses will need to properly navigate. The failure to properly navigate these legal issues can lead to significant liability for both small and large companies.
The attorneys at Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt, LPA are here to help you. Please contact our office at (513) 241-0400 or use our contact form to schedule a time to discuss your legal questions with one of our attorneys. The attorneys at Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt, LPA look forward to speaking with you!