In Texas, many businesses have started the process of reopening after stay-at-home orders designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections have been lifted. As many employers consider reopening their businesses in Dallas and throughout Texas, it is important to consider a variety of legal and liability issues that could impact your business. While distinct types of businesses may face particular issues when it comes to reopening, in general, employers should consider many different employment law issues when they are considering opening up again. The following are some important issues to take into account when you are deciding whether it is time to reopen your business to the Dallas public, and what obligations you have as a Texas employer during the coronavirus pandemic.
Do You Have Sufficient Worker and Customer Safety Measures in Place?
Both worker and customer safety will be extremely important to consider when it comes to operating your business and avoiding liability. In terms of worker safety, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends certain safety practices that employers should implement in their workplaces, including but not limited to the following:
- Requiring and providing personal protection equipment (PPE) for workers, including masks and gloves, for example;
- Pre-screening employees by checking temperatures before they enter the business;
- Requiring employees and customers to maintain social distancing;
- Regularly monitoring employees for symptoms, and asking employees to monitor their own symptoms; and
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting work spaces.
In addition, employers should be aware of relevant OSHA guidance on reopening workplaces, as well as guidance from the Texas Governor’s office. While neither are legal requirements, they can help employers avoid OSHA claims and negligence claims.
Disability Rights and Workplace Accommodations
Employees who have an underlying condition that could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could be eligible to seek and receive a reasonable accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic unless such accommodation would create an undue hardship on the business. It is extremely important for employers in Dallas to understand their legal responsibilities when it comes to the ADA and providing reasonable accommodations to workers. Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, or taking any sort of action that could be construed as retaliation, could result in an employee filing a federal claim under the ADA.
Furloughs and Rehiring
If you have furloughed employees and want to bring them back to work, you may be bound by existing employment contracts or other agreements. At the same time, it is important to know that you are not obligated by law to rehire employees who have been furloughed (absent such a contract or agreement). However, in some circumstances, and based on the terms of certain federal loans available to business owners, you may be required to retain and pay certain employees. You should discuss your particular situation with an employment lawyer.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney in Dallas
If you have questions or concerns about your legal obligations when it comes to bringing employees back to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should get in touch with a Dallas employment law attorney as soon as possible. One of the experienced Texas employment lawyers at our firm can speak with you today about reopening your business and bringing your employees back in a way that limits your own liability and keeps your workers safe. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC today to learn more about how we can assist you.