Obviously, the best reason to prepare for coronavirus is to protect the health of your workers and your business. But the next best reason is to protect your company from liability risks.
Here are five ways coronavirus could get you into legal trouble that you may not have considered—we certainly had not—all worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks. The information comes from SafetyNow, a global leader in safety training & learning solutions used by organizations like Berkshire Hathaway, Marriott, Lockheed Martin, Saudi Aramco, Rollins and more.
OHS acts include a provision requiring employers to protect workers against foreseeable health and safety hazards not expressly mentioned in the regulations. We know from the SARS, West Nile and avian influenza outbreaks that an infectious illness like coronavirus would be considered a foreseeable hazard that these so-called “general duty” clauses cover.
Although workers’ comp bars workers from suing their employers for negligence, the bar doesn’t apply to third parties that become infected in your workplace or as a result of work-related contact with one of your infected workers.
Wage & Hour Violations
Absenteeism from coronavirus infection might force you to use workers for longer hours and precipitate wage and hour complaints under your state’s employment standards law.
Workers’ Comp Claims
Workers who contract coronavirus at work may file workers’ comp claims.
Disability Discrimination & Failure to Accommodate
A worker who becomes infected or shows symptoms of infection may be considered “disabled” under human right laws. Result: You must accommodate his/her absences or special needs to the point of undue hardship.
Special Report: How the Coronavirus Can Effect Your Business
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Although most of the 82,000-plus cases and 2,800-plus deaths come from the city of Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei where the virus originated, the coronavirus has now spread to six of the seven continents.
While not overreacting, CEOs should get ready for the potential impact on their operations as we wait to see if the coronavirus becomes a significant public health risk in North America. To help, Chief Executive reached out to our trusted partners at SafetyNow.
They’ve prepared a 35-page report for our community on how the coronavirus could impact business, including a playbook for taking steps to protect employees, insure continuity and mitigate legal risks from both an OHS and HR perspective. It includes numerous checklists, best practices, model programs, a coronavirus screening form and a lot more. We’re providing it for free to Chief Executive’s readers via SafetyNow’s website.