Assessing Liability: Best Foot Forward Preparations for Reopening



As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift across the nation, many businesses are gearing up to reopen their doors and invite employees back to the office sometime before fall. In Michigan, reopening metrics are currently tied to vaccination distribution numbers, but Gov. Whitmer recently allowed for the possibility of a return to normalcy by Independence Day. Despite some employers’ plans to continue work from home practices in some capacity indefinitely, others are counting down the days for a return to the office. However, before employees reclaim their cubicles, businesses have much to consider regarding liability.

While many states, including Michigan, have passed some form of COVID-related business liability legislation, businesses should remain diligent as not all liability is eliminated by these laws. According to The Business Journals, businesses working toward reopening should pay special attention to state and county guidelines for mask mandates and continue extra precautions regarding cleaning and potential employee exposures1.

Part of that potential liability awareness relates to another growing point of focus: employee vaccination programs. As previously reported, companies will want to ensure that their approach to encouraging vaccination among employees is legal, above all else. The American Society of Employers advises that employers should make vaccinations a voluntary practice and encourage vaccination rather than mandate it. Due to recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance, employers that mandate vaccination will then have to record an adverse reaction, which could result in legal turmoil later2.

The National Law Review suggests that companies employ a task force:

“The task force, if one does not already exist, should consist of a small group of individuals within each company location, including representatives from all work shifts, who will help prepare a Preparedness and Response Plan. In some states, such a plan is required by executive order or state law as a condition of operation. As this list is constantly changing, we recommend reviewing current state law at the time the employer is considering reopening and regularly reviewing applicable law throughout the reopening process3.”

Further, companies and firms should develop their plan for reopening, including how to source exposure, controls, contingency plans and practical changes to the workplace such as more frequent cleaning, signage and office space arrangements to provide more distance between employees, etc.

The MICPA will continue to track developments regarding employer guidelines for reopening in Michigan as they become available. Members can also review our COVID-19 Resources for additional and breaking related news.

  1. Lundine, Susan. “What Businesses Need to Know About How to Avoid…The Business Journals. 30 Apr. 2021. Accessed on 5 May 2021.
  2. Burns, Michael. “One More Employer Vaccination Concern…American Society of Employers. 27 Apr. 2021. Accessed on 6 May 2021.
  3. Foley’s & Lardner. “Best Practices for Returning to Work in a Vaccinated World…The National Law Review. 13 Apr. 2021. Accessed on 6 May 2021.

Source: MICPA

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