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Preparing for Retail’s Re-Opening Post-Quarantine

Preparing for Retail’s Re-Opening Post-Quarantine

While states such as Colorado, Georgia, and Texas have already let their respective stay-at-home orders lapse and retail stores reopen, other parts of the U.S., including New York State, the epicenter of the outbreak, are anticipating “phased re-openings” in the coming months. Retailers should take this time to prepare and plan for such re-openings in a way that protects both employees and consumers alike.  In New York State, Governor Cuomo has stated that businesses will have to “reimagine” how they conduct business by implementing safety precautions, a short guide of which is below:

  • Adjust workplace hours and shift design to reduce the density
    • Adjust or modify store hours to provide adequate time for cleaning and stocking with physical distancing
    • Stagger employee breaks in compliance with wage and hour regulations, to maintain physical distancing protocols
  • Enact social distancing protocols
    • Install physical barriers, such as plexiglass partitions, where feasible
    • Implement “hands-free” ways for customers to pay; move electronic payment terminal/credit card reader farther away from the cashier; require customers to bag their own purchases, if possible
    • Use visual cues (floor markings, colored tape or signs) to indicate where people should stand
    • Limit the number of in-store customers based on the size of the store and queue customers outside while maintaining physical distance
  • Restrict non-essential travel for employees
    • Allow employees to shift hours so they can commute during less busy times
    • Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others
  • Require all employees and customers to wear masks if in frequent contact with others
    • Train employees on proper usage of masks and other protective equipment
    • Use signage to remind customers that masks are required to enter the store and should stay on at all times
  • Implement strict cleaning and sanitation standards
    • Equip customer entrances, exits, checkout stations and changerooms with proper sanitation products (e.g. tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol)
    • Provide products and signage to encourage personal hygiene of employees (e.g. hand soap, disinfectants, disposable towels, and gloves)
    • Use EPA-registered disinfectants and follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for sanitizing and disinfecting
  • Enact continuous health screening process for individuals to enter the workforce
    • Train employees on self-screening protocols and implement the self-certification process
    • The EEOC (the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has provided guidance that employers may (i) ask employees who report feeling ill at work, or who call in sick, questions about their symptoms and (ii) take employees’ temperature, to determine if they have COVID-19
    • Employers may not ask asymptomatic employees to disclose whether they have any pre-existing conditions that would make them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19
    • Develop a policy of how employees should notify the employer if they test positive for and/or exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19
  • Continue tracing, tracking and reporting cases
    • In order to prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, employers should take care to make employee health screenings as private as possible and maintain the confidentiality of each individual’s medical status and history
    • Understand the reporting requirements of COVID-19 cases to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Develop liability process

Consult with legal counsel to understand the applicability of workers’ compensation statutes to COVID-19 related claims (which varies by jurisdiction)Every state and locality will have its own standards for what retailers must to do safely open and businesses should consult with legal counsel where appropriate to understand jurisdictional and industry-specific requirements

 

Kathey practices corporate, intellectual property, and transactional law at HBA. Her practice focuses on corporate transactions including venture capital investments, financings and mergers, and acquisitions as well as outside general counsel work, primarily in the fashion, lifestyle, and technology industries.