CDC Guidelines For Re-Opening Your Business

by Evil HR Lady on June 1, 2020

As more and more states loosen COVID restrictions, many business owners and all HR people are in a scramble for how to do so safely and legally and morally. Additionally, you don’t want to get sued–by customers or employees.

The CDC issued guidelines for opening everything. Now, I’m normally from the camp of “the most terrifying thing you can hear is I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” but these guidelines are helpful. In fact, they are helpful in two ways: the tell you the safest way to open your business (based on current guidelines, which will change), and they help protect you from lawsuits.

For instance, they give these suggestions for cleaning:

  1. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.
  2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk.  Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.
  3. When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children. Read EPA’s infographic on how to use these disinfectant products safely and effectively.

Now, if you don’t believe doing this sort of thing will help you stay clear of lawsuits, note this lawsuit filed in Utah against a protein bar company. Employment Attorney Jon Hyman describes it as follows:

What does the employee claim her employer failed to do in the three weeks between the time during which rumors circulated that two of her co-workers tested positive and she tested positive?

Operated the business in violation of federal, state, and local orders regarding the operation of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Threatened employees who raised COVID-19 related safety concerns.

Refused to provide employees with PPE.

Failed to suspend operations to sanitize the facility.

Ignored employees’ safety warnings.

Now, of course, we don’t know what really happened from any filed lawsuit–the business has a different opinion. But, the point stands regardless: If you dismiss CDC guidelines and someone gets sick, you’re going to have a hard time defending your behavior.

This, of course, means, you have to stay on top of things because the guidelines have changed in the past and will change in the future. For instance, the CDC has now said you should not use antibody testing for employment decisions.

Because COVID 19 is considered a direct threat, the EEOC says you can test employees, including COVID tests, antibody tests, and daily temperature checks. However, their new guidelines say no to antibody tests. Lexblog describes it here:

As such, the CDC states that, at this time, antibody testing:

  • should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace; and
  • should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities.

So, while you should get cleaning, make sure people are not seated on top of each other, and send any symptomatic people home, don’t ask for antibody testing.

Check the CDC site regularly for any updates for your business type. It helps keep everyone safe and you out of a courtroom.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny June 1, 2020 at 1:46 pm

I’m glad they changed their stance on antibody testing. The available tests have unacceptably high error rates; flipping a coin would be just as valid. Furthermore, until we know whether the presence of antibodies indicates some immunity to the disease and/or suggests that the person might still be contagious, what would be the point of such testing, since no reliable conclusions could be drawn from the results?

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Evil HR Lady June 1, 2020 at 2:04 pm

Yeah, my cousin is a manager of a hospital lab and she thinks antibody testing is a joke. The rapid responses have 40 percent accuracy. Worse than a coin flip!

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grannybunny June 2, 2020 at 2:33 pm

After totally bungling the development of the diagnostic test — partly by insisting that only they could develop one, and then by contaminating one of the reagents — the CDC overreacted and let anyone put out a serology test, without any kind of vetting. It will probably be quite awhile before the tests get sorted out and we know which ones are valid, and even longer before we know the implications of the presence of antibodies; that is, whether the person is still contagious, or has some type of immunity, etc.

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