While it is premature to think the crisis is over (at best, it's the "end of the beginning") and we could see restrictions re-imposed if cases and deaths continue to climb, states are relaxing restrictions and businesses are reopening.
Conditions can differ even within states; Pennsylvania will relax restrictions in the less populated northwest and north-central areas on May 8 while the rest of the state remains shut down.
Depending on local laws and regulations, watch for these risks in recalling workers:
- Implement health and safety protocols. Compliance is the best defense against claims.
- If workers need to stay home to care for children or the elderly or due to medical reasons, be sure their rights are protected. Comply with laws such as FMLA.
- Older workers and those with health conditions should be treated humanely. Avoid actions which could lead to discrimination charges.
- Changes in the work force could lead to constructive dismissal of some workers. These changes should not be made unilaterally and an employment lawyer should be consulted.
- Workers being terminated should get severance pay. This is important as unemployment compensation applications are delayed.
- The legal liability of employers if employees or customers get sick is still an open question. Businesses should take all reasonable precautions. As stated above, compliance with regulations is the best defense. Businesses that are reckless will probably pay a penalty, in reputation if not legal costs.
More details will be forthcoming.