Considerations Regarding Reopening of Business in Lancaster
Last weekend, an announcement was made from a group of elected officials in Lancaster County that the County intends to go from the “red” phase to the “yellow” phase of re-opening our community and economy on Friday, May 15. This is in contrast to the Wolf Administration guidelines. Similar announcements were made from other communities across the Commonwealth and the Governor responded with warnings related to withholding federal funding, revoking licenses or permits for businesses, and commercial insurance not covering claims. That said, he also indicated that he did not have plans to have the Attorney General intervene, although he did indicate that State Police would be enforcing the guidelines.
We know this announcement has created a variety of reactions – and we are compelled to strongly caution businesses of the legal consequences of opening outside of the Governor’s guidelines.
We are also compelled to provide helpful resources for consideration:
- The Governor’s threats to revoke licenses and permits is very serious. With the Commonwealth administering over 250 types of professional licenses covering a wide range of industries, employers should absolutely consider consulting an attorney to understand the ramifications of their decisions.
- The Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner issued a warning on risks and increased liability with non-compliance of business closure orders. You can review that press release here. We encourage employers and businesses to contact their insurance carrier and inquire whether operating under these circumstances could jeopardize their coverage.
- The PA Liquor Control Board issued an update to Advisory Notice No. 26, here, that outlines clarifications. A key point in the advisory is that the Board will only recognize the Governor’s designation of a county, despite any statements local officials may make, and that licensees must continue to adhere to the requirements set forth in the advisory notice or risk citation and/or license suspension.
- PA has prepared flyers to promote COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses. Similar to other required postings (i.e. Workers’ Compensation or OSHA), these postings will be required to be clearly displayed at workplaces, along with publicly posted acknowledgement by the employer that the guidance is being adhered to. Flyers are available in English and Spanish.
- The Lancaster Chamber’s website contains many helpful tools and guidance for operations as businesses consider in their pre-planning for their path to re-opening.
- Section 2 has FAQ’s from the Department of Health, a thorough guide to facility planning, employee mask guidance, safety & sanitation guidance and EEOC & ADA requirements and standards. You can check all of them out at www.lancasterchamber.com/coronavirus.
- Section 3 includes recordings of helpful webinars as you plan: Workplace Considerations & Compliance, Workplace Considerations Practical Strategies Panel, Maintaining a Compliant Workforce – and two coming up: Ask an Attorney: Workplace Compliance (tomorrow!) and an Employee Handbook Session.
- Check out BringingPABack.com/prepare-your-workplace for industry specific guidelines and best practices – inclusive of construction, restaurant & lodging, retail, manufacturing, bed & breakfast inns, childcare, and amusement parks & attractions.
- And finally, while the Governor’s business shutdown order is being challenged in court, his authority has been upheld to this point.
With all of the above in mind, we recognize that people can disagree with whether or not the Governor’s authority is over-reaching; they can note that the guidelines have been confusing/unfair; and they can lament the lack of transparency in the waiver process; but for now his guidelines are legally enforceable and therefore require us to advise members of our business community accordingly.