Governor's COVID-19 Order Affects Small Businesses

Date: April 08, 2021

Gov. Kay Ivey has issued an executive order that includes guidelines for small businesses and other employers.

Under the governor’s latest “Safer Apart” order, issued April 7, “all employers are encouraged to take reasonable steps, where practicable as work duties permit, to protect their employees by: a. encouraging use of masks and facial coverings; b. maintaining six feet of separation between employees (or, alternatively, maintaining separation between employees through an impermeable partition); c. regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces; d. encouraging handwashing; and, e. preventing employees who are sick from coming into contact with other persons.”

The order takes effect at 5 p.m. on April 9, 2021. Click here to read it.

The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee today issued a guide on best practices for businesses to avoid liability under the governor’s order. NFIB is a member of the committee, and State Director Rosemary Elebash serves as treasurer.

The committee said:

“Businesses and employers are generally protected under Act No. 2021-4 against COVID-19-related suits unless the claimant shows by clear and convincing evidence that the covered entity did not reasonably attempt to comply with the then applicable public health guidance. The law defines ‘applicable public health guidance’ as orders by the Governor, State Health Officer, or the State Board of Health. This is an important distinction because the federal Centers For Disease Control continues to issue guidance recommending mask mandates, social distancing and stringent hygiene measures.

“Therefore, beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Friday the applicable state Safer Apart Order directs businesses and employers to continue to take precautions by encouraging masking and social distancing rather than mandating such precautions. Businesses and employers are now rightfully asking what actions they need to take in order to protect against liability in the event a patron or employer contends they contracted COVID as a result of their acts or omissions. Of course, as Governor Ivey acknowledged, businesses located in cities that have continued mask mandates should adhere to those mandates and are legally obliged to do so. And, businesses and employers who are not located in one of these cities may voluntarily elect to enforce masking and social distancing at their place of business by their patrons and employees. For those who do not choose to the continuation of mandates, it would be prudent at a very minimum to adopt, and post prominently, notifications of the business or employer’s policy encouraging the protections outlined above. The Governor’s Office has provided such notifications below that may be helpful and use of these signs can prove that the business or employer has followed ‘applicable health guidance.'”

Related Content: Small Business News | Alabama

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