The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing to light issues and concerns many nonprofit organizations, businesses, community groups, and governments have not typically needed to address on a large scale. In a recent webinar, Venable attorneys representing the Nonprofit, Insurance, and Labor and Employment practices shared their observations and advice for both the common and the lesser-known issues nonprofit organizations and businesses in general might be encountering.
From event cancellations to ensuring workplace safety, decision-making while remaining mindful of the tension between legal best practices and business operation best practices can be confusing. Thinking about a few things now can contribute to your action plan for preparedness:
Don't underestimate the power of your insurance policies.Speaking with your broker and your insurer now can help frame the types of coverage available to you, its limits, and any caveats to consider. Does your current coverage include event cancellation, business interruption, commercial general liability, and/or environmental insurance? How can you utilize each of those during this outbreak?
Event cancellation can be tricky, whether you're a host or an attendee.As a host, what do your contracts specify under their force majeure clauses? Separately negotiated contracts will contain separate and distinct clauses, so review each one carefully. How will cancellation impact the relationships you've worked hard to build with your sponsors, vendors, attendees, and hosts? Can you work on alternative, creative ways to convene, either in smaller numbers or virtually?
Clear and consistent communication is vital.Internal stakeholders at every level – whether contractors, employees, or board members – will rely on transparency and clear messaging to make their health and welfare decisions. External contacts – clients, vendors, and peers – should be able to trust that you're sharing important updates in a timely manner. Additionally, any communication may be discoverable in an insurance claim, so consistency is key to mitigating potential future liability.
There is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution.Each person will have a unique level of exposure, based on their personal and professional interactions, and a different level of tolerance for that exposure. How can you enable responsible decision-making to allow employees, attendees, and others to act in safe and secure ways for their personal protection and the protection of those around them? Visitor restrictions and office closures are within a business's control, but should you pursue personal travel restrictions? Speaking with counsel on issues like this will establish legal and ethical parameters for operations.
The full extent to which coronavirus will impact U.S. and international business is yet to be seen. By addressing those issues that will contribute to the health and safety of our workforces and communities now, we can work to mitigate the impact of this pandemic.
The full webinar and additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available here.