Should Businesses Consider COVID-19 Waivers?

COVID-19 is still hanging around months after it was initially discovered. Some states’ decision to reopen businesses has been met with joy by some, and confusion by others. The CDC reports that the total number of infections in the US is almost four million. As businesses reopen, a valid concern has come to light regarding exposure to the virus. Wisconsin Public Radio has noted how many liability waivers are cropping up around the state. Wisconsin isn’t the only state that is seeing the rise in numbers in these waivers. The question that businesses should ask is whether they’re worth drafting one up.

A Virus That Sticks Around

When COVID-19 first entered the public’s awareness, there was as much information as misinformation floating around. Over time the WHO and CDC have streamlined their approaches to dealing with the virus. These bodies suggest massive lockdowns, which have led to severe economic distress for some. Businesses that require interaction between customers have suffered the most. WebMD mentions that the amount of time that the virus can survive on surfaces ranges from two hours to five days. With such a persistent threat, businesses might be well advised to require their employees and clients to sign COVID-19 waivers.

Health Guidelines and Best-Practices Help

Several states have instituted health guidelines in keeping with those suggested by international public health authorities. One of the most controversial ones is requiring the wearing of a mask to reduce the spread of droplet-borne infection. However, while reducing the range of the disease from talking to someone else, it doesn’t stop people from spreading the pathogen through touching everyday surfaces. Disinfection helps with this type of spread, but there’s no way for an employee to chase down each client and clean up after them. The employees are also at risk. They are at the front lines dealing with the outbreak on behalf of their employer. As a result, many businesses have opted to go the seemingly legal route by requiring waivers for people entering their premises. Whether these agreements are binding is a different question entirely.

Different Strokes for Different States

In some states like Colorado, liability waivers are enforceable, stemming from the large volume of documents that thrill-seekers sign in the name of dangerous experiences. In other states, such as California, they aren’t as enforceable. Even so, it hasn’t stopped businesses from taking a proactive route to protect themselves. On the downside, forcing a client to sign a liability waiver may impact business traffic. Additionally, general liability waivers, such as those printed on the back of theme park tickets, for example, will protect a business against liability in the case of COVID. Companies may be well advised to look for a personal injury attorney just in case.

A Unique Situation for All

The reason why no one really knows what will happen regarding liability waivers in this situation is that we’re living in a truly unique time. Never before in the history of civilization has there been such a widespread response to a deadly virus. The law has no precedent as to whether these liability waivers are valid or not. Only after the first case goes to trial and a verdict is delivered will the legal profession have something to work with.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.