The Legal Ramifications of the Coronavirus Outbreak

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The coronavirus is impacting every part of society, but small businesses and restaurants are starting to feel the impact. 

So, what kind of legal ramifications could industries--such as the service industry--face?

And, what kind of changes will we see?

Rebecca Rose Woodland, a litigator and legal analyst, joined TheStreet to break down her thoughts on the impact of the coronavirus.

Watch the video above for more.

Video Transcript:

Katherine Ross:
We know that there'll be a lot of fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. But just what kind of legal ramifications could we face? Joining me is Rebecca Rose Woodland litigator and legal analyst. Rebecca, we know that a lot of industries, particularly the service industry, could get hit hard by this outbreak. And I'm wondering what kind of legal ramifications could we see?

Rebecca Rose Woodland:
So, if we want to talk about employer-employee relationships and what sort of situations the employers could find, and the employees, we have two really different sectors. The employers in a service industry have to worry about a number of things. An employee getting sick, that employee possibly infecting other people. Also, that employee affecting or infecting guests of the establishment. So, service industries, you have hotels, hospitality, restaurants, lounges, different things like that. So, there are so many thoughts about this right now. Most of those employees are at-will employees, so they don't have necessarily ... they're not obligated to have legally paid sick leave.

Rebecca Rose Woodland:
So, what we're looking at here is if they're an at-will employee, don't have paid sick leave, well where does that leave the employee? How long can they stay out? You don't want them returned to work sick. So, I think employers have to look at some different ways to approach the problem. There are laws that do affect some employers. The American with Disabilities Act, you have other laws that may apply, but they may not. So, I encourage employees to look at their contracts, if they have them. If they don't, talk to their employer, and try to come to an understanding that no one wants to be out of work because they're sick, people want to work and they want to make money.

Rebecca Rose Woodland:
The employer doesn't really, of course, need to have an establishment with no one working. So let's all try to work together, come to an understanding as to how people can be compensated throughout this very difficult time so we don't lose people to go on unemployment, or to not be able to pay their rent, not be able to pay their bills. And employers want to continue their establishment, so they can continue to make profits. So, I think this is a time now where we really have to all work together.

Katherine Ross:
From a legal standpoint, what kind of impact could the coronavirus have on our society today?

Rebecca Rose Woodland:
So legally, yeah, that's a really good question. So legally, what are these employers required to pay? In terms of the coronavirus, it would be is there sick leave? Is there paid sick leave? What are they required to do at the workplace? There's a law called the Occupational Safety and Hazard law, OSHA. It' covers safety at a workplace, so an employer has to be very about implementing very high safety measures right now because that, if not, could come back to haunt them with some liability if people get sick or infected at a workplace that wasn't properly cleaned, that they weren't giving the employees proper amounts of information of how to clean, how to be clean, how to avoid the virus, how to avoid contaminants, many different things. So we're finding liability there.

Rebecca Rose Woodland:
We're also looking now at another level, the insurance companies. So, you have the health insurance companies, if there is health insurance at a particular establishment how much should they, could they cover? And insurance for other things. So, in a pandemic, there is some insurance that does not apply in pandemics, travel insurance for example. So you're going to be looking at different levels and I think this coronavirus is going to affect different corporations, and many different aspects, not just the employee sick leave aspect.

Katherine Ross:
Thank you for joining us today. And for more on the coronavirus head on over to thestreet.com.

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