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COVID-19 & Your Construction Business - A Triage Checklist

Many business operations are shutting down at an alarming pace. The coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic is already impacting the construction industry and creating uncertainty for the progress of current and future projects. Small/mid-size businesses may not be in financial position to sustain prolonged economic revenue declines. Navigating the next few months will be vital in preserving existing business relationships and planning for future business when the conditions improve. BMD offers some practical advice to manage risks and take reasonable precautions during this pandemic.

The following checklist is designed to help you identify prudent actions so you can successfully navigate the unknown:

Prioritize the Health and Welfare of Your Employees and Clients:

  • Make sure your employees, contractors, suppliers and facilities are safe and smart - forced quarantine will result in labor shortages and shutdowns
  • Over-communicate about best safety practices with employees and clients
  • Assess current projects and enforce heightened safety obligations
    • Ongoing projects in medical facilities? Nursing homes? Schools?
    • Mandatory temperature testing prior to entering healthcare facilities
    • Daily questionnaires regarding potential safety basics
    • Anything from washing hands to properly shielding coughs
  • Consult the CDC and/or State departments of health for guidance.
    Ex: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/workplace-school-and-home-guidance.pdf

Run Your Business:

  • Create and enforce an effective company policy approved by your employment attorney
  • Internal communications are vitally important
    • Promote safe practices in the workplace
    • Identify essential staff and functions
    • Prepare, equip and train staff to work remotely, if possible or if deemed mandatory
  • Review Employment Policies and enact emergency policies, if necessary
      • Sick leave
      • Family medical leave
      • Performance expectations
      • Protocol for working remotely

Evaluate Current Projects:

  • Prioritize clients and proper allocation of resources for projects
  • Evaluate availability of workforce, now and in the future when workers become ill
  • Evaluate supply chain impact on materials and supplies
    • Inventory and ration materials where possible
    •  

Review Your Contracts:

  • Review current contracts
  • Do not assume you have an ‘out’
    • Not all construction contracts have ‘force majeure’ provisions
    • Consult §8.3.1 of the AIA A201 regarding circumstances that may be commonly described or accepted as ‘force majeure’ events
  • Consider negotiating a modification of existing contracts and key terms
    • Consult §1.1.1, 1.1.2, 2.5, 3.11, 4.1.2, 4.2.1, 5.2.3, 7, 8.3.1, 9.7, 10.3.2 of the AIA A201 regarding modification
      • Contract duration
      • The goods/services involved in the contract
        • Adding or subtracting goods/services covered in the contract
      • The payment terms
      • The delivery terms
  • Determine notification requirements if performance is impossible or impractical and you are seeking to delay or excuse performance
    • §15.1.6 and §15.1.3 of the AIA A201 provides guidance on claims for delay
  • Do not ‘Self Help’ or bury your head in the sand
    • Communication and transparency are vital
    • Be pro-active and reasonable

Review Your Insurance Policy:

  • Coverage for the treatment of infected employees
  • Coverage for lawsuits filed by employees or other parties relating to COVID-19 exposure
  • Coverage for loss of revenue associated with epidemics, pandemics, and viruses such as COVID-19, governmental shutdown, or limitation of access to an insured’s business
  • Loss of earnings caused by delays or government (foreign or domestic) actions
  • Provide proper written notice of claims to avoid waiver of rights

If you have any questions, or for more information, please contact any member of the BMD Real Estate or Construction Law teams.

We are Working in a Virtual, Video-Conferencing World – But What About Wiretapping?

Businesses and other organizations often have a need or desire to record telephone conversations related to their business interests and customer dealings; however, this practice is not always permissible as federal and state laws vary on this issue. Knowing and understanding your jurisdiction’s rules and regulations on this practice is essential to remaining in compliance with the law.

President Trump Signs Executive Orders that Enable Access to Affordable Meds

On Friday, July 24, 2020, President Trump signed four Executive Orders concerning prescription drug pricing which collectively direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take following actions: 1. Increase Patient Access to Insulin and Injectable Epinephrine 2. Facilitate the Importation of Certain Prescription Drugs 3. Remove the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbor Protection for Prescription Rebates 4. Implement the “Most Favored Nation” Order to Lower Medicare Part B Drug Cost

Guidance for Employers Receiving HHS Funding During COVID-19 on Civil Rights Protections

On July 20, 2020, HHS OCR issued guidance to help employers receiving federal financial assistance understand their requirements to comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during COVID-19; specifically, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”). Title VI states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Ohio Businesses Required to Post Exceptions to State-wide Mask Mandate at all Entrances

On July 22, 2020, in conjunction with the state-wide mask mandate instituted by Governor Mike DeWine, Lance D. Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order requiring Ohio businesses to post any permitted exceptions they provide to customers, patrons, visitors, contractors, vendors and similar individuals to use facial coverings at all business entrances.

ODM and OhioMHAS Continue to Expand Telehealth

On July 17, 2020, Governor DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-29D, which allowed the Ohio Department of Medicaid (“ODM”) to immediately rescind old provisions and file a new rule (5160-1-18) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (“OhioMHAS”) to amend their current rule (5122-29-31), both expanding telehealth and introducing even more flexibility into Ohio’s healthcare system.