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Reopening & Social Media: Tips for Businesses

As the country starts to reopen, businesses are under great pressure to keep employees and customers safe. Even if a business follows every reopening requirement, there will inevitably be scrutiny from within and outside the organization. And, in this world of social media, perception tends to become reality. Below are a few practical tips to avoid attracting negative press while restarting your business.

  1. Follow the Guidelines.

A wise person once said, “truth is the best defense.” If you are following the mandatory reopening guidelines that apply to your business sector and your state, then you will have a ready response to any negative reports from employees or on social media. Requirements differ in each state, and sometimes in each county and city, so businesses with multiple locations may need individual policies for different offices.

In Ohio, Sector Specific Operating Requirements specify both mandatory and recommended procedures for each business type. For example, restaurants and bars in Ohio must “[e]stablish and post maximum dining area capacity using updated COVID-19 compliant floor plans. With maximum party size per state guidelines (currently 10).” For contrast, Phase 1 of Florida’s Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery allows restaurants to “serve patrons at indoor seating so long as they limit indoor occupancy [to] up to 50% of their seating capacity” among other requirements. Check the laws that apply to each of your business’s locations to make sure you are following the most recent requirements.

  1. Control the Narrative.

Once you’ve established what the guidelines are, create policies to ensure that your employees know what they need to do to comply. Then, spread the news about what you are doing to follow the guidelines. Share on social media all of the steps you are taking to make employees and customers feel safe. Post your COVID-19 specific policies on your website where they can be easily found.

Even if you are not a business in the service industry, it is important that employees feel that they can come back to work. We anticipate that employees feeling reluctant to come back to the office will be a major issue. Therefore, it will be important to get out in front of it by sharing the lengths that you are going to protect employees and customers far and wide. Make sure your employees know who they can talk to if they have questions about the reopening or feel unsafe. This will demonstrate your commitment to a healthy economy and a healthy community.

  1. Monitor Social Media.

By now, it is clear that reopening procedures for individual businesses will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion. Pictures of crowds of people at bars on opening day resulted in health department citations and even a referral to a city attorney. While there are a relatively small number of health department inspectors, there are millions of citizens with cell phones ready to find the holes in your reopening policies. In addition to controlling the narrative before reopening, you should also pay attention to messaging being delivered after opening. If you encounter negative feedback on social media, be respectful if you chose to respond. Remember, if you have a solid reopening policy that follows relevant guidelines, then referring to such a policy is a simple and effective response.

  1. Your Social Media Policy.

In order to protect your business from negative social media posts made by employees, make sure you have a good social media policy. Employees do have the right to use social media, even to discuss aspects their work. For employers, the National Labor Relations Act enforces “protected concerted activity” of employees, which can include speaking to the media or posting about work grievances. However, businesses can write policies that require employees not to speak on behalf of the business unless authorized and prohibit disclosure of protected health information. The line between permitted and prohibited posts can be quite thin, so counsel should be consulted if there is a question. However, following tips 1-3 above should help cut down on the possibility that an employee will be disgruntled enough to post negatively on social media.

If you have any questions about interpreting the reopening guidelines for your business or drafting your social media policy please contact Ashley Watson at abwatson@bmdllc.com or 614.246.7518, or contact your primary attorney at Brennan, Manna & Diamond.

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.

Property Owner Protection from Tax Valuation Challenges

New legislation provides significant new protections for commercial property owners against challenges to valuation primarily by local school boards and prohibiting side agreements to avoid tax valuation changes. The Ohio Legislature has approved House Bill 126 which will go into effect July 2022 but will effectively apply to the 2023 tax valuation year.