*While JVC does not promote the re-opening of in-person retail businesses, we are committed to providing the jewelry industry with valuable guidance on an array of topics.

For nearly all retailers, reopening during a global pandemic is an unprecedented event. The concerns and unknown risks about how to conduct business during this “new normal” are many.  This is especially true in the jewelry industry because so much of the purchase experience is customer interaction, combined with the look, touch, and feel of the merchandise.

While it is nearly impossible to anticipate all of the novel legal issues that may arise, it is possible to minimize potential liability.  By following the “checklist” of best practices set forth below, jewelers can reopen with the confidence that they are protecting the health and safety of their employees and customers, while also protecting themselves from liability:

  • Comply with State and Local Government Orders.
    • First and foremost, stay updated on the orders and guidance issued by state and local governments about reopening and operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and strictly comply with those orders.
  • Implement a Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan.
    • Have a written plan that: (1) discusses the decision to re-open with reference to any specific state or local order; and (2) sets forth policies and procedures to be following while operating during the pandemic.
    • Depending on the size of your operation, designate a single or multiple employees to manage certain aspects of reopening and operating—such as customer safety, sanitization and disinfection, and employee communication and training.
    • Ensure that all policies are communicated to employees and training is provided.
  • Minimize Liability Related to Staffing.
    • Consider bringing employees back in phases.
    • Stagger shift start and end times, meal breaks, and rest breaks to avoid congregation in the back room/break area.
    • Do not consider any protected characteristics (e.g., age or disability) when determining which employees return to work first.
  • Establish Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols.
    • Comply with CDC and OSHA guidance for maintaining a sanitary workplace. The CDC’s Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes can be found here, and OSHA’s Guidance for Retail Workers can be found here.
    • Develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace.
      • Consider reducing hours to permit increased cleaning and disinfection.
      • Clean and disinfect “high-touch” areas frequently (e.g., door knobs, locks, point of sale systems, etc.).
    • Establish strict protocols for cleaning all merchandise shown to customers and repairs/returns accepted from customers.
  • Require Social Distancing, Proper Hygiene, and Consider Masks and/or Gloves.
    • Place signs and other markings in prominent places encouraging social distancing and proper hand and respiratory hygiene.
    • Require employees and customers to maintain 6 feet of separation at all times.
    • Prominently display hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol) for customers and employees.
    • Limit the number of people in your business at one time, and consider “appointment only” days/times to ensure social distancing and provided an enhanced customer experience.
    • Implement new methods for reducing contact with customers (e.g., online orders, contactless pay, virtual appointments).
    • Comply with all state or local orders, and any guidance from OSHA, related to Personal Protective Equipment or “PPE.”
    • Even if not required, consider providing all employees and/or customers with face masks and/or disposable gloves for handing merchandise.
  • Monitoring Employees for Symptoms and Handling Cases of COVID-19.
    • At the beginning of each shift, ask about symptoms and take employee’s temperatures. Taking an employee’s temperature is legally permissible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Notify employees in advance of the temperature check.
      • Make sure employees have clocked in before checking their temperatures.
      • Use contactless thermometers.
      • Keep results confidential.
    • In the alternative, conduct a wellness assessment where the employee affirms temperature was measured at home and he/she is not suffering from any COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Establish protocol for how to handle employees who exhibit symptoms in compliance with CDC guidelines. The CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19 is here.
    • Likewise, implement procedure and follow CDC guidance for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Consult the CDC Interim Guidance and the CDC’s guidance on how to discontinue home isolation, which can be found here.   
    • If an employee has COVID-19 or suspects having COVID-19, keep this information confidential.
    • Require an employee returning to work after a COVID-19 diagnosis to provide a doctor’s note certifying fitness to return to work.
  • Minimize Risk of Litigation.
    • Be aware of your legal obligations to provide employees with sick leave or family leave related to COVID-19.
    • Strictly enforce discrimination and harassment policies.
    • Keep all employee medical information confidential.
    • Ensure employees are accurately recording their time and are being paid for all hours worked.
    • Ensure employees are reimbursed for all expenses as required by law.
    • Timely investigate and address all employee complaints.

*Tom McCormick is a partner at the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP.  Tom represents numerous retail stores, including those in the jewelry industry, in employment matters across the county.  He is licensed in both Ohio and California.  This guidance is not intended to be legal advice.  If you have any questions about reopening that are specific to your business, please contact Tom at [email protected] or your regular employment counsel.