/ Modified may 15, 2020 2:51 p.m.

Masks and temperature checks among precautions employers taking to address liabilities

UA health law and policy expert Tara Sklar explains what they can legally require.

As companies and institutions try to prevent workplaces from becoming hotspots for the coronavirus, some have adopted methods like requiring face masks or temperature checks. We discussed the legal basis for these added precautions with Tara Sklar, an expert in health law and policy with the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

“I think what’s helpful to keep in mind is what is the reasonable standard of care for businesses before we had the pandemic?” Sklar said. “Someone would be able to file a negligence suit. And if it was found that the injury or illness happened because of that business, then they would be liable for damages.”

Sklar said CDC and OSHA guidance that recommends physical distancing and face masks meet a reasonable standard of care that employers could insist their employees and customers follow.

“I think it’s important to think about this from an employer’s perspective of where they don’t want to be subject to a lawsuit because they didn’t exercise reasonable precaution,” Sklar said.

While some congressional lawmakers have voiced concern that employers will likely face a barrage of coronavirus-related lawsuits, Sklar said she does not support granting businesses immunity from legal complaints.

“It’s very hard to prove a lawsuit in this area. It would be very hard to show that you got the virus at that business on that day because the employer didn’t exercise reasonable prudent care,” Sklar said. “If that does get stripped away and there is immunity, then businesses may not act as prudently as they otherwise would to protect the public.”

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