The Daily Rundown

SMB News Daily Rundown: Update for July 30

Welcome to the Small Business Rundown. Each day, we bring you stories that impact small business owners and their workforce.

Cloth Mask

Small Business News Highlights for July 30: 

  • Second quarter GDP drops by almost 33% 
  • The question of employer liability for coronavirus deaths 
  • Consistency is key when it comes to enforcing workplace mask policy

Second quarter GDP drops by almost 33% 

“The pandemic is believed to have caused the economy to shrink during the April-June period at an annual rate exceeding 30%.”

The U.S. has seen its worst quarter in recorded history, as economists note a nearly 33% contraction of the GDP. As Americans slashed spending and employers cut a record number of jobs, the U.S. economy shrunk by nearly a third, far exceeding the 10% loss of 1958

While the rate of decline is actually somewhat lower than expected, economists do warn that the economy could shrink further amidst persistently high unemployment rates, further layoffs and business closures, and continuing lockdowns in virus hotspots.

The question of employer liability for coronavirus deaths 

“Without temporary liability protections many companies face a daunting choice of either staying closed and risking bankruptcy or reopening and risking a business-crippling lawsuit.”

As negotiations continue in Washington, D.C., Republic lawmakers have indicated that including COVID-19 liability protection for businesses is a top priority for any legislation they advance. Yet even as more families file lawsuits on behalf of loved ones who succumbed to the virus due to alleged workplace negligence, the debate around the question of liability protection is intensifying. 

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that protection for businesses is a non-negotiable, experts note that the number of lawsuits is far less than McConnell and other proponents would have people believe, removing the need to make it a sticking point to passing another economic aid package. 

Consistency is key when it comes to enforcing workplace mask policy

“If you are going to make rules around work attire, however, you must be consistent. Either you are going to prohibit all designs or messages or insignia, or you should permit them. Employers cannot allow a rainbow or heart mask, and then say no to a BLM, or Biden, or MAGA mask, shirt or hat.”

If arguing with customers about wearing a mask isn’t enough to deal with, business owners must also manage a mask policy for their employees. As more people are compelled to use their personal platforms as a means to promote social issues, employers are faced with determining what flies and what doesn’t when it comes to personal expression. 

HR and labor experts say that consistency is the key to enforcing any kind of dress code, including masks and social issues or political candidate T-shirts. If you let one employee express their beliefs on their face masks, be prepared to let all employees do the same. 

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