How to Reopen your Small Business During a Pandemic

June 3, 2020

Whether you own a small business in Ohio or Michigan, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting Stay Home Orders have surely affected your business operations. Knowing whether and how to reopen may be just as challenging.  An effective reopening will require smart planning, compassion, and thinking through your approach regarding the matters below. 

Determine the Rules that Apply

By now there are federal, state, and possibly local “rules” (e.g., statutes, regulations, guidelines, codes, or ordinances) that apply to your business’s operations. Determine which of these rules apply to your business by asking questions:

  • What has Governor Mike DeWine ordered or recommended for Ohio businesses? What has Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered or recommended for Michigan businesses?
  • Are Stay Home Orders still in effect? 
  • Is your business subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and if so, do your employees qualify for paid sick leave or expanded family medical leave under the Act? 
  • Did you receive Paycheck Protection Program funds, and are you obligated to retain employees in order to be eligible for that loan to be forgiven? 

Map out what you know and consult with legal counsel to confirm you have everything covered. 

Take Care of Employees

  • Evaluate your staff and decide who you need to come back now, according to business needs and the employees’ job functions.
  • If your business has successfully shifted staff to working remotely, consider whether the business can continue to function with these employees working from home.
  • Determine how you can operate safely – consider capacity, spacing and flow issues; arrange adequate cleaning processes; obtain masks for your employees; and develop a plan for handling a positive COVID-19 case.
  • Create a plan for performing daily health symptom assessments and require employees to stay home if symptomatic.
  • Talk to your employees!  Your candid conversations with your employees will help demonstrate that you value them and are committed to being transparent about these challenges.  With understanding, together you may arrive at great solutions.

Take Care of Customers

  • Continue to offer curbside pick-up or delivery where possible. Use remote meeting methods to limit exposure to employees and customers.
  • Display clear expectations for customers regarding building capacity levels, mask use, and aisle flow that allows for social distancing.
  • Train employees to be consistent and courteous with customers to re-enforce these new rules.
  • Get creative with your services, menus, and goods offered. Meet customer needs and they will know your business is a safe refuge to which they can return.

We know this is an unprecedented time, but with understanding and creativity, your business can not only survive but thrive during this transition of reopening.

If you have questions, please contact RCO Law Labor & Employment Attorney Amy Luck, 419-249-7900, or


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