Our personal and professional lives are guided consciously and unconsciously by “reasonable expectations.” When you come home, open the fridge, and see that your roommate ate all your leftover pizza and drank all your beer, your mind shouts, “What the….!”

Boom, their actions were unreasonable and may have consequences in your roommate-relationship. You had the reasonable expectation that your roommate would keep their grubby paws off of your things.

Our minds shout just as loudly when we go to work during the COVID outbreak, and our employer asks us to spend the day working next to a colleague who is running a fever and hacking up a lung. Again, unreasonable. It is entirely reasonable during a pandemic that sick colleagues would not be forced to come into work to spread their gunk to everyone else.

Lawsuits! Lawsuits! Come get your lawsuit!

Unreasonable responses to reasonable expectations can land employers in some hot water. The law protects employees’ reasonable expectations of safety and security while at work, making the employer responsible for providing it.

In a recent lawsuit against an employer filed by employees of a major fast-food chain, plaintiffs stated they were being asked to wear doggy-diapers and coffee filters as personal protective equipment against the COVID virus. Seriously?! Who does that?

Relationships and loyalty thrive on mutual respect. We know or at least “feel” when something is unreasonable. Sometimes respect can be restored with a good conversation and setting personal boundaries; other times, we have to move the needle into the red and over to a lawsuit to fix it.

Another group of employees did just this and are now making headlines stating that their employer failed to clean the workplace properly, but there were no protocols in place for proper guidance.

Get Out of Jail Free Card

We want to keep our workplace, employees, and customers safe and healthy. What are the reasonable expectations we should consider?

  • Is there a reasonable expectation of illness or injury from what I am asking my employee to do, or how I am asking them to do it.
  • Could this unsafe condition or occurrence reasonably happen? How could I prevent or mitigate it?
  • And during the pandemic, I have to consider, am I providing the proper guidance, training, and supplies to help prevent the spread of illness?

Get ahead of problems and potential lawsuits by evaluating your type of work and workplace. 

Put policies in place to protect your employees and customers.

  • Train your employees on your procedures and let them know why they exist.
  • Document and keep records of your training and steps you took to keep your employees safe when your employees completed training, and how they demonstrated they understood it.

Though we may not like to think about it, these are the things that both OSHA inspectors and plaintiff’s attorneys will look for when an accident or incident occurs.

  • Have you gone over OSHA’s COVID guidelines and standards?
  • Are you up to date with the CDC’s information for businesses and workplaces?
  • Have you talked with your employees and trained out your policies?

Putting policies and guidance in place, and educating employees on what to do should these things happen can protect your exposure to liability and strengthen trust and with both your employees and customers. Customer and employee loyalty isn’t just about prices and paychecks.