On Friday April 24, Logan Ide, President of Latitude Atlanta served as the moderator of a zoom webinar for a panel of leading Atlanta attorneys titled “Re-Opening Your Workplace in a Global Pandemic.”
Watch a complete video of the webinar below. Talking point timelines are further down in case you want to access certain parts of the video.
In this roundtable discussion, leading corporate law firm and legal department attorneys provided their insights and experience to help inform COVID-19 planning processes and prioritization of actions. The discussion focused on the practical issues faced by law firms and legal departments, including their role in advising clients and company management.
The panelists (bios and notable comments in the webinar are included below) addressed a variety of topics, including how their organizations are currently operating and some thoughts on the challenges of:
- Defining the “new normal” as companies “re-open” their facilities
- Organizing & resourcing a sustained response
- Providing legal guidance and making business decisions in the absence of clear standards
- Risk mitigation & compliance – legal and regulatory exposures
Beth Chandler, Vice President & General Counsel, Rollins, Inc. (NYSE: ROL). Rollins provides pest control and related services from 700 locations in all 50 states and internationally through Orkin and other subsidiaries with 10,000+ employees. Pest control is deemed an “essential” service in all 50 states. Orkin has developed and introduced a disinfecting service for commercial customers. Beth shared with the audience:
“…we established the mantra early on … that we would follow four principles:
- We would be incredibly responsive in this environment to our internal customers.
- We would obviously get our work done.
- We would strive to over communicate which again I can’t stress enough with our clients and our internal employees. Over communication is important and it’s going to be even more important I think in this return to workplace environment.
- The fourth principle we instituted was be empathetic.”
Charlie Morgan, Partner and Covid-19 Task Force Member, Alston & Bird. Charlie concentrates his practice in litigation and government and internal investigations, including occupational safety and health, employment and traditional labor matters. Charlie is an A&B COVID-19 Task Force Member with focus on Employment and OSHA issues. Charlie observed:
“…what we saw when we shutdown was sort of unbelievably rapid change…in terms of new, monumental laws and orders coming out in a very rapid way and every client needed that information like right then and there… there’s going to be pressure to reopen and so companies definitely need to be prepared and the problem is there’s just really very little guidance out there. I’ve got some high-level thoughts on how to approach that and sort of the ramping up…”
Steve Sencer, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Emory University. Steve’s legal oversight includes Emory University, Emory Healthcare and the Carter Center. Emory University enrollment is 15,451. Emory Healthcare has approximately 22,605 employees and 2,691 beds. Trials of both a potential COVID-19 treatment and a vaccine are underway at Emory. Steve characterized the management response effort this way:
“…There really is a sense of pulling together and I think a sense of gratitude that people appreciate it…I think lawyers really are stepping up and trying to understand these issues and … share some wisdom…”
Some specific discussions and their timeline in the video are as follows:
- 3:12 Panelists on their organizations’ status and activities
- 17:32 Topic I: Management Approaches to Planning
- 30:12 Topic II: Protecting Employees, Customers & Vendors
- 35:50 The challenges of providing legal guidance in the absence of governmental standards
- 42:00 Secondary (positive?) consequences of COVID response
- 42:50 Topic III: Compliance, Risk Mitigation and Insurance
- 45:00 Workers Comp work-relatedness presumptions and causation
- 48:00 The importance of policies, procedures and documentation and applicability of existing laws
- 52:20 The case for COVID-19 tort immunity and insurance
- 56:30 Final Thoughts & Resources
Thank you to our great group of panelists for their time and insight and to those who attended the webinar.