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What If They Opened the Economy and No One Came? Or, Why It’s Still Mostly Groundhog Day3 min read

By Fran Slusarz,

With all 50 states set to lift at least some restrictions as we head into Memorial Day weekend, it is the perfect time to look at what this means – and doesn’t mean – for America’s workers.

A reopening, however broad, isn’t going to magic us back three months. Most states are following variations on the staged openings recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but they are not mandatory and each state has been left to decide for itself how best to open.

This leaves us with a patchwork of rules and recommendations, and no universal path forward. We must proceed according to our home state’s rules, our employer’s health and business concerns, and our own risk tolerance.

Not Every Industry Will be Open

In deciding what to open and when, states must consider the continued need for social distancing. Certain industries are just not conducive to staying 6 feet apart from each other, which is why I won’t be reveling in my field-level GA tickets to the Foo Fighters this July 4th, and instead will be trying to keep my dogs calm amidst the neighborhood fireworks displays. Simply, if you are floor trader at a stock exchange, a National Football League player, or even a Foo Fighter, you can expect to wait a bit longer before your industry opens.

Even if Industry is Open, Your Job May Not Be

Just because the state decides your industry is “open,” doesn’t mean you are going back to work right away. Your employer has to decide if it makes sense to open. Yes, they are losing money by staying closed, but they can lose more money by opening before their customers are ready to come back. When the owners feel confident, they can generate enough sales to cover payroll, utilities, and supplies, they will reopen. But, again, it isn’t a simple 3-month rewind. Businesses will have to comply with new health and safety requirements when they open, which can involve providing PPE for their employees and instituting frequent, meticulous cleaning schedules, to limiting the number of customers they can serve. All these factors will affect when a business calls back their employees, and how many they call back.

Your Job May Not Exist Anymore

This is one of the grimmer realities and I won’t dwell upon it. Ask yourself this: how likely are you to sample food at your next trip to Costco? I’ve never seen the people who offer samples doing anything remotely icky and I doubt they will start. But that won’t matter.

Before you worry about all the jobs that may become obsolete, remember that COVIDWorld has invented a host of new jobs. Grocery stores never had PPE checkers or cart cleaners before March; doctors’ offices never had temperature checkers.

That Pesky Consumer Confidence

Statisticians work tirelessly to describe numerically how consumers feel about spending money, but it’s all common sense: a person who feels confident about the economy and their personal financial situation is more likely to spend money. Someone who is worried about the economy and personal finances spend less.

What does this mean for your job in COVIDWorld? It’s another challenge. Without a universal set of rules for business reopening, having to rely on mixed messages and a patchwork of practices, it will be hard for consumers to feel confident about spending money.  It means we all must follow social distancing and PPE rules so we can all can feel confident that we aren’t risking our lives by going out into the world. Then consumers will spend money and employers will recall their workers.

We must work together on this one. This time around, we don’t have the option of going to the Winchester, having a nice cold pint, and waiting for all this to blow over.

If you would like more information about returning to work and your employment rights, please contact Carey & Associates, P.C. at 203-255-4150 or send an email to info@capclaw.com.