COVID-19 Resource Center for Louisiana Contractors

We understand that the recent spread of COVID-19 throughout Louisiana has caused concern for many of our clients, however, we want you to know that Smiley Law Firm is here for each and every one of our clients. Together, we will navigate this uncharted territory side by side with you to ensure that your business continues as uninterrupted as possible. Serving you and your company’s needs is of paramount importance to Smiley Law Firm.

COVID-19 Resource CenterAt Smiley Law Firm, we are committed to taking the extra step to deliver exceptional results for each and every client of the firm. Even throughout these uncertain times, we remain committed to our purpose and are working tirelessly to ensure that our clients receive exceptional service regardless of the circumstances.

You may or may not be aware that Smiley Law Firm has been working remotely for the past two weeks now. To get ahead the curve, Smiley Law Firm closed its downtown New Orleans office on Thursday, March 12, 2020, to do our part to flatten the curve. Our entire firm has been seamlessly working remotely for the past two weeks. Have you noticed an interruption in our service? Neither have we.

We have been monitoring guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Federal Government, Louisiana State Government, and local governments across the state. Rest assured that Smiley Law Firm takes every precaution necessary to continue serving our clients and community.

At 5:00 p.m. (CT) today, March 23, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards’ “Stay in Place” order will take effect, preventing the operation of “non-essential” businesses. A copy of this order can be found at

https://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/Proclamations/2020/JBE-33-2020.pdf.

Within the order, “essential businesses” have been defined as those identified by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), guidance on which can be found via the following link:

https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19.

The Greater New Orleans Homebuilders Association has advised that residential construction is a business considered “essential” in accordance with CISA guidance, so any residential project you are currently working on, or are scheduled to begin, may continue at this time. If you are working on a commercial, State, or Federal project, be sure to confirm with the project manager whether the job is continuing in light of Governor Edwards’ order.

There are two potential issues facing construction companies during the COVID-19 pandemic: 1) employee safety; and 2) contractual requirements imposed by an owner, contractor, or subcontractor for a project. Both issues are briefly discussed below.

For additional information, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has a Coronavirus page they are updating regularly.

JOBSITE SAFETY

Moving forward, we recommend ensuring that all measures are taken to ensure that your company is complying with its duty to provide employees with safe workplace conditions that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. OSHA has provided guidance on how to prepare workplaces for COVID-19 which can be accessed via the following link:

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.

This includes providing additional sanitation practices on the jobsite and advising workers of practices they should be following while at the worksite to prevent the spread of infection while on a job.

You are entitled to send workers home from a jobsite if they are displaying symptoms of a contagious illness, even if it ends up being mild, such as seasonal influenza. Be sure to screen all workers prior to entering a job site and immediately send those workers who may be ill to prevent healthy workers from becoming infected while on a job site.

To be sure that your company is protected, a letter should be sent to all employees/independent contractors of your company advising of job site precautions that everyone must abide by to keep operations running as smoothly as possible. Please contact our firm if you need assistance drafting the same.

CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

Many construction requirements require that all local, state and federal workplace safety guidelines are followed. A failure to comply with the same could result in your company being in breach of your contract resulting in damages and even the termination of your contract. Following the jobsite safety recommendations above should prevent any issues arising from this contractual provision.

Moreover, many construction contracts place an onerous burden on contractors to timely complete the project. If your workforce is reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might not be able to supply the appropriate number of workers to ensure timely completion or the job site may be shut down entirely as mandated by the owner or general contractor for the project. While you may have a full workforce that is healthy and able to complete your current projects at this time, the situation could change as the spread of this virus rapidly progresses.

To ensure that you can recover additional costs incurred to ensure jobsite safety compliance and any additional time due to a smaller workforce than anticipated at the time of contracting, we recommend you send notice to the party you contracted with, the General Contractor and Owner of a project as soon as possible. The notice should be sent in strict accordance with your contract and should explain (in as much detail as possible) your request for additional costs and/or time to complete a project. A failure to send such notice could result in your company being personally liable for additional costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. Further, failure to timely complete a project where notice of additional time has not been sent could result in your company being assessed with liquidated damages upon completion of the project.

Accordingly, we recommend sending notice of additional costs/time as soon as possible to ensure that your company is protected to the fullest extent possible. Should you need additional guidance or assistance in drafting the same, please contact our firm.

Aside from issues with current and future projects, we know many of our clients are involved in active litigation. Courts have begun to curtail their operations through April 13, 2020, and the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans has completely closed through April 13, 2020. If you have a case in active litigation with our firm, please contact the attorney handling your file to discuss what, if any, impact the recent events may have on your case.

Our firm has created a COVID-19 Resource Center for Louisiana Contractors where updates regarding this pandemic and further guidance on how to weather this storm will be posted. You can access the resource center via the following link:

https://www.smileyfirm.com/covid-19-resource-center-for-louisiana-contractors/.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our firm. Now more than ever, we are here to assist you and can schedule a meeting through FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangouts should you wish to have a face-to-face interaction.

Smiley Law Firm is here to help you and your company throughout these uncertain times. Take the time to reach out to your friends and family, thank a hard-working health care provider, and look out for your neighbors.

Written by attorney Sara Huffman. Sara is an excellent lawyer who helps contractors with a wide array of legal issues. To read more check out her bio.

The advice is priceless.Schedule Your Consultation Now