The top 5 legal considerations for your yoga studio right now.
Your yoga studio is reopening into a different world than a few months ago. New laws govern how you can operate. Every level of government has rules about if you can open, when you can open, and how you can open. It’s a confusing time. Being unsure is normal. None of us really know what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s important to make great decisions before something bad happens.
LEARN YOUR LOCAL LAWS:
Be proactive! Now is the time to find out what your city, state and nation require when your yoga studio opens back up. Don’t take the news at face value or do what everyone else is doing. Every single area has its own rules. Find a government website and get your information straight from the source.
These laws determine negligence (if you were acting carelessly), which can open you up to lawsuits. If someone catches COVID-19 at your studio and you weren’t following your area’s specific laws you’re screwed. It won’t matter how at fault you are or if the member signed a waiver. You’ll still have a costly lawsuit to deal with…
The golden rule → Learn and follow your municipal laws.
Print out a copy of your local laws and post them in your studio. Make it really clear you’re doing everything you can to be considerate and careful during your reopening. It’ll go a long way. Check your local, state and federal laws, because they may have different requirements. You want to follow ALL the rules.
If there’s a conflict of laws and your city says you can’t open, but your state does, I’d think long and hard about if you really need to reopen or if it can wait. If something happens and your municipality says you can’t be open, you’re going to be in big trouble from a negligence perspective.
CYA WITH A NEW WAIVER:
The wonderful thing about your yoga studio is that everything is voluntary. All your members and staff are choosing to accept the degree of risk that comes with physical activity already – you just need to juice up your waiver to cover the new COVID-19 risks.
Truth → Legal liability always comes down to how specific the waiver is.
Ask yourself these questions: what activities will members be doing at your yoga studio? What are the risks of these activities? What could go wrong? Double check that your waiver already covers all the activities your members do and the injuries that could result from their practice.
Once that’s done, add in something about the risks of practicing at home instead of the studio and make sure you explicitly state the world is going through a pandemic with a highly contagious virus. State you’re opening in accordance with all relevant laws, but there is a chance someone could catch it while on the premises.
Finally, your waiver should include acknowledgement that the member is practicing voluntarily, you’re released from liability and an affirmation of health. By attending a class, your member is saying they have not traveled in the last 14 days, don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, are not high risk and they are not injured to the point they cannot practice.
GET A STAFF WAIVER TOO:
Staff need to agree to work under these unique conditions too. You can create a staff version of the waiver for them to sign, put it in the employee handbook or discuss it on a recorded call. The key is a record that they’re returning to work voluntarily, knowing there are added risks.
This is a great opportunity to revamp anything else in your employee handbook. Get a conversation started and make sure you’re all on the same page. Go over your local laws and new policies and communicate clearly.
The last thing you want is liability if your staff get sick or for them to imply they were fired because they were concerned about COVID-19. Potential liability will vary depending on if they’re contractors or employees and working at-will or not. If you’re concerned check the specifics with a lawyer.
GET EVERYTHING UP TO DATE AND SIGNED:
This is a great time to re-evaluate your agreements so everything is how you actually want it. Consult with a lawyer and make sure your agreement is perfect for this time AND moving forward. Things like incremental payments, force majeure and other legal details can make a big difference for your yoga studio!
Credit card companies decide if members can have charges voided based on the exact contract wording. If you have a big event planned that’s cancelled because of something you can’t anticipate (like a shelter-in-place law) this could make or break you. It’s not about locking members into paying you, it’s about clear communication from the start.
Truth → The best opportunity to have anyone re-sign an agreement is RIGHT NOW!
Everyone is re-evaluating their systems and agreements to get them ready for reopening. Your members and employees get it. They’re probably expecting it. This is your opportunity to make sure everything is ultra-clear. It could even be a great time to transition contractors to employees if that’s been in your plans.
AUTOMATE YOUR WAIVER SIGN IN FOR MEMBERS:
Send out an email using WaiverKing or DocuSign and get the agreement out of the way before your members even show up at the studio. Then use email automation to send out reminders to anyone who hasn’t opened the attachment. Getting it done outside the studio will make things MUCH easier on opening day.
Truth → Signing the waiver is not optional!
Catch anyone who hasn’t signed yet with an iPad at the front desk. If they haven’t signed it they can’t practice at your studio. Period. Don’t let anyone come in for drop-ins either. Keep everything streamlined so your members are safe and you’ve covered yourself for anything unexpected.
Once you’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s your yoga studio is ready for an epic reopening!
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