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Legal & Compliance Playbook

The legal implications of COVID-19 disruptions for businesses remain in flux. Appoint staff member(s) to serve in a legal monitoring team to discuss new announcements, guidelines and potential risks regularly. If in doubt, consult an attorney promptly. Several law firm members of the Greater Des Moines Partnership have kindly offered to provide free legal consulting sessions.

Timeline Guidance

Stakeholder Guidance

Guidelines below are provided by Timeline and Stakeholder including five stakeholder groups, namely, (a) Employees, (b) Suppliers and Vendors, (c) Commercial Landlords and Tenants, (d) Insurers, and (e) Retail Customers.


Reopening Greater Des Moines (DSM) will involve gradual changes in company practices, some of which may involve contract risks or trigger legal liabilities. Below, three key phases involved in re-opening DSM are outlined with their associated legal risks.

Protection & Survival

Protecting the wellbeing of your employees and business finances. Legal matters include:

  • Force majeure
  • Contract variations
  • Employee dismissal
  • Tenancies
  • Loan applications
  • Insurance claims
  • OSHA liability


Incremental efforts to restart in tandem with DSM's reopening. Legal matters include:

  • Force majeure
  • Contract variations
  • Tenancies
  • Loan applications
  • Insurance claims
  • OSHA liability
  • Data protection
  • Antitrust liability


Adaptation to recoup losses and thrive post-pandemic. Legal matters include:

  • Contract variations
  • New contracts
  • Loan applications
  • Insurance claims
  • Data protection

Risks to Consider

Force Majuere

A business may want to use this contractual term to end an agreement, but be aware that not all contracts may have one, and some may only allow for suspending and not terminating a contract.

New Contracts

Ensure new business agreements are in writing, even if the two parties are interested in completing business quickly.

Employee Dismissal

Ensure that notice is served as per contractual terms and notice periods to avoid risk of discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.


Have any rental term modifications made in writing.

Loan Applications

SBA loans may be subject to additional auditing requirements, and delays to evidence submission may delay disbursal.

Insurance Claims

Discuss claim entitlements with a broker for business continuity insurance policies; adhere to claims deadlines and ensure accurate records of (potential) income losses.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Liability

As employees return to workplaces, OSHA claims can arise if occupational safety concerns are not addressed adequately, for instance, not providing sufficient protective material and substances, ensuring contactless customer interactions, etc.

Data Protection

Working from home may entail data privacy compliance risks in relation to confidential firm and customer data.

Antitrust Liability

Increased well-meaning interaction between competitor firms in tackling market shocks may inadvertently put small and large businesses alike at risk of antitrust claims if they have significant control over a specific market of products, and discussed pricing or competitive strategies.

COVID-19 Exposure Liability

There is currently some uncertainty as the legal liability an organization may be face if someone is exposed to COVID-19 within their space. We recommend contacting your attorney to ensure you are up to date on COVID-19 exposure liability issues.

Practices You Should Observe

  • Any contract variations must be done in writing.
  • Communicate contractually required notices the correct way.
  • Treat your employees consistently to avoid discrimination, retaliation or OSHA claims.
  • Get evidence of your financial circumstances in advance of loan applications or insurance claims to avoid delays.
  • If in doubt, speak to an attorney promptly.

Stakeholder Guidance


You have likely been forced to consider new and unfamiliar work arrangements for your employees (e.g. long-term remote work, staggered shifts). With further economic and labor shocks to come, ensure that you do not lose sight of compliance with non-discrimination and health and safety laws.

Suppliers and Vendors

Despite the need for business to be done quickly, ensure that any contract modifications or changes are written down and signed by you and your counterparty.

Commercial Landlords and Tenants

In current circumstances, landlords may be more likely to grant a rent concession to maintain their tenants. If so, ensure that the variation is captured in writing (e.g. abatement amount, duration) and that they reference the initial rental contract. It is still not clear if commercial tenancies come under the eviction moratorium signed by Governor Kim Reynolds, since property rights in the form of liens generally entitle landlords to deny evicted tenants any entry to premises. Speak to an attorney to find out the latest rules on commercial tenancies.


Many businesses will be making business interruption claims for COVID-19, and bottlenecks may be caused by delayed evidence of potential or actual income loss - as well as non-compliance with deadlines. Contact your insurance broker immediately to better understand if policies cover COVID-19 related losses (both actual and potential). The broker should act as your advocate for making claims. Additionally, contact an attorney if you are denied coverage to discuss appeal options.

Retail Customers

Strained supply chains mean that shortages of some goods will continue. In industries with few competitors, or where few retailers stock a particular product, consumers can easily get anxious about possible price-fixing amongst firms. The Department of Justice is now enforcing against price gouging, in conjunction with emergency provisions in the Defense Production Act (DPA) 1950. Firms selling goods related to medical or protective equipment supply chains, or those dealing in good considered scarce, should be very careful in pricing practices.

Additionally, businesses owe a general duty of care towards ensuring they do not harm the health of customers. As such, exercise decent and commonplace levels of protection for customers. This also involves making sure frontline staff are healthy and fit for customer interaction.


Legal Disclaimer

The Greater Des Moines Partnership's DSM Forward playbook is not intended to constitute legal advice or provide specific direction. The preparation of a business continuity or preparations plan should be undertaken with the advice and direction of appropriate specialists and personnel, in consideration of the unique circumstances impacting each business. Third-party websites or material linked to or referenced in DSM Forward are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation of The Partnership of that material or its authors.

Last updated: 5/8/2020