Business Ethics in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Unhelpful opinions fill the Internet about how businesses can overcome the struggles wrought by the pandemic. Business decisions based on strong business ethics and sound legal advice provide the best route for survival in the coronavirus pandemic. These foundations still generate the best chance to flourish after the crisis. On the Web, much of the business advice is for small business to take advantage of the pandemic by increasing their prices. While increasing prices may be necessary to recover lost revenue, one adviser suggests that price gouging can be achieved through destroying invoices and requiring employee secrecy. 

Research shows that loyal customers will remain loyal when businesses share the information. In a world dominated by fast food delivery and internet shopping, local business must recognize that their ties to the community will likely determine their fate. Customers will accept increased prices, particularly if temporary, when business share the reason for the increase. 

While every American has the right to express an opinion, business owners vowing to stand against CDC guidelines and local public health restrictions face the kind of backlash that small businesses can not typically afford.  Frankly, lawyers cannot counsel a business owner to break the law. Further, history shows that Americans will switch from businesses that reject their values. 

Along with securing sound legal advice, business owners would do well to include fundamental business ethics in response to issues arising in the ongoing public health crisis:

Challenge: The possibility of losing a business can interfere with perspective. Nevertheless, it may be necessary to challenge an improper categorization of your business or an erroneous view of your operation.  Challenging the authority of the government to take action during a pandemic does create some interesting Constitutional issues; however, a legal victory may not save your business. The public relations outcome could end your business, even if the legal fees do not overwhelm you.

Defiance: Maryland State Law provides that a violation of the Order is a criminal misdemeanor.  In addition, violations of health standards can close the business. In both contexts, Constitutional law grants little protection from inspections of the business’s premises. Again, while people are dying in a pandemic, the public may not find solace in one owner’s defiant attempt to save one business.

Compliance: As long as Marylanders are dying from the coronavirus (covid-19), basic business ethics demand that business owners take every reasonable precaution to make their employees and customers safe. Like other free advice so freely given,  discussions of “coronavirus waivers” have emerged in an attempt to protect businesses from infecting their customers and employees.  These “waivers” are probably unenforceable, ineffective, and counterproductive. No business can thrive when potential customers are afraid that entering the premises will bring the pandemic to their homes and families.

Quick fixes, disregard for the public health, and deception never sustain a local business. Fighting with impersonal behemoths requires constant demonstrations of community involvement. While not immediately apparent, business decisions in the coronavirus pandemic continue to depend on the tried and true, strong business ethics and sound legal advice.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, lawyer Matt P. Lavine offers reduced legal fees to Maryland businesses.

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