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Oklahoma Bar Association

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Information regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Oklahoma Bar Association and the Coronavirus

Dear OBA Members,

Today Governor Kevin Stitt issued an Amended Executive Memorandum 2020-01 that provides, among other things, that professional services, including legal services and accompanying administrative and support services, are essential. This clarifies that legal services provided by Oklahoma lawyers are exempt from yesterday’s Executive Order 2020-07 and may continue without interruption, allowing Oklahoma lawyers to provide the necessary legal work that our clients critically need during these challenging times. However, this does not mean business as usual. Oklahoma lawyers are leaders in our state and in our communities. It is incumbent upon all of us to lead during this time of crisis. For your own health and the health of others, please model best practices in adhering to all of the health and safety guidelines when in contact with clients, colleagues and members of the public, which includes following the CDC guidelines on limiting crowd sizes, social distancing, frequent hand washing and other precautions. Oklahoma lawyers are strongly encouraged to continue to work from home when that is an adequate venue to meet the needs of clients while maintaining personal safety and privacy.

In the event additional guidance is issued or the OBA receives further information, we will send a message out to all OBA members through all of our available communication tools. Together our OBA community will get through this challenging time together. Be well and stay well.

Susan B. Shields
2020 President
Oklahoma Bar Association

Bar Association Meetings & Events

We urge volunteer committee and section councils to meet virtually or via conference call when possible.

For CLE updates, see the CLE webpage.

COVID-19 Updates

Consistent with OBA’s Aims and Objectives (below), for Coronavirus (COVID-19) we have compiled resources below for your use and information from the State of Oklahoma, as well as the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Oklahoma District Courts. As this issue is developing quickly, we urge you to revisit the pages at these links below for new information which is being posted daily.

Oklahoma-specific Resources and Information

Information from the Office of the Governor, State Department of Health, Office of Emergency Management and other Oklahoma agencies.

Law Practice Tips for Dealing With the Cornonavirus

By Jim Calloway, OBA Management Assistance Program 

  • Good planning is the key to dealing with unexpected circumstances. The plan may have to change as events unfold, but it’s better to start with a plan.
  • Determine who can work remotely and who cannot.
  • If many are telecommuting, someone may be needed onsite to open mail, scan it and email it to appropriate staff and lawyers.
  • Telecommuting workers need a secure method to use for client communication and working with sensitive client information. Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections are preferred. If you are in a smaller firm without IT staff, here are some reviews of affordable VPN’s.
  • In many, if not most, cases, a home computer used by children and other family members would not meet proper security and confidentiality standards. A cell phone used to access email is likely more secure than a typical family’s home computer and it would be very secure if using a VPN. Typing on a phone is much slower, as we know.
  • I have long advised solo and small firm lawyers to use laptops rather than desktop computers. Working from home is much easier with the same computer you use at the office. Consider buying a laptop now if the situation warrants.
  • If you have many digital documents at the office with no way to remote access them and you have a secure computer at home, consider copying them to a portable hard drive or copying them to a secure cloud storage site.
  • Video conferencing is a good way to stay in touch with clients in uncertain times. Apple FaceTime can be used for one-on-one meetings.  Zoom and Skype are options. If you are an Office 365 subscriber, Teams includes videoconferencing. Microsoft is offering anyone its premium version of Teams for free for six months and has lifted existing user limits on its free version. (More)
  • If you have clients who may not be comfortable with some technology tools, ABA TECHSHOW has generously shared a paper for download: Loving the Luddites: Serving Tech-adverse Clients.
  • Deadlines are important. Lawyers deal with many deadlines, but now is a good time to triage your deadlines and identify “non-forgivable” deadline dates, like statutes of limitations expiring. To the extent possible, do those now. Offices are one sick person away from sending all of their staff home for 14 days to self-quarantine while courthouses could remain open.
  • It is simple to share calendars in Outlook. Lawyers who have not shared their Outlook calendar before should do so with a trusted staff member or, under some circumstances, the office administrator. Keep client information private, but it is unwise to be the only one with a key to the lock.

Some other good information can be found on South Carolina Bar's COVID-19 Resources page (though keep in mind some information may only apply to South Carolina lawyers) and Sensei Enterprises Cornonavirus: Tech Issues for Lawyers Working at Home (PDF).

Resources for Employers

Below are a few FAQs curated from the above resources.

Can an employer restrict travel to all locations under a CDC travel advisory?
An employer may restrict business travel. Employers should continue to consult the CDC’s website: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel” for up-to-date travel notices concerning risk. The CDC advises that employers restrict all nonessential travel to areas with a Warning Level 3, and to exercise caution regarding travel to Warning Level 2 areas. Level 3 countries include China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Japan is a level 2 country.

Can I restrict my employees from traveling on Spring Break?
No, employers may not restrict personal travel. But employers can ask where the employee has traveled, and if the employee has traveled to an area designed Level 3 by the CDC, you may ask the employee to self-isolate upon return.

Can I require employees to stay home if they are sick?
Yes. The challenge arises regarding whether the employee will be paid during that time, and whether that time off is attributed to vacation or other type of paid time off. Each employer will have to find the right answer for itself. The CDC advises that you can require an employee to be fever-and-symptom-free for 24 hours. Consider a temporary suspension on your illness policy; yes, there may be an employee who will abuse this but a generous policy can potentially stop a serious outbreak within your company.

Can I require employees to wash their hands?
Yes, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers have the obligation to provide a reasonably safe workplace. So, you should be encouraging employees to take such measures.

Can I ask employees to disclose if they have a compromised immune system or chronic health condition?
No. An inquiry asking an employee to disclose a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition is disability-related because the response is likely to disclose the existence of a disability. The ADA does not permit such an inquiry in the absence of objective evidence that pandemic symptoms will cause a direct threat. Such evidence is completely absent before a pandemic occurs.

What can I do if I suspect an employee has COVID-19?
You may ask if the employee has symptoms such as fever or a dry cough. You can also direct employees who have virus-like symptoms or who are at high risk for infection (they live in a house where someone else has in infection) to go home.

If the situation in the United States worsens, do some rules change with a pandemic?
Perhaps. The EEOC has advised, for example, that taking the temperature of all employees may violate the ADA under some circumstances, but has indicated that the rules may change during a pandemic such that the illness may pose a “direct threat” to others. However, the CDC has yet to rule COVID-19 an official pandemic in the United States.

Aims and Objectives

The Oklahoma Bar Association is critically aware of the need for implementation of a comprehensive program to effectively provide educational assistance to those victims of a mass disaster in an effort to prevent overreaching and inappropriate solicitation of those victims in their time of pain and sorrow.

  1. To prepare and implement a program to effectively respond to a mass disaster situation.
  2. To prepare the participating members of the Oklahoma Bar Association to effectively respond to disaster situations by the development of plans and procedures to be followed.
  3. To provide information during times of disaster to the public about the role of lawyers and the legal system to help build and preserve the confidence of the public in the legal system.
  4. To coordinate all activity in this area in cooperation with the various federal, state, and local agencies.
  5. To provide assistance after the disaster situation to ensure that all victims of said disaster are protected from unethical conduct from any source.