How one Ford dealer navigated a COVID-19 outbreak

Employers should be cognizant of how employees and customers will receive the news, urged Travis Vance, a partner at law firm Fisher Phillips in Charlotte, N.C., and co-chairman of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group.

Sick employees should be sent home, and business leaders should inform the entire work force of the situation, he recommended — and also privately contact customers who may have been exposed, a transparent step that could preserve business relationships.

“If you don’t tell them and they find out some other way, they’re not going to be happy,” said Vance, also chairman of Fisher Phillips’ COVID-19 task force, who has advised the National Automobile Dealers Association on the subject.

Hambelton said she and her general manager provided employees with a forum for concerns. Some public social media comments questioned why the dealership remained open, while others commended its transparency.

“Have we heard concerns? Yes, of course we have. From customers and employees,” she said in an email. “But we addressed every one of them.”

She has received compliments from customers and employees, and many employees have thanked her for choosing to stay open.

“And customers have commented on social media about what kind of place we are all year long, not just during the pandemic.”

But the rules on how to act are not set in stone, the dealer has learned.

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