What you should know before signing a coronavirus waiver

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola via WPVI logo
Thursday, July 9, 2020
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With businesses now open again in our region, there is a new normal for many customers: having to sign coronavirus waivers. Here's what you should know.

With businesses now open again in our region, there is a new normal for many customers: having to sign coronavirus waivers. So when should you sign and when should you refuse? The language can really vary so you need to read carefully before you sign anything.

The owners of Heads and Tails are thrilled to be able to welcome customers back to their beauty boutique with safety protocols in place.

"We are asking everyone to arrive wearing a mask and you'll have your mask on during your entire appointment. We are asking everyone to sign a brief health waiver/questionnaire, and we'll take your temperature upon arrival," said Dana Flocco of Heads and Tails.

The boutique also sanitizes every surface before and after each client and asks everyone to fill out a health questionnaire.

It's basically a really brief questionnaire that says as far as you know, you're in good health," she said. "Basically it's a way for us to keep everyone safe and healthy. It's a way for us to protect ourselves and to protect everyone who's walking through the door, so in case anything should happen, we have a streamlined way to find everyone who's been here, contact them, and make them aware of any changes."

The Heads and Tails COVID-19 questionnaire does not release the business of any liability but that is not the case for many other forms customers are being asked to sign.

Action News obtained one waiver where customers agree to "release the service provider and businesses from any and all liability for unintentional exposure or harm due to COVID-19."

"Before you sign a waiver, I think it's best to focus on the safety issues, not the legal ones," said Scott Medintz, Consumer Reports' Policy Editor.

The reason for that is the waivers have limited legal significance.

"The reason for that is that if the business is being sort of reasonably careful about preventing COVID transmission, it would be really hard to sue that business anyway," said Medintz. "If on the other hand, the business is being grossly negligent, then a waiver is not going to protect it anyway so the truth is what you really need to do is focus on the health issues."

Which means it's reasonable to sign: if the business is taking proper safety protocols, if the service justifies the health risks and if the language in the waiver is a two-way street.

Does it describe the precautions the business is taking and simply ask you, the customer, to also commit to safe practices?

Also if there's a line in a waiver that makes you feel uncomfortable, cross it out before signing and then take a picture of the changes on your phone.

Some companies are also asking their employees to sign waivers releasing them of liability that is a whole other issue and we have more information on that here.