As social distancing restrictions ease across the country, fitness studios are starting the process of reopening their physical locations. While preparing your studio space might be top of mind, it’s also important to make sure your business is ready from a legal perspective. From following new municipal laws to reevaluating service and membership agreements, studio owners have a choice—be proactive or reactive about the law and how it impacts the foundation of your business.
Cory Sterling, the founder of the heart-leading law firm, Conscious Counsel, has put together an easy-to-understand checklist of five legal essentials to help fitness professionals be proactive and prepared when they open their doors.
Learn and Follow Municipal Laws
If it hasn’t happened already, there will come a time when your jurisdiction will give you the green light to reopen. In preparation, review the municipal laws of your jurisdiction and plan to follow them. These laws could include regulations on indoor/outdoor classes, entry access, gathering size, protective gear, and cleaning standards.
Strictly adhere to these rules. If you don’t, a client could make a negligence claim against you, which would expose you to liability. Following the rules is the easiest and most basic way to protect you and your business. Our tip? Post the rules publicly in your studio. Have a Zoom call with your staff, record it, and discuss the rules, and keep each other accountable!
Don’t be Responsible for Spreading
Whether you like it or not, having a client test positive for COVID-19 is a possibility you need to be prepared for. Have a legal waiver in place that includes specific language about students taking a risk of contracting COVID-19 while participating in classes. By doing so, you’re no longer liable for COVID-19 related issues that may arise. Paying a small fee for a legal document that protects you from COVID-19 related legal issues is a no brainer!
Re-evaluate Your Service Agreements
Update your membership or service agreements before you reopen to protect your business from chargebacks or disputes. Adding some simple legal language goes a long way in protecting you against cancellations or terminations made outside the scope of your agreement.
For example, define your services as being offered BOTH online and in-person so you aren’t entitled to a refund if you cannot offer in-person classes. You should also add a force majeure clause to your agreements to protect you from unforeseeable circumstances that might prevent you from fulfilling your contract.
Don’t Wait, Resign Agreements Now
Use this drastic change in our industry and the way in which we provide our services as a catalyst to get all of your agreements down in writing. Understand and be confident in your relationships. There has never been a better time to re-organize your written agreements to suit the new needs of your business.
This is the BEST opportunity to make sure everyone you have a business relationship with has signed an agreement that openly and honestly communicates your expectations.
Confirm Voluntary Participation In Writing
Confirm that everyone on your team, whether they’re an employee or independent contractor, is coming back to work voluntarily. Just like your other agreements and contracts, the consent from your team needs to be in writing and added to their contracts. This ensures that they’ve agreed to voluntarily participate in your fitness activities and that they understand the risks of working in public.
The last thing you want as a business owner is to give someone on your team the ammunition to say that they were forced work, or worse that they contracted COVID-19 in the workplace and their participation was involuntary.
While this uncertain time is challenging, it has presented us with an opportunity to strengthen our businesses. Use this time to reopen your business stronger, and more legally protected than ever.
If you are interested in any of Conscious Counsel’s COVID-19 Legal Packages or if you are looking for legal help in this new commercial landscape, contact us today and mention you are with the FitGrid community to receive 10% off your future Conscious Counsel legal agreement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cory Sterling is the Founder of the heart-leading law firm Conscious Counsel, a lawyer, and yoga teacher, and real human. He wrote The Yoga Law Book and has served hundreds of yoga professionals and studio owners around the world. In 2019 he won the award for "Highest Rated Session" at MindBody Bold and stays committed every day to teach about the law in a FUN and practical way.
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