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COVID-19 is Here to Stay for a While: Online and Offline Legal Essentials to Protect Yourself

In this post-COVID studio landscape, the yoga industry has changed. Make sure you have the best legal practices in place to ensure your business is protected. During this legal training you will learn:

Best Legal Practices for Yoga Professionals during Covid-19

Studio Reopening 101: what legal documents and legal considerations to have updated?

First of all you need a properly drafted waiver of liability (what to include in it…hint: most insurance companies do NOT cover COVID)

A waiver of liability’s purpose is to have someone sign away their legal rights in the case they  bring an action against. This is the foundational document for your business. The distinguishing point between a great waiver of liability and a weak one is how specific the agreement is drafted towards those activities or the risks of those activities. It protects you and all of your assets.

Specifics of the Waiver of Liability:

Remember it is all about how it is drafted. It should be specific enough that if someone gets injured while doing the activity with you, you did tell them beforehand what they would be doing. 

  1. Describing the Specific Activities 
  2. Listing the the Risks of the Activities
  3. Describing the Outcomes of those Specific Risks 
  4. After you have detailed the activities, risks of the activity, and the outcome of the specific risks in the document, it is important to make sure the participant affirms they are healthy enough to do these activities. When it comes to Covid related things, we need to include statements such as “I have not been in contact with anyone who has been sick” “I have been in self-quarantine”
  5. Next is an Agreement to Participate in the Activities 
  6. Finally a Signature where they are Acknowledging they are Signing Away their Legal Rights

Contact Conscious Counsel and they can help prepare these documents. 

Revisiting Employee Agreements (employee vs. contractor) and how to communicate effectively with your team.

What’s changed during the time of covid  is most studios had a model where they had a lot of contractors who would teach 2-3 times per week to maybe 2-4 times a month. Generally, in the government’s eyes it comes down to control over staff, the more control you have over a contractor the more they are an employee.

A contractor is someone who operates their own business. For example, Conscious Counsel’s graphic designer. They operate a law firm and Mallory does the design. She has her own hours, rates etc. 

The risks of misclassifying a contractor is you run the risk of a potential audit. Governments have made laws to protect workers in particular circumstances, so if you really are going to treat someone as an employee just hire them as an employee, yes it is more expensive but you have more control of what they do and how they do it.

Cory encourages everyone to be more flexible in the way these relationships of employee/contractor work. Things are much different now and you must relook at these relationships and agreements to best fit the landscape we are in. 

Practicing Online & Going Virtual: How to protect yourself  (social media/website disclaimer + privacy policy).

Privacy policies are quite straightforward. These policies have to do with compliance. Governments all across the world require that you let your customers know exactly what you will be doing with their information. If you use softwares like Stripe or MindBody even though you are not the ones technically collecting this information, at law you still have to let people know who is going to be processing the payment and put a link to their privacy policy on your site. 

Terms of Service are the rules for someone interacting with your website. Unless you have these rules written down it can become very difficult to enforce this. Examples include refund policy, trademark policy, return policy ect. In the event you need to enforce your rights, all you have to do is take a screenshot of your terms of service.

Now in regards to online disclaimers, lots of people are practicing on Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook live and because you don’t know who is tuning in you cannot get everyone to sign a waiver of liability. So, it is very important to link a disclaimer to your website that includes your qualifications, where you got your certifications, etc.. Also, you want to have information on things like, you don’t diagnose diseases, you don’t provide medications, there is no guarantee for results. 

In law there is something called the Duty of Care meaning when you are facilitating an activity for someone you have a duty to make sure they are going to be safe during the activity. Because there are more online classes than ever, you don’t have the chance to get everyone to sign a waiver of liability so you want to make sure you have a form of protection which would be your online disclaimer.

Practicing Proactive Law.

Cory like to say you must be in control of the relationships that you have. The best way to do this is having awesome legal documents so you are not letting someone else drive the wheel of a situation. It has never been more important to invest the time to protect all the assets that you already have. Get the proper legal documents to cover yourself in any event. 

Questions from the Webinar:

Do clients need to sign a waiver of liability for online classes either live or recorded? On my website I have a disclaimer but is that enough?

In situations where you know who will be attending and you have the ability to get them to sign a waiver of liability, do it. However in situations where you do not know who is tuning in you should always have a link to the Online Disclaimer on your website. It is not fool proof but is better than nothing. 

How can you include all of the risks of outcomes in the liability waiver? The list could be endless. 

You do not have to be as specific as listing every pose that will be happening in your class but for example if you will be practicing handstands, crow pose, or any other balancing poses it would be wise to list in your waiver that any arm balances have the risk of injury. 

As an individual teacher when I offer public, community classes via FB or via zoom how do I capture waivers from folks when I don't know who's gonna be showing up? 

It can be difficult to capture liability waivers in situations like these. So to help always add a link to your Online Disclaimer. It is better than nothing. 

Should disclaimers be displayed or verbally spoken every time you start a live video on any platform?

This is preference. You should always link the disclaimer even if you verbally say it. 

If you do not have a website yet, but have a FB page, can we include the disclaimer on the FB page? Would it be equally effective than on a website?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

In regards to IG and FB video classes, should the disclaimer be displayed each time at the onset of these situations or is just having it on your website or profile good enough?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

What if my class gets shared with others that did not register or sign a waiver of liability? How does liability play out in this type of scenario?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

What about others who join in a Zoom class along with a person who paid?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

When using Eventbrite is it a good idea to put the online disclaimer within that platform with the event info?

This questions will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

Do class participants have to sign a waiver for every class?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

Can participants use electronic signatures? 

See blog: 5 Basic Legal Agreements Every Yoga Instructor Needs 

Does having them sign a google form count as a signed waiver?

See blog: 5 Basic Legal Agreements Every Yoga Instructor Needs 

What about evergreen online courses that students can do on their own? Is this something that should have a liability waiver or is a disclaimer prior to clicking "buy" good enough?

This question will be answered in upcoming questions video. Stay Tuned.

About Cory Sterling:

Cory Sterling is a lawyer, small business owner, group fitness instructor and yoga teacher. He wrote The Yoga Law Book and has served hundreds of clients in the health and fitness space all across the world, the majority of whom own or operate a fitness/health studio. He has presented at conferences around the world, teaching about the law in a FUN and practical way. 

He won the award for "Highest Rated Session" at MindBody Bold in 2019, amongst a field of the health and fitness leading minds and best presenters. In March 2020, he completed the MindBody Business Consulting Program in order to learn overall best business practices for studios and is the only lawyer to hold the certificate.


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