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CDLE issues revised INFO #6A

The CDLE has issued a revised INFO #6A, which is its summary explaining the aspects of Colorado’s new sick leave law taking effect 1/1/2021. The CDLE summarized its changes to INFO #6A, as follows:

(1) Pg. 1: In the list of 3 situations that qualify for leave, a non-substantive wording change to category #3 (leave to care for another person) aims to make clearer that it applies when the person being cared for meets the category #2 definition (being ordered/instructed to quarantine/isolate, due to a risk of COVID-19, by a government agent or health provider).

(2) Pg. 1, footnote 3: As to what is and is not a “bonus” excluded from the regular pay rate that applies to paid leave in 2020, footnote 3 has been added to cite, and explain the answer in, the federal rule that applies to 2020 leave.

(3) Pg. 2: An “Example” of the CBA exemption was deleted because stakeholders have expressed differing views of the exemption that warrant consideration before the Division decides whether to adopt any interpretation.

(4) Pg. 3: An elaboration to the paragraph on how “Policies by any name can comply” cites and explains the federal rule that applies to 2020 leave, which draws a key distinction between employer policies that existed prior to April 1, 2020, and those adopted after that date.

(5) Pg. 2-3: Non-substantive citation edits — without changing any wording, numerical citations were added to the federal rules on what documentation (29 C.F.R. 826.100) and notice (29 C.F.R. 826.90) employees can be asked to provide, and numbers were corrected in two HFWA citations (to the 8-13.3-416 provision against waiver of rights, and the 8-13.3-418 provision recognizing employer rights against employee misconduct).

Of these, item 2 may be of particular interest, in that the CDLE revised INFO 6A to provide that, while on paid leave, sick leave must include payment of any “non-discretionary pay based on pre-determined criteria or formulae (e.g., by production or accuracy), whether called a piece rate, bonus, incentive, or other name.” In other words, in contrast what had seemed clear language in the new statute and in conflict with its prior INFO #6A, the CDLE has — without undertaking rulemaking — decided to re-interpret these new laws as excluding from required sick leave only “discretionary” bonuses.

“Paid Sick Leave Gaps Draw States’ Attention as Virus Persists”

State and local governments in at least 12 states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Massachusetts) have or are in the process of enacting new emergency sick leave laws, which either supplement coverage of existing federal coronavirus-related leave rights and/or implements all new general sickleave requirements, according to an interesting article by Bloomberg BNA, available here: ”Paid Sick Leave Gaps Draw States’ Attention as Virus Persists.”

Colorado employers are reminded of Colorado’s new sick leave law, which does both (as well as imposes additional obligations on employers here).

New York judge strikes three portions of DOL regulations re FFCRA leave

A New York federal trial court has struck three portions of the DOL regulations implementing the FFCRA’s emergency paid sick leave. The State of New York challenged and the trial court struck these three portions of the DOL regulations:

  1. A requirement that emergency paid sick leave is available only if the employer has work available;
  2. An exclusion for employees working for a health care provider (note: this portion of the order is particularly unclear as it may have only struck the DOL’s definition of a “health care provider” without providing an explanation of how that phrase should be interpreted);
  3. A requirement that intermittent emergency paid sick leave be made available only with the employer’s consent (again this portion of the order is also unclear, in that the court clearly struck the requirement for employer consent, but apparently did not require intermittent leave be provided if the employer does not have work to provide).

The ruling is far from clear. Its impact is even less clear. It is not clear if the ruling has any impact outside of New York. New York did not request and the judge did not issue a nationwide injunction; therefore, technically the ruling has no impact outside New York. Nor is it clear if the DOL will challenge the ruling, including by appeal. It is not clear if judges outside New York (or appellate judges if this ruling is appealed) will find the trial court’s order persuasive.

Employers are reminded that a growing number of state and local jurisdictions are adopting their own requirements along these lines. Colorado employers in particular are reminded they must comply not only with the federal FFCRA’s requirements along these lines but also the new state law requirements.

CDC shifts to symptoms-based not test-based recommendations for employers

The CDC has shifted from a test-based approach to now recommending employers follow a symptoms-based approach for its workers.

As a general rule, the CDC cautions employers not to require employees to take coronavirus tests and should not require employees to provide a doctor’s note to validate the need for sick leave or the ability to return to work.

Employers should not require a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.

– Under the American’s with Disabilities Act, employers are permitted to require a doctor’s note from your employees to verify that they are healthy and able to return to work. However, as a practical matter, be aware that healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and can follow CDC recommendations to determine when to discontinue home isolation and return to work.

– The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has established guidance regarding Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidance enables employers to take steps to protect workers consistent with CDC guidance, including requiring workers to stay home when necessary to address the direct threat of spreading COVID-19 to others.

Now, the CDC is now recommending a symptoms-based approach for determining when employees should self-isolate from the workplace. Specifically the CDC now recommends:

  • Following their first positive test, with no symptoms, isolation for 10 days
  • Following their first positive test with mild to moderate symptoms, isolation for the longer of 10 days or 24 hours after last fever or other symptom
  • Following their first positive test with severe symptoms, isolation for 20 days, or longer depending on healthcare provider input
  • Following an exposure with either no testing or a negative test, and with no symptoms, isolation for 14 days

The CDC recommends testing only in rare situations, and then two tests at least 24 hours apart.

The CDC cautions that test results may not be as reliable as one might hope. It now believes that a negative test result may be false, and a person may continue to test positive long after no longer being contagious. Therefore, the CDC currently believes that an employee who is able to return to work according to the foregoing criteria does not restart their isolation clock, as it were, simply because they test positive again later — again assuming they otherwise meet the foregoing criteria, including having had no symptoms, etc., for the required period from their first test.

The CDC has issued less restrictive requirements available for workers engaged in an essential industry, permitting such workers an exemption to return to work after exposure if they have no symptoms, wear a face covering, monitor symptoms and socially distance. The CDC has also issued different criteria for healthcare workers. Likewise, the CDC’s new guidelines acknowledge that different criteria may be imposed by a healthcare provider, and different guidelines may be appropriate for individuals with preexisting conditions.

“Colorado employers continue to lose vast majority of cases to compel workers back on the job,” reports Denver Business Journal

As noted in prior blog posts, Colorado employers have been, and now continue to be, held liable for unemployment benefits in bulk of unemployment claims, despite calls to return to work.

“It has held remarkably steady between 16% and 18%,” Fitzgerald said of the total number of decisions that have gone for employers over the three-plus months the department has heard such disputes. “There’s a number of folks who are just not safe to return to a job regardless of the actions their employers take.”
— Read on www.bizjournals.com/

Governor Polis signs Colorado sick leave laws into effect, requiring IMMEDIATE action by employers

Governor Polis has signed two laws into effect.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has issued summaries of each law (which it calls INFOs).

Additionally, the CDLE has released a poster (Spanish) for immediate posting by covered employers (see below).

Immediate Posting and Notification Obligations

Covered employers are required to immediately:

  • Post the required poster (Spanish).
    • Postings must be made in English and any language that at least 5% of the workforce speaks.
  • Notify employees of their rights under PHEW and HFWA. This notice may be accomplished by distributing in writing or by e-mail the required poster (Spanish).
    • If a company wishes, it may also meet this requirement by distributing copies of INFO 5, 6A and 6B, instead of (or in addition to) the poster.
  • Comply with the other requirements of PHEW and HFWA that took immediate effect (see below).

PHEW – Whistleblower and other protections

As explained in the CDLE’s INFO 5, PHEW applies to Colorado employers irrespective of size and also covers companies (called “principals” in the new law) who contract with five or more independent contractors in a year; it protects their employees and contractors

PHEW provides whistleblower protections for employees who lodge complaints regarding a public health emergency, i.e., who raise “a reasonable concern about workplace violations of government health or safety rules, or about an otherwise significant workplace threat to health or safety, related to a public health emergency.” Additionally it protects those who oppose such unsafe practices or participate in their investigation, determination or remedying. In INFO 5, the CDLE includes these observations regarding this aspect of PHEW:

Reasonableness​: Workers are protected even if they are incorrect about a claimed violation, if their belief was “reasonable” and in “good faith.” Workers are​ not protected for communications (A) that are “knowingly false,” or are made “​with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the information,” or (B) that “​share individual health information that is otherwise prohibited from disclosure” by state or federal law. (C.R.S. 8-14.4-102(5)-(6).)

Principal is not required to ​agree ​with, or ​act on, incorrect concerns​: If a worker’s concern is reasonable but incorrect, the principal is not required to agree with it, or to take any action the worker requests. It just cannot fire or otherwise act against the worker for raising that concern (for example, with a demotion, discipline, a cut in pay or hours, or an undesired transfer or shift change).

PHEW requires companies to allow individuals to wear their own desired pandemic-related safety gear, so long as it is more (not less) protective than that required by law and by the company.

A principal must allow, and cannot act against a worker for, “voluntarily wearing at the worker’s workplace the worker’s own personal protective equipment, such as a mask, faceguard, or gloves” (“PPE”) — with these limits and conditions on the PPE that the worker has a right to wear (C.R.S. 8-14.4-102(3)):

  • only PPE that “provides ​a higher level of protection than the equipment provided by the principal”;
  • only PPE that “is recommended by a federal, state, or local public health agency with jurisdiction over the worker’s workplace”; and
  • only PPE that “does not render the worker incapable of performing the worker’s job or prevent a worker from fulfilling the duties of the worker’s position.”

PHEW prohibits non-disclosure agreements that would otherwise impair an employee’s rights under PHEW. 

HFWA – Sick leave and other requirements

As explained in the CDLE’s INFO 5 and 6, HFWA takes effect in three stages.

Stage 1: HFWA’s immediate requirements

Effective immediately, all employers, irrespective of size, must

  • Offer leave that mirrors the federal FFCRA (Cares Act) leave currently required for coronavirus purposes.
    • While this new state law mirrors the requirements of the federal FFCRA, it expands the FFCRA in at least one major respect. This new Colorado law now requires such leave for employers of all sizes; whereas, the FFCRA does not apply to companies with more than 500 workers and has possible exemptions for employers with fewer than 15 workers.
    • Additionally HFWA offers no tax credits for the payment of this new leave. Whereas the FFCRA allows for the costs of such leave to be passed through effectively to the federal government in the form of tax credits, this means large employers who are not subject to the FFCRA apparently will have to absorb the costs of this new leave.  
    • The process for requesting and granting HFWA leave tracks the FFCRA’s in many respects, including the types of documentation involved.
      • However, the HFWA explicitly states that an employee’s failure to provide documentation or advance notice is generally not grounds for denying the leave.  “Documentation is not required to take paid sick leave, but can be required as soon as the employee reasonably can provide it” (quoting the CDLE’s INFO 6A).

Notice can be oral, and must provide only enough information for an employer to determine whether the leave is for an HWFA purpose. An employer may not require notice to include information or documentation beyond what is allowed in the documentation above. An employee’s representative (​e.g., spouse, adult family member, or other responsible party) may provide the notice if the employee cannot do so personally. If an employee fails to give notice, the employer must notify the employee of the failure and provide an opportunity to provide notice before denying the requested leave.

    • Existing leave policies can comply if they otherwise meet or exceed the HFWA’s requirements.
  • Post the required poster (Spanish).
  • Notify workers of their HFWA rights (see above regarding doing so by distribution of the poster and/or INFO 5, 6A and 6B).

Workers have complaint and anti-retaliation protections; however, the anti-retaliation provisions do not protect employee abuse of the HFWA as explained by the CDLE in INFO 6B:

HFWA disallows acting against employees for ​incorrect complaints or information, as long as the employee’s belief was reasonable and in good faith. (C.R.S. 8-13.3-407(3).) Employers ​can impose consequences (firing or otherwise) for misusing paid leave, dishonesty, or other leave-related misconduct. (C.R.S. 8-13.3-408.)

  • Example: ​An employer denies an employee paid leave for a “life coach” appointment. The employee files a complaint at the Division, and tells coworkers the employer is wrongly denying paid leave. The Division rules that this appointment was ​not HFWA-covered. That means the employer did nothing wrong by denying leave. But without evidence the employee’s belief that HFWA covered the appointment was unreasonable or in bad faith, the employer ​can’t ​ take action against the employee for requesting leave, filing a complaint, or telling co-workers she believed the employer violated HFWA.
  • Example:​ An ​employer​ grants​ an ​employee ​request ​for​ paid​ leave​ for a ​blood ​test ​and​ physical​ exam.​ The employer then learns the employee went bowling and never really had that appointment, so it (A) denies the request for paid leave and (B) fires the employee for dishonest misuse of leave. The employee files a complaint claiming (A) denial of paid leave and (B) retaliation against using HFWA rights. The employer did nothing wrong: (A) leave was not for an HFWA purpose, and (B) the firing was not retaliation because by taking leave with no HFWA purpose, the employee did not act reasonably or in good faith.

Stage 2: HFWA’s 1/1/2021 requirements

Effective 1/1/2021, for companies with more than 15 employees:

  • The HFWA’s (and FFCRA’s) pandemic sick leave requirements will have ended. Instead, an employer will be required to offer at least 48 hours (for hourly and 6 days for salaried workers) of sick leave for employees when
  1. having a mental or physical ​illness, injury, or health condition that prevents them from working;
  2. needing to get ​preventive medical care​, or to get a ​medical ​diagnosis, care, or treatment​, of any mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
  3. needing to ​care for a family member ​who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or who needs the sort of care listed in category (2);
  4. the employee or the employee’s family member having been a victim of ​domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment​, and needing leave for related medical attention, mental health care or other counseling, victim services (including legal services), or relocation; or
  5. due to a ​public health emergency​, a public official having ​closed ​either (A) the employee’s ​place of business​, or (B) the ​school or place of care ​of the employee’s child, requiring the employee needing to be absent from work to care for the child.
  • That leave will have to accrue at least at the rate of 1 hour per every 30 hours worked. Leave may be front loaded.
  • That leave may be capped at 48 hours per year.
  • That leave must be allowed to roll-over year-to-year (though again subject to a cap if the employer so elects).
  • That leave must be allowed for hourly and salaried employees, whether full-time or part-time, with accruals starting on the date of hire.
  • Note: Existing leave policies can comply if they otherwise meet or exceed the HFWA’s requirements.
    • With regard to PTO policies in particular, the 48 hour/6 day requirement is met so long as the full compliment of PTO exceeds such amounts. ‘Compliance can be through a broader paid leave policy, such as allowing “paid time off” for any purpose, health-related or not — as long as the policies (A) provide as much time off as HFWA requires, (B) for all conditions and situations that HFWA covers.”‘
    • Still relying on existing policies may be difficult for many companies as current sick leave policies often (a) provide for leave only when employees are sick (not for the other reasons set forth above), (b) provide only 5 not 6 sick days, (c) apply to employees after a 90-day probationary period and (d) do not cover part-time employees. These are just some examples of the kinds of current sick leave policies that will need to be revised to come up to HFWA’s requirements.
      • Additionally, policies should be revised to impose the permitted 48 hour/6 day cap; otherwise, as required, the sick leave will carry over and continue to accrue year after year.
  • Provide for at least 80 hours of sick leave in the event of another public health emergency. This leave will not be required in addition to the 48 hours/6 days required above; rather, leave requirements may be supplemented to cover the 80-hours of pandemic leave in the event of another public health emergency.
  • And as with the initial pandemic-leave requirements (see above), the HFWA explicitly states that an employee’s failure to provide documentation or advance notice is generally not grounds for denying the leave.
    • Additionally documentation may only be required when the absence is of 4 or more days, per CRS 8-13.3-404(6).

Stage 3: HFWA’s 1/1/2022 requirements

Effective 1/1/2022, the HFWA’s requirements will attach to employers of 15 or fewer.

HFWA and part-time employees

As noted, HFWA leave is required for part-time employees.

In footnote 2 of INFO 6A, the CDLE explains that Stage 1 HFWA leave (FFCRA-type pandemic leave) is to be provided to part-time employees, as follows:

​Leave for a part-time employee with a regular schedule is at the number of hours normally worked in a two-week period. If an employee’s hours vary, the employer must use their average hours over the six months before the leave. If the varied-schedule part-timer was employed less than six months, the employer must use the number of hours the employee agreed to work when hired, or if no such agreement exists, the average daily hours the employee was scheduled to work over their entire employment. (These are methods the U.S. Department of Labor adopted, 29 C.F.R. 826.21(b), so employers can use them for federal and Colorado law.)

And footnote 5 of INFO 6B explains the same for the availability of Stages 2 and 3 HFWA leave (general sick leave) for part-time employees, as follows:

​Leave for a part-time employee with a regular schedule is at the number of hours normally worked in a two-week period. If an employee’s hours vary, employers must use the employee’s average hours over the six months before leave started. If the varied-schedule part-timer has been employed less than six months, the employer must use the number of hours the employee agreed when hired, or if there is no such agreement, the average daily hours the employee was scheduled to work over their entire employment. Any of these calculations include hours the employee took leave, in addition to hours worked. (These are the methods the U.S. Department of Labor adopted, so employers can use the same method for federal and Colorado law.)

HFWA and CBAs

As explained in the CDLE’s INFO 6B, the HFWA allows for collectively bargained leave instead so long as it is “equivalent or more” than the HFWA requires:

Example: ​ A CBA can depart from the HFWA requirement that leave must be in hourly increments, but cannot eliminate HFWA rights to take leave without interference (or, relatedly, to file a complaint if HFWA is violated). 

HFWA and business closures

When Stage 2/3 HFWA leave kicks in, it will not be required for periods when an “entire business” is “completely closed.”

No paid leave required if an entire business is completely closed​. ​Unless a workplace is closed due to a temporary government quarantine/isolation order, no paid leave applies ​if an entire business is completely closed ​(whether temporarily or permanently) – because then, workers aren’t on “leave,” they’re on furlough or layoff (which makes unemployment insurance, not paid leave, the possible remedy).

Defining a public health emergency

Both PHEW and HFWA discuss the phrase “public health emergency” as periods recognized as such by ‘either (A) “a public health order issued by a state or local public health agency” or (B) “a disaster emergency declared by the governor based on a public health concern”’ (quoting the CDLE’s INFO 5). The CDLE notes in footnote 3 of INFO 6B that, starting at least 1/1/2021, a public health emergency need not be related to coronavirus.

Counting years

In footnote 4 of its INFO 6B, the CDLE states that, unless an employer specifies otherwise, years will be counted, at least for HFWA purposes, on the basis of a calendar year. 

If an employer doesn’t say otherwise, the “year” when paid leave accumulates is a ​calendar​ year, because HFWA’s broad leave requirements all start with calendar years: January 1, 2021, for most employers; January 1, 2022, for small employers. But an employer ​can ​ choose a different annual cycle if (A) it tells employees in writing in advance, and (B) switching to a different cycle doesn’t diminish employee HFWA rights. 

Successor liability

The HFWA imposes successor liability on a buyer who “acquires all of an organization, a trade, or a business or substantially all of the assets of one or more employers,” quoting CRS 8-13.3-402(12). See also CRS 8-13.3-403(8).

EEOC confirms coronavirus antibody testing not permitted as part of return-to-workplace program, although active-virus testing may be permitted

The EEOC updated its FAQ guidance with Q&A no. A7, advising that an employer may not require coronavirus antibody testing (which is the blood test done to see if the person’s blood suggests they were previously exposed to the virus sufficient to create antibodies) as part of a company’s return-to-workplace program. However the EEOC advised (1) this may change as the science develops and (2) an employer may be able to require active virus testing (which is commonly done with a nasal swab) if such testing is uniformly required and “job-related consistent with business necessity.”

A.7.  CDC said in its Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” In light of this CDC guidance, under the ADA may an employer require antibody testing before permitting employees to re-enter the workplace? (6/17/20)

No. An antibody test constitutes a medical examination under the ADA. In light of CDC’s Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace,” an antibody test at this time does not meet the ADA’s “job related and consistent with business necessity” standard for medical examinations or inquiries for current employees. Therefore, requiring antibody testing before allowing employees to re-enter the workplace is not allowed under the ADA.  Please note that an antibody test is different from a test to determine if someone has an active case of COVID-19 (i.e., a viral test).  The EEOC has already stated that COVID-19 viral tests are permissible under the ADA.

The EEOC will continue to closely monitor CDC’s recommendations, and could update this discussion in response to changes in CDC’s recommendations.

OSHA issues updated FAQ confirming cloth face coverings and general masks worn re coronavirus are not PPE

OSHA issued an updated FAQ re cloth face coverings and the kind of masks commonly worn regarding coronavirus (called “surgical” masks by OSHA, as distinguished from what it calls “respirators (e.g., filtering face pieces)”).

OSHA explains that cloth face coverings are worn, not to protect the wearer, but to reduce the expression of virus by the wearer, what OSHA calls “source control.”

Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) without knowing it (i.e., those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others. This is known as source control.

As such, OSHA says, cloth face coverings are not PPE and need not be provided by or paid for by an employer. Likewise surgical masks and even respirators, when worn for source control, are not PPE and need not be provided by or paid for by an employer.

Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.

Although not required by OSHA, “OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work.” In addition, even when cloth face coverings are encouraged, OSHA also recommends that employers encourage social distancing in the workplace. (Note: Employers should remember OSHA is only one source of applicable law. Employers need to comply with all applicable laws, some of which, especially at the state and local level, do mandate social distancing, de-densifying, and even cloth face coverings.)

OSHA’s FAQ reminds employers that some companies must provide masks and even respirators as PPE, for example healthcare employers whose workers are known to be exposed to coronavirus. Likewise OSHA reminds all employers they face a General Duty citation if they fail to take feasible and effective means to eliminate a recognized hazard in the workplace; OSHA’s FAQ suggests it may rely upon evidence to include the failure of an employer to encourage the use of cloth face coverings or surgical masks and the practice of social distancing.

OSHA believes some employers have a duty to investigate work-relatedness of coronavirus cases

If an employee tests positive, does an employer have an obligation to investigate whether it is “work-related”? OSHA thinks so, now, but investigating and determining “work-relatedness” may not be as easy — or as lawful — as OSHA believes.

OSHA issued a revised enforcement guidance that now imposes on some employers a duty to investigate the possible “work-relatedness” of employee coronavirus cases and, if confirmed, to comply with OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements regarding work-related injuries and illnesses.

Employers may wish to review this summary of the revised guidance by SHRM.

To determine the work-relatedness of an employee’s having coronavirus, the employer should conduct an investigation, which may be as simple as talking to the individual. OSHA suggests that an employer’s investigation should include:

(1) (asking) the employee how he believes he contracted the COVID-19 illness;

(2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss(ing) with the employee his work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and

(3) review(ing) the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure.

Unfortunately this may not be as simple as OSHA makes it sound. Employers are reminded of the EEOC and other legal constraints on medical inquiries. Employers should consult with legal counsel as they attempt to thread the needle between the conflicting requirements of OSHA and the EEOC.

OSHA believes a case of coronavirus may be considered work-related if “(f)or instance:

COVID-19 illnesses are likely work-related when several cases develop among workers who work closely together and there is no alternative explanation.

An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if it is contracted shortly after lengthy, close exposure to a particular customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation.

An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if his job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation.

An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if she is the only worker to contract COVID-19 in her vicinity and her job duties do not include having frequent contact with the general public, regardless of the rate of community spread.

An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if he, outside the workplace, closely and frequently associates with someone (e.g., a family member, significant other, or close friend) who (1) has COVID-19; (2) is not a coworker, and (3) exposes the employee during the period in which the individual is likely infectious.

CSHOs should give due weight to any evidence of causation, pertaining to the employee illness, at issue provided by medical providers, public health authorities, or the employee herself.

OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements may not apply to employers with fewer than 10 workers or with workplaces recognized by OSHA as low hazard.

PPPFA grants greater flexibility for PPP loan borrowers

Congress passed and President Trump signed the PPPFA (Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act), which grants greater flexibility for PPP loan borrowers.

Among its changes, the PPPFA

  • Reduces the required ratio of loan usage on payroll from 75% to 60%
  • Permits loan funds to be used over a 24- not 8-week covered period
  • Extends the deadline to rehire workers from June 30 to December 31, 2020
  • Adds exceptions to the headcount requirement for rehiring
  • Extends the repayment term from 2 to 5 years

Many of the PPPFA’s changes are options available but not necessarily mandated for existing PPP loans. Companies that have taken out a PPP loan should contact their lender and tax/accounting professionals to learn which of the PPPFA’s options may now be available to them.

Coronavirus-safety lawsuits against employers begin

Employees have begun filing lawsuits against their employers alleging inadequate safety measures in place to protect against coronavirus.

So far, two lawsuits have reached an initial-decision stage:

  1. Rural Community Workers Alliance v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., case no. 5:20-CV-06063-DGK. See Order Granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss dated 5-5-2020.
  2. Massey v. McDonald’s, case no. 2020CH04247. See initial complaint, which news reports advise was sustained against a motion to dismiss, by way of a verbal order from the bench that has not (yet?) been reduced to writing and that, instead, set the matter for a forthwith hearing regarding a possible preliminary injunction.

The McDonald’s complaint alleges that the company has taken inadequate safety precautions to protect against coronavirus and asserts claims that, as a result, its restaurant operations at the locations identified in the complaint constitute “public nuisances” that endanger the public, including not only customers but the plaintiff (and requested class-action members) employees and, further constitute the tort of negligence against the plaintiffs (and requested class-action members) who are employees. The complaint further includes a negligence claim against individual store owners.

While the McDonald’s complaint has reportedly been set for a preliminary injunction hearing, the plaintiffs may take little comfort from the Smithfield Foods case, which was also set for such a hearing, but then dismissed.

Employers can expect to see more of such lawsuits filed as the country struggles through the coronavirus crisis, but it seems the court in the Smithfield Foods case reached the right conclusion. Coronavirus is a national crisis. It is not a risk specific to any given workplace. COVID-19 is a novel virus. Not just companies, and individuals, but the government itself is struggling to determine what proper safety measures are in the workplace.

Most importantly in these cases, workplace safety is within the exclusive jurisdiction of OSHA. Congress created extensive regulatory procedures and protections within the OSHA administrative framework. One such right is not a private right of action by workers who wish to challenge workplace safety measures. Employees must pursue their concerns through the OSHA process, not by filing private lawsuits in court.

To the extent plaintiffs try to cloak their negligence claims as “public nuisance” claims, the same reasoning applies, as the court noted in the Smithfield Farms case.

The parties agree that the Plant cannot be a public nuisance simply by virtue of the fact that it is a meat-processing plant during a global pandemic. Moreover, in this case, Smithfield has implemented substantial health and safety measures to protect Plant workers, and no employees of the Plant have been diagnosed with COVID-19. While Plaintiffs argue that Smithfield could do more to protect its workers, that is not the issue before this Court. The issue is whether the Plant, as it is currently operating, constitutes an offense against the public order. Because of the significant measures Smithfield has implemented to combat the disease and the lack of COVID-19 at the facility, the Plant cannot be said to violate the public’s right to health and safety.

The court there concluded its analysis by emphasizing that it was sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ concerns, but that those concerns should be raised to the appropriate workplace safety agencies, primarily OSHA.

Plaintiffs are naturally concerned for their health and the health of their community in these unprecedented times. The Court takes their concern seriously. Nevertheless, the Court cannot ignore the USDA’s and OSHA’s authority over compliance with the Joint Guidance or the significant steps Smithfield has taken to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Plant.

Colorado unemployment agency continues trend of ruling in favor of workers who decline to return to work

A previous post addressed the requirement that workers return to work — or face loss of unemployment — when an offer to return (to comparable work) is extended, unless the worker is a “vulnerable individual” or otherwise unable to return due to coronavirus-related reasons. As noted there, the initial report was that the state was tending to find in favor of employees by a large margin. The Denver Business Journal is reporting today that the state unemployment agency is continuing that trend, now finding 84% of the time in favor of workers.

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment officials have received about 1,100 submissions from employers about workers who have refused to come back to work in recent weeks and want to keep receiving jobless benefits. And of the 869 cases that CDLE officials have adjudicated, only 16% have ended in workers being told to return to their positions or give up their unemployment payments, chief communications officer Cher Haavind said.

In the vast majority of cases, workers claiming they can’t safely return to work fall into one of two categories delineated by federal and state law as allowing them to refuse to go back to an environment where they would interact with many co-workers or customers, Haavind said. One is that they are part of a vulnerable population that would make them more susceptible to catching coronavirus — people over age 65 or who have underlying medical conditions such as heart troubles or being immunocompromised. The second is that they are caring either for someone who is at increased risk of contracting the virus or are caring for a child out of school.

EEOC updates Q&A, specifically re employees with an underlying disability that puts them at “higher risk” re coronavirus

The EEOC updated its prior Q&A re coronavirus, adding three questions (numbered G3-G5) to address the needs of employees who already suffer from an underlying disability that, now, puts them at “higher risk” related to coronavirus.

First in questions G3-G4, the EEOC advises that an employer is obligated to consider whether a reasonable accommodation exists to permit such an individual to return to work once a request is made. Until a request is made, the employer has no obligation to consider the possibility of a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC explains too that the request need not be made formally — it may be made “in conversation or in writing” — and it need not be made by the employee themselves — it may be made by the employee “or a third party, such as an employee’s doctor.” Indeed the request need not even be a request, it is enough if the employee “let(s) the employer know that she needs a change for a reason related to” an underlying disability.

Question G4 confirms that an employer need not consider a reasonable accommodation even when the company knows the worker has an underlying disability that might put them at a “higher risk” related to coronavirus, until such a request is made. However where the employer is itself concerned that the employee’s disability might put them at a “higher risk” related to coronavirus, the employer cannot on its own initiative “exclude” the worker from work unless it can prove a “direct threat” to the worker’s own health (or the health of others) and, further, that the “direct threat” cannot be removed by reasonable accommodation, such as allowing “telework, leave, or reassignment” if reasonable. The EEOC discusses the possibility of showing such a “direct threat,” noting it “is a high standard,” with proof that “if, after going through all these steps (of considering the relevant risk, the possibility of reasonable accommodation, etc.), the facts support the conclusion that the employee poses a significant risk of substantial harm to himself that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation.”

Question G5 discusses possible accommodations that should be considered by an employer and worker in trying to determine if a reasonable accommodation might exist to permit a worker with an underlying disability to work despite a “higher risk” related to coronavirus (emphasis added).

Accommodations may include additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide to employees returning to its workplace.  Accommodations also may include additional or enhanced protective measures, for example, erecting a barrier that provides separation between an employee with a disability and coworkers/the public or increasing the space between an employee with a disability and others.  Another possible reasonable accommodation may be elimination or substitution of particular “marginal” functions (less critical or incidental job duties as distinguished from the “essential” functions of a particular position).  In addition, accommodations may include temporary modification of work schedules (if that decreases contact with coworkers and/or the public when on duty or commuting) or moving the location of where one performs work (for example, moving a person to the end of a production line rather than in the middle of it if that provides more social distancing).

These are only a few ideas.  Identifying an effective accommodation depends, among other things, on an employee’s job duties and the design of the workspace.  An employer and employee should discuss possible ideas; the Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan.org) also may be able to assist in helping identify possible accommodations.  As with all discussions of reasonable accommodation during this pandemic, employers and employees are encouraged to be creative and flexible.

Colorado unemployment disputes skyrocket as employers begin to offer returns to work that employees decline, with CDLE at least initially tending to rule for workers

As previously posted on this blog, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Unemployment created a new portal for employers to use to report when an employee refuses after being offered to return to work; the refusal will generally render the individual ineligible for further unemployment, unless the individual can prove they are “vulnerable” and that the company has inadequate coronavirus protections in place.

The Denver Business Journal is reporting that approximately 150 workers have already advised the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that they do not wish to return to work and would rather stay on unemployment due to concerns about coronavirus, while 200 employers have used the new portal to report refusals.

How is the CDLE handling these disputes? The Denver Business Journal advises the agency is attempting to investigate each claim individually, without agency representatives actually going to jobsites though.

Instead, workers will be asked to explain what underlying condition they have that makes it unsafe for them to return to work or why they feel the workplace is an unsafe environment, and employers will be asked if the worker is coming back at the same job and pay rate and if efforts have been made at increased sanitation and social distancing.

Who’s winning these disputes? For now the Denver Business Journal reports the CDLE is ruling generally in favor of the workers.

So far, CDLE officials, who have gone through about 55 claims, are coming down on the sides of the workers at a ratio of about 10-to-1, said Jeff Fitzgerald, unemployment insurance division director.

The CDLE does not explain in the article how it plans to address this issue going-forward especially if, as reported in the Denver Post, the combination of traditional unemployment benefits plus pandemic unemployment benefits is high enough that a “majority” of workers in Colorado are actually earning more money on unemployment currently than they would in their job if returned.

The cutoff point is around $30 an hour in Colorado, according to the study by Gregory Miller, a CFA and graduate researcher at CSU. Make more than that and the financial incentive is to return to work. Make less than that, and collecting unemployment pays better, especially if a job doesn’t come with health insurance and other benefits.

The combination of that “financial incentive” plus health concerns about the possible coronavirus-related implications of returning to work around others, even subject to Colorado’s social distancing guidelines, means the CDLE is going to be required to address many, many more such disputes going-forward.

Looking for a short primer on which expenses are forgivable and how to maximize the forgiveness of a PPP loan?

Here’s a handy short primer on PPP loans, discussing which expenses are forgivable and steps employers can take to maximize the forgiveness of a PPP loan.

Which Paycheck Protection Program Expenses Are Eligible for Forgiveness?
— Read on www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Expense-Forgiveness.aspx

Trying to prepare your EEO-1 data filing in the midst of coronavirus pandemic? FYI, the EEOC just delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 due to coronavirus

The EEOC has delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 until 2021 due to coronavirus. In its press release, the EEOC explained the delay, as follows:

The EEOC recognizes the impact that the current public health emergency is having on workplaces across America and the challenges that both employers and employees alike are now facing. Filers of the EEO-1, EEO-3and EEO-5, which include private sector employers, local referral unions, and public elementary and secondary school districts, are dealing with unique and urgent issues. Delaying the collections until 2021 will ensure that EEO filers are better positioned to provide accurate, valid and reliable data in a timely manner.

EEO-1, EEO-3 and EEO-5 filers should begin preparing to submit data in 2021. Pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) the EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 in March 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available. The EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2020 EEO-3 and the 2020 EEO-5 in January 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available.

In addition to updates to the agency website, the EEOC will be reaching out directly to EEO-1, 3, and 5 filers regarding the delayed opening of the surveys.

The EEOC will formally publish its announcement in the Federal Register, to appear, starting 5/8/2020, here.

DOL issues new model COBRA notices to address growing wave of litigation

The DOL has issued a new set of model COBRA notices that may be used to comply with COBRA’s requirements, along with a set of explanatory Q&A’s. The DOL’s model COBRA forms are not required to be used, they are intended to reduce litigation exposure by helping to “to ensure that qualified beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.”

Employers should immediately contact their health insurance and benefits providers and plan administrators to ensure they are using the correct COBRA documentation.

OSHA publishes guidance for employers on how to establish a safe workplace in the coronavirus pandemic

As essential industries struggle to stay open and as more and more companies look to reopen, OSHA has published a “Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus.” The guidance provides specific recommendations for workplace structuring, cleaning, protective equipment, etc., broken down for different kinds of jobs, based on their risk of exposure to coronavirus. Employers will want to review the guidance with their safety professionals. 

Employers are reminded to check any state and local requirements as well for their workplaces. For example, Cal-OSHA has published its own requirements. Colorado has published a page containing its extensive suggestions; Pinnacol has offered its own suggestions here.

Colorado Unemployment releases website to report an employee’s refusal to return to work

In Colorado, Governor Polis’ safer-at-home order remains in effect but permits certain employers to begin reopening subject to certain conditions at various times.

What if an employer decides to reopen in accordance with that order, but an employee feels they would be “safer at home,” may that employee decline an offer to return to work and continue to receive unemployment (traditional and/or pandemic) benefits? 

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has issued a FAQ explaining that it will depend on the circumstances. As a general rule, the answer is, no, that worker may not choose to decline the offer, without losing unemployment; in other words, that worker would, be declining the offer to return to work, become ineligible for further unemployment benefits. That general rule allows one exception for workers who can establish they are “vulnerable” and further that the company’s workplace lacks sufficient precautions to permit safe distancing, etc.

What if my employer is requiring me to return to work but I don’t feel safe?
● Per Safer at Home Executive Order D 2020 044, no vulnerable individuals can be compelled by their employer to return to work if their work requires in person work near others.
● Employers must accommodate vulnerable individuals with remote work options, if the work can be done remotely.
● If you refuse to return to work due to unsatisfactory or hazardous working conditions based on your status as a member of a vulnerable group, you may continue to be eligible for benefits based on the risk to your health.
● If you refuse to return to work due to unsatisfactory or hazardous working conditions because you reside with a person who is a member of a vulnerable group, you may continue to be eligible for benefits based on the risk to the health of your co-inhabitant.
● If an employer requires work from an employee entitled to paid leave (due to illness or a quarantine/isolation order) under the Colorado HELP Rules, that would be unlawful under those rules, and should be reported to the contact information at the bottom of these FAQs.
● Any other possible violations of social distancing, or other health and safety orders, should be reported to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or County health officials. https://www.osha.gov/contactus/bystate/CO/areaoffice

How will an employer notify the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that a return offer has been declined?

Apparently anticipating the possibility that many people will want to decline offers to return to work, the CDLE has opened a special portal to permit companies to report that an offer to return was extended and declined.

Employees and companies alike should review the CDLE’s information. Individuals should realize that Governor Polis’ stay-at-home order does not give everyone the option to decline a return to work. As a general rule, an individual who declines an offer to return to work will lose unemployment. Companies can use the CDLE’s portal to report that the return offer was declined. Both individuals and companies should realize there may be exceptions for individuals who can show they are “vulnerable” and that the company’s safety precautions (social distancing, face-covering, etc.) are inadequate.

Wondering why the new coronavirus-related unemployment compensation (CARES Act unemployment benefits) are taking so long?

Visitors to Colorado’s unemployment page at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will see this update regarding the status of the new coronavirus-related unemployment benefits that will be available under the CARES Act:

Update as of April 12, 2020: We are still programming our systems to begin accepting claims for workers who are eligible for benefits related to the CARES Act, including those who are self-employed (retroactive as far back as February 2 or when your work stopped as a direct result of COVID-19). Programming is also underway for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which is $600/week additional benefit (retroactive to March 29). Claimants DO NOT need to take action for the additional $600 benefit. Benefits will be retroactive and eligible claimants will not lose benefits while you wait to file a claim. We appreciate your understanding.

If you are a traditional employee or pay premiums for your own wages, and are not working or had your hours reduced,  file a regular unemployment claim:

  • If your last name begins with a letter from A to M: Please file your unemployment claim on a Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or after 12 noon on Saturday.
  • If your last name begins with a letter from N to Z: Please file your unemployment claim on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or before 12 noon on Saturday.

The CDLE should be commended for at least providing this update, and note it did so over the weekend on Easter Sunday. Indeed the CDLE reports it has on-boarded many new workers to process these payments and is working long hours to make it possible.

Readers who are curious, even frustrated, that it is taking so long may be interested in this article just published by Bloomberg BNA detailing some of the technical, legal, security and practical issues that each of the various states is facing as they all try to find ways to use systems that were never designed for this volume or type of payment, to accommodate this new federal program.

 

Documentation and forms for requesting FFCRA coronavirus-related sick leave and coronavirus-related FMLA leave

In a prior post, it was noted that the DOL had issued its final rules regulating the FFCRA. As explained there, the DOL regulations summarize the documentation that employers should keep for coronavirus-sick and coronavirus-FMLA leave granted under the FFCRA.

→Reminder: FFCRA-covered employers are reminded that in addition to this required documentation, they must have already posted-distributed an FFCRA poster.

In terms of the documentation required in the new DOL regulations, the IRS has also issued its own guidance regarding documentation that will be required for FFCRA (in other words, CARES Act) tax credits:

How Should an Employer Substantiate Eligibility for Tax Credits for Qualified Leave Wages?

An Eligible Employer will substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits if the employer receives a written request for such leave from the employee in which the employee provides:

  1. The employee’s name;
  2. The date or dates for which leave is requested;
  3. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
  4. A statement that the employee is unable to work, including by means of telework, for such reason.

In the case of a leave request based on a quarantine order or self-quarantine advice, the statement from the employee should include the name of the governmental entity ordering quarantine or the name of the health care professional advising self-quarantine, and, if the person subject to quarantine or advised to self-quarantine is not the employee, that person’s name and relation to the employee.

In the case of a leave request based on a school closing or child care provider unavailability, the statement from the employee should include the name and age of the child (or children) to be cared for, the name of the school that has closed or place of care that is unavailable, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the period for which the employee is receiving family medical leave and, with respect to the employee’s inability to work or telework because of a need to provide care for a child older than fourteen during daylight hours, a statement that special circumstances exist requiring the employee to provide care.

An Eligible Employer will substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits if, in addition to the information set forth in FAQ 44 (“What information should an Eligible Employer receive from an employee and maintain to substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits?”), the employer creates and maintains records that include the following information:

  1. Documentation to show how the employer determined the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees that are eligible for the credit, including records of work, telework and qualified sick leave and qualified family leave.
  2. Documentation to show how the employer determined the amount of qualified health plan expenses that the employer allocated to wages. See FAQ 31 (“Determining the Amount of Allocable Qualified Health Plan Expenses”) for methods to compute this allocation.
  3. Copies of any completed Forms 7200, Advance of Employer Credits Due To COVID-19, that the employer submitted to the IRS.
  4. Copies of the completed Forms 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, that the employer submitted to the IRS (or, for employers that use third party payers to meet their employment tax obligations, records of information provided to the third party payer regarding the employer’s entitlement to the credit claimed on Form 941).

An Eligible Employer should keep all records of employment taxes for at least 4 years after the date the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever comes later.  These should be available for IRS review.

Employers looking to develop forms for requesting the coronavirus-related sick leave or the coronavirus-related FMLA leave may wish to start with two such forms recently published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on its coronavirus-page of resources, then consult with their own legal counsel and tax professional to ensure they will not only comply with the FFCRA’s requirements but also be able to assert the available tax credits.

Looking for a handy summary of coronavirus relief for businesses?

www.moyewhite.com/getmedia/45dfc85d-3c2a-4b53-b5ac-43dd6be23c6f/covidrelief_Part3_v2.pdf

Questions? Contact Lynne Hanson, Esq., Moye White, LLP, 303-292-7927.

DOL issues regulations under the FFCRA regarding newly mandated coronavirus sick- and FMLA- leave

The DOL has issued regulations implementing the FFCRA’s newly mandated coronavirus sick- and FMLA-leave. The regulations address many topics, including the following highlights. Look for additional information as the new regulations are analyzed.

  • The definition of “Telework,” which includes the statement that an employee is not “able to Telework” if there are any “extenuating circumstances (such as serious COVID-19 symptoms) that prevent
    the Employee from performing that work” (parenthetical in original), sec. 826.10.
  • A flesh-out of each of the six reasons that qualify for the new paid coronavirus sick leave, sec. 826.20. This includes specifically with regard to reason 4 (“seeking medical diagnosis for COVID-19”) that the employee need merely be “experiencing any of the” recognized symptoms of COVID-19, which be only a “dry cough.” However, leave is limited to the time the employee is ” unable to work because the Employee is taking affirmative steps to obtain a medical diagnosis, such as making, waiting for, or attending an appointment for a test for COVID-19.”
  • The DOL also clarified in sec. 826.20(b), and especially in its prefatory language explaining that new regulatory language, that both the new coronavirus sick- and FMLA- leaves will be available when a parent is needed to care for a child who is under 18 years old or (clarifying what had seemed language in the new law that contradicted the actual FMLA) who is “18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.”
  • How the amount of coronavirus sick- and FMLA- leave should be calculated, and how pay for the same should be calculated, sec. 826.21-.25.
  • How eligibility for the new coronavirus FMLA-leave is determined. As previously noted, the new coronavirus sick leave is available to all employees of a covered employer, while the new coronavirus FMLA leave is available only to employees who have been on payroll for at least 30 calendar days. Sec. 826.30 explains how that is to be calculated.
  • How employees are to be counted to determine if the employer is covered, i.e., if the employer employers fewer than 500 employees, sec. 826.40. All employees are to be counted. One part-time employee counts as one employee (not 1/2 for example). Employees who work for the company count even if they also count as employees of a Joint Employer. Likewise, true independent contractors are not counted. Employees of affiliated entities generally will count towards their actual employer (not its affiliate), again absent joint-employer status.
  • Sec. 826.40 also explains that the small business exemption available to employers of fewer than 50 is available, upon self-certification (that must be documented, preserved but not filed with DOL unless requested) by “an authorized officer of the business” that:

(i) The leave requested under either section 102(a)(1)(F) of the FMLA or section 5102(a)(5) of the EPSLA would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;

(ii) The absence of the Employee or Employees requesting leave under either section 102(a)(1)(F) of the FMLA or section 5102(a)(5) of the EPSLA would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or

(iii) There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the Employee or Employees requesting leave under either section 102(a)(1)(F) of the FMLA or section 5102(a)(5) of the EPSLA, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.

  • How intermittent leave will work and that, unlike regular FMLA leave, intermittent leave for both the new coronavirus sick- and FMLA-leaves will be available ” only if the Employer and Employee agree. The Employer and Employee may memorialize in writing any agreement under this section, but a clear and mutual understanding between the parties is sufficient.” Sec. 826.50. Also that these new leaves are available to an employee who has been offered Telework “only when the Employee is unavailable to Telework because of a COVID-19 related reason” (see also above regarding the definition of Telework).
  • Sec. 826.60 provides for the two new leaves to run concurrently in certain situations, if both are needed, with the new coronavirus sick leave being used first, and an employee who exhausts these paid leaves may choose, but not be required to substitute other paid leave to cover the unpaid portion of any gap.
  • Sec. 826. 90 explains the types of notice that an employee can be required to give, which include rules generally prohibiting the requirement of notice sooner than “after the first workday (or portion thereof) for which an Employee takes” the new leave (parenthetical in original) and requiring an employer to give notice and an opportunity to provide required documentation prior to denying the request for leave. For example sec. 826.90 provides, as follows:

 Notice may not be required in advance, and may only be required after the first workday (or portion thereof) for which an Employee takes Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave. After the first workday, it will be reasonable for an Employer to require notice as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Generally, it will be reasonable for notice to be given by the Employee’s spokesperson (e.g., spouse, adult family member, or other responsible party) if the Employee is unable to do so personally.

  • Sec. 826. 100 provides further explanation of the kinds of documentation that can be required for particular types of leave needed.

 826.100 Documentation of Need for Leave.

(a) An Employee is required to provide the Employer documentation containing the following information prior to taking Paid Sick Leave under the EPSLA [sick leave] or Expanded Family and Medical Leave under the EFMLEA:

(1) Employee’s name;

(2) Date(s) for which leave is requested;

(3) Qualifying reason for the leave; and

(4) Oral or written statement that the Employee is unable to work because of the qualified reason for leave.

(b) To take Paid Sick Leave for a qualifying COVID-19 related reason under § 826.20(a)(1)(i), an Employee must additionally provide the Employer with the name of the government entity that issued the Quarantine or Isolation Order.

(c) To take Paid Sick Leave for a qualifying COVID-19 related reason under § 826.20(a)(1)(ii) an Employee must additionally provide the Employer with the name of the health care provider who advised the Employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

(d) To take Paid Sick Leave for a qualifying COVID-19 related reason under § 826.20(a)(1)(iii) an Employee must additionally provide the Employer with either:

(1) the name of the government entity that issued the Quarantine or Isolation Order to which the individual being care for is subject; or

(2) The name of the health care provider who advised the individual being cared for to self quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

(e) To take Paid Sick Leave for a qualifying COVID-19 related reason under § 826.20(a)(1)(v) or Expanded Family and Medical Leave, an Employee must additionally provide:

(1) the name of the Son or Daughter being cared for;

(2) the name of the School, Place of Care, or Child Care Provider that has closed or become unavailable; and

(3) a representation that no other suitable person will be caring for the Son or Daughter during the period for which the Employee takes Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave.

(f) The Employer may also request an Employee to provide such additional material as needed for the Employer to support a request for tax credits pursuant to the FFCRA. The Employer is not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided. For more information, please consult https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/covid-19-related-tax-credits-for-required-paid-leave-provided
by-small-and-midsize-businesses-faqs.

  • Sec. 826.130 guarantees the worker a “right to be restored to the same or an equivalent position” if the job still exists, in other words, the section also clarifies that the “Employee is not protected from employment actions, such as layoffs, that would have affected the Employee regardless of whether he or she took leave. In order to deny restoration to employment, an Employer must be able to show that an Employee would not otherwise have been employed at the time reinstatement is requested in order to deny restoration to employment.” The section also recognizes that very small employers of fewer than 25 employees (see above regarding counting) may be protected by an exemption from the restoration obligation subject to four conditions set forth in sec. 826.130(b)(3).
  •  Sec. 826.140 details recordkeeping requirements for four years.

Midsized businesses applying for certain loan under the CARES Act should be aware that terms may include a union-neutrality obligation for the term of the loan

Companies employing 500-10,000 workers should be aware, when considering loans under the CARES Act that sec. 4003(c)(3)(D)(I)(X) will require, as a term of that loan, that they “remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the loan.” That language (emphasis added) reads, as follows:

(D) Assistance for mid-sized businesses.–
(i) In general.–Without limiting the terms and
conditions of the programs and facilities that the
Secretary may otherwise provide financial assistance to
under subsection (b)(4), the Secretary shall endeavor to
seek the implementation of a program or facility described
in subsection (b)(4) that provides financing to banks and
other lenders that make direct loans to eligible businesses
including, to the extent practicable, nonprofit
organizations, with between 500 and 10,000 employees, with
such direct loans being subject to an annualized interest
rate that is not higher than 2 percent per annum. For the
first 6 months after any such direct loan is made, or for
such longer period as the Secretary may determine in his
discretion, no principal or interest shall be due and
payable. Any eligible borrower applying for a direct loan
under this program shall make a good-faith certification
that–

(I) the uncertainty of economic conditions as of
the date of the application makes necessary the loan
request to support the ongoing operations of the
recipient;
(II) the funds it receives will be used to retain
at least 90 percent of the recipient’s workforce, at
full compensation and benefits, until September 30,
2020;
(III) the recipient intends to restore not less
than 90 percent of the workforce of the recipient that
existed as of February 1, 2020, and to restore all
compensation and benefits to the workers of the
recipient no later than 4 months after the termination
date of the public health emergency declared by the
Secretary of Health and Human Services on January 31,
2020, under section 319 of the Public Health Services
Act (42 U.S.C. 247d) in response to COVID-19;
(IV) the recipient is an entity or business that is
domiciled in the United States with significant
operations and employees located in the United States;
(V) the recipient is not a debtor in a bankruptcy
proceeding;
(VI) the recipient is created or organized in the
United States or under the laws of the United States
and has significant operations in and a majority of its
employees based in the United States;
(VII) the recipient will not pay dividends with
respect to the common stock of the eligible business,
or repurchase an equity security that is listed on a
national securities exchange of the recipient or any
parent company of the recipient while the direct loan
is outstanding, except to the extent required under a
contractual obligation that is in effect as of the date
of enactment of this Act;
(VIII) the recipient will not outsource or offshore
jobs for the term of the loan and 2 years after
completing repayment of the loan;
(IX) the recipient will not abrogate existing
collective bargaining agreements for the term of the
loan and 2 years after completing repayment of the
loan; and
(X) that the recipient will remain neutral in any
                union organizing effort for the term of the loan.

DOL updates its Q&A re new coronavirus sick-/FMLA- leave law

The DOL has updated its Q&A regarding the new coronavirus sick-/FMLA- leaves. Added answers include:

  • Employees who are already or who become subject to layoffs/furloughs will generally not be entitled to either of these new leaves.
  • Employees who are assigned to telework are only entitled to these new leaves if they are unable to telework as a result of one of the qualifying reasons for these sick-/FMLA-leaves.
  • Employees, including teleworking employees, are entitled to intermittently take both of these new sick-/FMLA-leaves (assuming they meet one of the qualifying reasons).

Employers of fewer than 500 should review the updated Q&A immediately in its entirety.

BREAKING NEWS: DOL has issued the poster REQUIRED to be “posted” re coronavirus sick-/FMLA- leave

Employers who are subject to the new FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) sick-/FMLA- leave are required to post a poster by the FFCRA’s effective date, April 1, 2020. The EEOC has just issued the required poster along with a Q&A that answers common questions employers will have regarding the same, including explaining that, where a workplace has suffered reductions due to coronavirus it may be necessary to issue the poster by email or so-called snail mail — but not to already furloughed or laid off workers nor in languages other than English. The Q&A provides, as follows:

 

DEFINITIONS

“Paid sick leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

“Expanded family and medical leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

  1. What is the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
  2. As an employer, how do I know if my business is under the 500-employee threshold and therefore must provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?You have fewer than 500 employees if, at the time your employee’s leave is to be taken, you employ fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees within the United States, which includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any Territory or possession of the United States. In making this determination, you should include employees on leave; temporary employees who are jointly employed by you and another employer (regardless of whether the jointly-employed employees are maintained on only your or another employer’s payroll); and day laborers supplied by a temporary agency (regardless of whether you are the temporary agency or the client firm if there is a continuing employment relationship). Workers who are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rather than employees, are not considered employees for purposes of the 500-employee threshold.Typically, a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold. Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they are joint employers under the FLSA with respect to certain employees. If two entities are found to be joint employers, all of their common employees must be counted in determining whether paid sick leave must be provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave must be provided under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

    In general, two or more entities are separate employers unless they meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

  3. If I am a private sector employer and have 500 or more employees, do the Acts apply to me?No. Private sector employers are only required to comply with the Acts if they have fewer than 500 employees.[1]
  4. If providing child care-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at my business with fewer than 50 employees would jeopardize the viability of my business as a going concern, how do I take advantage of the small business exemption?To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.You should not send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.
  5. How do I count hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, you calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work. If the normal hours scheduled are unknown, or if the part-time employee’s schedule varies, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.If this calculation cannot be made because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed that the employee would work upon hiring. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment.
  6. When calculating pay due to employees, must overtime hours be included?Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires you to pay an employee for hours the employee would have been normally scheduled to work even if that is more than 40 hours in a week.However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80 hours over a two-week period. For example, an employee who is scheduled to work 50 hours a week may take 50 hours of paid sick leave in the first week and 30 hours of paid sick leave in the second week. In any event, the total number of hours paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is capped at 80.

    If the employee’s schedule varies from week to week, please see the answer to Question 5, because the calculation of hours for a full-time employee with a varying schedule is the same as that for a part-time employee.

    Please keep in mind the daily and aggregate caps placed on any pay for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave as described in the answer to Question 7.

    Please note that pay does not need to include a premium for overtime hours under either the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

  7. As an employee, how much will I be paid while taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?It depends on your normal schedule as well as why you are taking leave.If you are taking paid sick leave because you are unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because you (1) are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis, you will receive for each applicable hour the greater of:
    • your regular rate of pay,
    • the federal minimum wage in effect under the FLSA, or
    • the applicable State or local minimum wage.

    In these circumstances, you are entitled to a maximum of $511 per day, or $5,110 total over the entire paid sick leave period.

    If you are taking paid sick leave because you are: (1) caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (2) caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or (3) experiencing any other substantially-similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of the amounts above.

    Under these circumstances, you are subject to a maximum of $200 per day, or $2,000 over the entire two week period.

    If you are taking expanded family and medical leave, you may take paid sick leave for the first ten days of that leave period, or you may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave you have under your employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, you will be paid for your leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would be normally scheduled to work. The regular rate of pay used to calculate this amount must be at or above the federal minimum wage, or the applicable state or local minimum wage. However, you will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

    To calculate the number of hours for which you are entitled to paid leave, please see the answers to Questions 5-6 that are provided in this guidance.

  8. What is my regular rate of pay for purposes of the FFCRA?For purposes of the FFCRA, the regular rate of pay used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate over a period of up to six months prior to the date on which you take leave.[2] If you have not worked for your current employer for six months, the regular rate used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate of pay for each week you have worked for your current employer.If you are paid with commissions, tips, or piece rates, these amounts will be incorporated into the above calculation to the same extent they are included in the calculation of the regular rate under the FLSA.

    You can also compute this amount for each employee by adding all compensation that is part of the regular rate over the above period and divide that sum by all hours actually worked in the same period.

  9. May I take 80 hours of paid sick leave for my self-quarantine and then another amount of paid sick leave for another reason provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?No. You may take up to two weeks—or ten days—(80 hours for a full-time employee, or for a part-time employee, the number of hours equal to the average number of hours that the employee works over a typical two-week period) of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons. However, the total number of hours for which you receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
  10. If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  11. Can my employer deny me paid sick leave if my employer gave me paid leave for a reason identified in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act prior to the Act going into effect?No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act imposes a new leave requirement on employers that is effective beginning on April 1, 2020.
  12. Is all leave under the FMLA now paid leave?No. The only type of family and medical leave that is paid leave is expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act when such leave exceeds ten days. This includes only leave taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  13.  Are the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements retroactive?No.
  14. How do I know whether I have “been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer” for purposes of expanded family and medical leave?You are considered to have been employed by your employer for at least 30 calendar days if your employer had you on its payroll for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day your leave would begin. For example, if you want to take leave on April 1, 2020, you would need to have been on your employer’s payroll as of March 2, 2020.If you have been working for a company as a temporary employee, and the company subsequently hires you on a full-time basis, you may count any days you previously worked as a temporary employee toward this 30-day eligibility period.
  15. What records do I need to keep when my employee takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?Private sector employers that provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave required by the FFCRA are eligible for reimbursement of the costs of that leave through refundable tax credits.  If you intend to claim a tax credit under the FFCRA for your payment of the sick leave or expanded family and medical leave wages, you should retain appropriate documentation in your records. You should consult Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit. You are not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided.If one of your employees takes expanded family and medical leave to care for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19, you may also require your employee to provide you with any additional documentation in support of such leave, to the extent permitted under the certification rules for conventional FMLA leave requests. For example, this could include a notice that has been posted on a government, school, or day care website, or published in a newspaper, or an email from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider.
  16. What documents do I need to give my employer to get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?You must provide to your employer documentation in support of your paid sick leave as specified in applicable IRS forms, instructions, and information.Your employer may also require you to provide additional in support of your expanded family and medical leave taken to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19-related reasons. For example, this may include a notice of closure or unavailability from your child’s school, place of care, or child care provider, including a notice that may have been posted on a government, school, or day care website, published in a newspaper, or emailed to you from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider. Your employer must retain this notice or documentation in support of expanded family and medical leave, including while you may be taking unpaid leave that runs concurrently with paid sick leave if taken for the same reason.

    Please also note that all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if you are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if you are taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because your medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, you must continue to provide medical certifications under the FMLA if required by your employer.

  17. When am I able to telework under the FFCRA?You may telework when your employer permits or allows you to perform work while you are at home or at a location other than your normal workplace. Telework is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.
  18. What does it mean to be unable to work, including telework for COVID-19 related reasons?You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework.If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.
  19. If I am or become unable to telework, am I entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?If your employer permits teleworking—for example, allows you to perform certain tasks or work a certain number of hours from home or at a location other than your normal workplace—and you are unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for paid sick leave, then you are entitled to take paid sick leave.Similarly, if you are unable to perform those teleworking tasks or work the required teleworking hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, then you are entitled to take expanded family and medical leave. Of course, to the extent you are able to telework while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.
  20. May I take my paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave intermittently while teleworking?Yes, if your employer allows it and if you are unable to telework your normal schedule of hours due to one of the qualifying reasons in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. In that situation, you and your employer may agree that you may take paid sick leave intermittently while teleworking. Similarly, if you are prevented from teleworking your normal schedule of hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you and your employer may agree that you can take expanded family medical leave intermittently while teleworking.You may take intermittent leave in any increment, provided that you and your employer agree. For example, if you agree on a 90-minute increment, you could telework from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, take leave from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM, and then return to teleworking.

    The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility and meet mutual needs, and the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements that combine telework and intermittent leave.

  21. May I take my paid sick leave intermittently while working at my usual worksite (as opposed to teleworking)?It depends on why you are taking paid sick leave and whether your employer agrees. Unless you are teleworking, paid sick leave for qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 must be taken in full-day increments. It cannot be taken intermittently if the leave is being taken because:
    • You are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
    • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
    • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
    • You are caring for an individual who either is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
    • You are experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

    Unless you are teleworking, once you begin taking paid sick leave for one or more of these qualifying reasons, you must continue to take paid sick leave each day until you either (1) use the full amount of paid sick leave or (2) no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave. This limit is imposed because if you are sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, or caring for an individual who is sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, the intent of FFCRA is to provide such paid sick leave as necessary to keep you from spreading the virus to others.

    If you no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave before you exhaust your paid sick leave, you may take any remaining paid sick leave at a later time, until December 31, 2020, if another qualifying reason occurs.

    In contrast, if you and your employer agree, you may take paid sick leave intermittently if you are taking paid sick leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons. For example, if your child is at home because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you may take paid sick leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to care for your child, but work at your normal worksite on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve maximum flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on less than a full work day for employees taking paid sick leave to care for their child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19-related reasons, the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements.

  22. May I take my expanded family and medical leave intermittently while my child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, if I am not teleworking?Yes, but only with your employer’s permission. Intermittent expanded family and medical leave should be permitted only when you and your employer agree upon such a schedule. For example, if your employer and you agree, you may take expanded family and medical leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but work Tuesdays and Thursdays, while your child is at home because your child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, for the duration of your leave.The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on a day-by-day basis, the Department supports such voluntary arrangements.
  23. If my employer closed my worksite before April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I still get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?No. If, prior to the FFCRA’s effective date, your employer sent you home and stops paying you because it does not have work for you to do, you will not get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it is required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.It should be noted, however, that if your employer is paying you pursuant to a paid leave policy or State or local requirements, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance.
  24. If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but before I go out on leave, can I still get paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?No. If your employer closes after the FFCRA’s effective date (even if you requested leave prior to the closure), you will not get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
  25. If my employer closes my worksite while I am on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, what happens?If your employer closes while you are on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave you used before the employer closed. As of the date your employer closes your worksite, you are no longer entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because the employer was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
  26. If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
  27. If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?No, not while your worksite is closed. If your employer closes your worksite, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.
  28. If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work? No. If your employer reduces your work hours because it does not have work for you to perform, you may not use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that you are no longer scheduled to work. This is because you are not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason, even if your reduction in hours was somehow related to COVID-19.You may, however, take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working your full schedule. If you do, the amount of leave to which you are entitled is computed based on your work schedule before it was reduced (see Question 5).
  29. May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?No. If your employer provides you paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, each State has its own unique set of rules; and DOL recently clarified additional flexibility to the States (UIPL 20-10) to extend partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours or pay have been reduced. Therefore, individuals should contact their State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
  30. If I elect to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, must my employer continue my health coverage? If I remain on leave beyond the maximum period of expanded family and medical leave, do I have a right to keep my health coverage?If your employer provides group health coverage that you’ve elected, you are entitled to continued group health coverage during your expanded family and medical leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. If you are enrolled in family coverage, your employer must maintain coverage during your expanded family and medical leave. You generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of your health coverage. See WHD Fact Sheet 28A: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/28a-fmla-employee-protections.If you do not return to work at the end of your expanded family and medical leave, check with your employer to determine whether you are eligible to keep your health coverage on the same terms (including contribution rates). If you are no longer eligible, you may be able to continue your coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA, which generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, allows you and your family to continue the same group health coverage at group rates. Your share of that cost may be higher than what you were paying before but may be lower than what you would pay for private individual health insurance coverage. (If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you may be eligible to continue your health insurance under State laws that are similar to COBRA. These laws are sometimes referred to as “mini COBRA” and vary from State to State.) Contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families/changing-jobs-and-job-loss to learn about health and retirement benefit protections for dislocated workers.

    If you elect to take paid sick leave, your employer must continue your health coverage. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), an employer cannot establish a rule for eligibility or set any individual’s premium or contribution rate based on whether an individual is actively at work (including whether an individual is continuously employed), unless absence from work due to any health factor (such as being absent from work on sick leave) is treated, for purposes of the plan or health insurance coverage, as being actively at work.

  31. As an employee, may I use my employer’s preexisting leave entitlements and my FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave concurrently for the same hours?No. If you are eligible to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, as well as paid leave that is already provided by your employer, unless your employer agrees you must choose one type of leave to take. You may not simultaneously take both, unless your employer agrees to allow you to supplement the amount you receive from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, up to your normal earnings, with preexisting leave. For example, if you are receiving 2/3 of your normal earnings from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA and your employer permits, you may use your preexisting employer-provided paid leave to get the additional 1/3 of your normal earnings so that you receive your full normal earnings for each hour.
  32. If I am an employer, may I supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?If your employee chooses to use existing leave you have provided, yes; otherwise, no. Paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave under the FFCRA is in addition to employees’ preexisting leave entitlements, including Federal employees. Under the FFCRA, the employee may choose to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, up to the employee’s normal earnings. Note, however, that you are not entitled to a tax credit for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave that is not required to be paid or exceeds the limits set forth under Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.However, you are not required to permit an employee to use existing paid leave to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Further, you may not claim, and will not receive tax credit, for such supplemental amounts.
  33. If I am an employer, may I require an employee to supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?No. Under the FFCRA, only the employee may decide whether to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. The employee would have to agree to use existing paid leave under your paid leave policy to supplement or adjust the paid leave under the FFCRA.
  34. If I want to pay my employees more than they are entitled to receive for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, can I do so and claim a tax credit for the entire amount paid to them?You may pay your employees in excess of FFCRA requirements. But you cannot claim, and will not receive tax credit for, those amounts in excess of the FFCRA’s statutory limits.
  35. I am an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement, may I satisfy my obligations under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act through contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or program?You may satisfy your obligations under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act by making contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program in accordance with your existing collective bargaining obligations. These contributions must be based on the amount of paid family and medical leave to which each of your employees is entitled under the Act based on each employee’s work under the multiemployer collective bargaining agreement. Such a fund, plan, or other program must allow employees to secure or obtain their pay for the related leave they take under the Act. Alternatively, you may also choose to satisfy your obligations under the Act by other means, provided they are consistent with your bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.
  36. I am an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement, may I satisfy my obligations under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act through contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or program?You may satisfy your obligations under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act by making contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program in accordance with your existing collective bargaining obligations. These contributions must be based on the hours of paid sick leave to which each of your employees is entitled under the Act based on each employee’s work under the multiemployer collective bargaining agreement. Such a fund, plan, or other program must allow employees to secure or obtain their pay for the related leave they take under the Act. Alternatively, you may also choose to satisfy your obligations under the Act by other means, provided they are consistent with your bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.
  37. Are contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program the only way an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement may comply with the paid leave requirements of the FFCRA?No. Both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provide that, consistent with its bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement, an employer may satisfy its legal obligations under both Acts by making appropriate contributions to such a fund, plan, or other program based on the paid leave owed to each employee. However, the employer may satisfy its obligations under both Acts by other means, provided they are consistent with its bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.

With that, the DOL issued two additional Q&A’s re how coronavirus relates to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) and the FMLA(Family and Medical Leave Act).

 

 

DOL issues enforcement guidance urging staff to recognize a “temporary non-enforcement period” for “reasonable” and “good faith” compliance

The DOL issued Field Assistance Bulletin no. 2020-1 urging its staff to recognize a “temporary non-enforcement period” for employers who are in “reasonable” and “good faith” compliance. To qualify for the benefit of this “non-enforcement period,” the employer must establish all of the following:

  1. The employer remedies any violations, including by making all affected employees whole as soon as practicable.  As explained in a Joint Statement by the Department, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued on March 20, 2020, [2]  this program is designed to ensure that all covered employers have access to sufficient resources to pay required sick leave and family leave wages.[3]

  2. The violations of the Act were not “willful” based on the criteria set forth in McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe, 486 U.S. 128, 133 (1988) (the employer “either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited…”).

  3. The Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.

In other words, an employer who has taken no steps to try to come into compliance with the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) will likely not qualify for the benefits of this “temporary non-enforcement period,” and an employer that has at least tried may qualify for some mitigation but will nonetheless be required to come into compliance, though it may have some time to remedy the violation “as soon as practicable” and may have the benefit of not having the DOL taking further enforcement actions against it in the meantime.

EEOC publishes YouTube webinar on ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus

The EEOC published a short 42-minute YouTube video on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus.  The webinar fleshes out the EEOC’s recent coronavirus guidance and identifies certain questions that it believes it is currently unable to answer, including the following:

  • Whether coronavirus (COVID-19) is or could be a disability protected by the ADA?

Questions addressed include, in addition to those raised in the above guidance:

  • Whether an employer can ask an employee if his/her family has tested positive for coronavirus? Here, the EEOC believes that question is too narrow, because it is limited to questions about the employee’s family and as such the EEOC says it believes the question might implicate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA); therefore, the EEOC urges employers instead to ask if the employee has had any such contact with anyone whom he/she knows to have tested positive.
  • Whether an employer, when disclosing that someone has tested positive, can disclose that person’s identity? The EEOC repeats its position in its above guidance’s instruction that employers, upon learning of a positive coronavirus test result, have some ability to disclose the same within a true need-to-know basis, and that it may be able to disclose to co-workers that someone has tested positive, but it repeats the employer should not generally report the person’s identity. That is true, the EEOC says, even where coworkers may be guessing or attempting to guess at the person’s identity. It gives as an example that the company may report that a person is teleworking without telling his coworker’s that the reason for his absence from the workplace is a positive test result. Likewise the EEOC addresses the issue where an employer may be faced with a concern that disclosing something as general as “someone at this location” or “someone on the 4th floor” has tested positive, is not sufficient information for concerned coworkers; here too, the EEOC restates its position that, even in that situation, the employer should not disclose the person’s identity. 
  • Whether allowing workers to telework during the coronavirus crisis may be later used by a disabled worker requesting the right to telework after the coronavirus crisis? The EEOC answers flatly, no, the fact that an employer allows teleworking during this coronavirus crisis cannot be used as evidence that teleworking might be a reasonable accommodation outside the coronavirus crisis. However in an unhelpful muddling of its answer, the EEOC added that it “could” be somehow relevant to showing that telework was in general feasible at least in some circumstances, theoretically.

The EEOC says that, while teleworking, HR professionals and others with a need-to-know medical information must store information, even at home, in a confidential manner, including not leaving notes where they can be seen. In a frankly absurd moment, the EEOC actually recommends HR professionals consider writing their notes while teleworking “in code.”

The EEOC noted that, during the coronavirus crisis, employers may be having difficulty obtaining doctor’s notes related to ADA accommodation requests and suggests that employers consider whether other documentation might suffice — arguably at least until a doctor’s note becomes available — such as a “health insurance record” or “a prescription.”

While not particularly robust or helpful on some of those difficult questions — and adding to the confusion on some questions — the webinar is nonetheless recommended for HR professionals to review as soon as possible.

Common questions re WARN versus coronavirus

Thinking about layoffs, furloughs or reductions of hours? Wondering about the WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirements? Bloomberg BNA published a handy article discussing some of the common questions about the WARN Act and coronavirus layoffs, furloughs and hour-reductions.

Source: The WARN Act: Top Coronavirus Questions Answered by Lawyers
— Read on www.bloomberglaw.com/exp/eyJjdHh0IjoiRExOVyIsImlkIjoiMDAwMDAxNzEtMTI4NS1kMDlhLWEzNzMtOWE5N2ZiMTYwMDAwIiwic2lnIjoiODFXQlVIQjIzU3pRUnB1TzJaTHlLL3BXU0NJPSIsInRpbWUiOiIxNTg1MTYyNTE0IiwidXVpZCI6IkVuY0FVQkNZUnhxcjlOQ3AreU4xVHc9PWcwRnZ1MHVUMUNNQnQzbnEzMXcxRkE9PSIsInYiOiIxIn0=

DOL issues preliminary Q&A re new coronavirus sick and FMLA leave rights

The DOL has issued a preliminary Q&A on the newly mandated coronavirus-related sick- and FMLA-leave rights. The Q&A answers some but not all of the questions previously raised to DOL. Highlights of the Q&A include the following:

  • The effective date of this new Act will now be April 1, 2020 (moved up from the initial tentative date of no later than April 2, 2020).
  • How employees should be counted for the purpose of determining if a company falls into the exemption for large companies (employing 500 or more), including how to count for related companies (including affiliates) and possible joint employer relationships.
  • How the new coronavirus sick leave hours should be counted for part-time workers.
  • How much sick leave should be paid for workers who would, otherwise, have worked overtime.
  • How employees who qualify for both the new coronavirus sick-leave and the new coronavirus paid FMLA-leave should be paid.
  • The DOL’s interpretation that paid leave provided prior to the new Act’s effective date (now, April 1, 2020) does not count towards these new requirements.
  • How to count the 30-day eligibility period for new hires re the new coronavirus FMLA-leave law.

The DOL advises that regulations will be forthcoming as may be additional guidance.

For brevity’s sake, the DOL’s analysis of these, and the other topics it addresses, are not restated here. Rather employers are encouraged to immediately review the DOL’s Q&A in full.

BREAKING NEWS: Gov. Polis orders in-person Colorado workforce reduction of 50% – Denver Business Journal

The Governor’s order is not yet available, but the Denver Business Journal is reporting that “The order does not apply to critical, 24-hour businesses like health care, manufacturing, agriculture and public services such as trash collection and mail delivery.” In his press conference Governor Polis stated verbally the order will take effect Tuesday March 24, 2020 and that “If you can ensure no employees are closer from (sic, than) six feet from one another during the work day, you can continue.” The order will expire April 10, 2020 11:59 PM.

Source: www.bizjournals.com/

UPDATE 3-23-2020: The order is now available, as is a FAQ from the Governor’s office.

The order’s operative language, including an explanation of the possible exemption for employers that can certify 6′-distancing is, as follows:

The executive order directs all employers to implement tele-work options to the greatest extent possible. If tele-work is not practical or possible, employers are encouraged to stagger work schedules to reduce the proximity of employees during work hours and to keep employees on payroll. This Executive Order does not apply to any employer that can certify that employees are no closer than six feet from one another during any part of their work hours.

The FAQ provides further explanation as to the industries that are exempt from the order. Exempt industries include defense contractors, oil and gas production companies, construction companies, and a variety of other industries such as groceries, pharmacies, healthcare, law enforcement, etc. The FAQ also suggests that “Planes and any other form of travel should only be used for essential purposes.

IRS begins clarifying how employers can recoup coronavirus-related leave expenditures

As previously posted, Congress enacted this week two new forms of coronavirus-related leave: sick leave and coronavirus-FMLA leave. Today, 3-20-2020, the IRS issued a memo beginning to explain how employers will be able to recoup expenses for the same and advising that further explanation will be forthcoming next week:

When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.  The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.

Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week. 

Questions arise for regulatory clarification re coronavirus leave

As noted, Congress enacted two new forms of coronavirus leave this week: sick and FMLA-type leave. Bloomberg BNA reports that the DOL held a townhall today 3-20-2020 to invite suggestions for regulatory clarification and that questions raised in that townhall included:

  • How the exemption for small employers (less than 50 workers) will be interpreted? How will the 50-worker threshold be counted? Will there be any other requirements or will all employers with fewer than 50 workers be exempted?
  • How the exemption for large employers (more than 50 workers) be interpreted? How will the 500 workers be counted?
  • How will existing paid and sick leave interface with these two new forms of leave?
  • Will amounts paid to furloughed workers as a result of the coronavirus events count towards these two new forms of leave?
  • How will the new coronavirus-FMLA leave interact with regular FMLA leave for individuals who experience both coronavirus-related and un-related medical conditions?
  • How will the Treasury Department clarify the rules for how and when employers may assert the tax reimbursement credit to offset payments for these two new forms of leave?

As previously posted, the DOL is expected to issue its regulations — without prior notice or opportunity to comment — no later than the Act’s effective date, and as early as next week.

DOL relaxes normal I-9 processes for businesses affected by coronavirus-absences/teleworking

Normally an employer must review actual physical documents to complete a new hire’s I-9. SHRM has published this article explaining the DOL’s announcement that, for businesses where that is impossible because workers are absent and/or teleworking, that requirement will be relaxed to permit remote review of such documents, retention of same, then review physically when possible. The step-by-step instructions from the government for doing this “COVID-19” process can be found here.

Stay-at-home orders and Essential Industry employers

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a memo identifying 16 industries as “essential critical infrasture.”

  • Chemical
  • Communications
  • Commercial facilities
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Dams
  • Defense industrial base
  • Emergency services
  • Energy
  • Financial
  • Food & agriculture
  • Government facilities
  • Healthcare & public health
  • Information technology
  • Nuclear reactors, materials & waste
  • Water
  • Transportations systems

CISA’s memo details and explains each such industry for the purpose of suggesting a list of employers that should be exempted from state and local stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus.

Please note that the memo states its list is advisory in nature and not controlling.

Therefore, any actual stay-at-home orders will need to be analyzed carefully by an employer within one of the 16 essential industries, but the memo will hopefully provide a helpful document to assist state and local governments in clarifying any such orders.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Congress passes mandatory sick leave and paid FMLA leave re coronavirus

Late March 18, 2020, Congress passed then the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, HR 6201.

  • The Act will take effect “not later than 15 days” after its enactment March 18, 2020, in other words, absent further development, April 2, 2020. (UPDATE: The effective date has been set for April 1, 2020.) It will sunset December 31, 2020.
  • The Act requires two types of leave, both include paid leave components.
    • Both types of leave apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees.
    • Employers of fewer than 50 employees will theoretically be able to seek exemption from the leave requirements if they would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” The Act does not explain further. Rather it delegates to the DOL authority to develop regulations and processes to flesh out this possible exemption.
    • Special rules may also permit exemption of “certain health care providers and emergency responders,” again without explanation in the Act, as to be fleshed out by DOL regulations.
  • First, the Act provides for up to 80 hours of sick leave, in the event (1) the employee is subjected to a federal, state or local quarantine/isolation order re coronavirus, (2) the employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine re coronavirus, (3) the employee’s own coronavirus experience, or the employee is (4) caring for an individual subject to a quarantine/isolation order, (5) caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed, or (6) similar conditions as specified by government officials.
    • Sick leave for reasons 1-3 (generally the employee’s own condition) is capped at $511 per day.
    • Sick leave for reasons 4-6 is capped at $200 per day.
    • This sick leave will be available to all employees. Unlike the FMLA leave below, it does not appear to require a 30-day period of employment for eligibility.
  • Second, the Act amends the FMLA to provide for 12 weeks of leave when an employee is unable to work (or telework) because the employee must care for a child under the age of 18 whose daycare, elementary or high school has been closed due to coronavirus.
    • The first 10 days are unpaid. Employees can opt (but not be required) to substitute other paid leave.
    • The remaining 10 weeks of FMLA is paid at 2/3rds of the employee’s regular pay up to $200 per day and $10,000 total aggregate.
    • This coronavirus-specific FMLA leave will be available to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days.
    • The Act modifies the FMLA’s job-restoration requirements (in ways arguably not yet fully clear and hopefully to be determined by DOL regulation), recognizing that following the coronavirus crisis many positions will no longer exist.
    • Please note the coverage (fewer than 500 employees) and eligibility (30-days employment) requirements. This will mean that many (many) more employers and employees will be covered by coronavirus-FMLA than would otherwise be covered by the FMLA in general.
  • The Act (again without sufficient detail to be fully clear) provides for 100% tax credits to permit employers to offset the costs of providing such leave (by offsets against Social Security taxes).
  • The DOL is required to publish a poster within 7 days, summarizing the Act.

UPDATE: The DOL has begun rulemaking to develop regulations, which it hopes to deliver no later than the Act’s effective date, if not sooner. The DOL will bypass the normal process of publishing proposed rules first by invoking governmental-agency emergency authority to publish immediately effective final rules and invite comment on the same thereafter for possible later revisions.

 

EEOC issues guidance re Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace

The EEOC issued a guidance entitled Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the guidance does not answer some of the more difficult questions posed in the current coronavirus crisis, it does provide guidance on at least some questions employers are facing and are likely to face, including the following:

  • Before an influenza pandemic occurs, may an ADA-covered employer ask an employee to disclose if he or she has a compromised immune system or chronic health condition that the CDC says could make him or her more susceptible to complications of influenza?

No. …

  • Are there ADA-compliant ways for employers to identify which employees are more likely to be unavailable for work in the event of a pandemic?

Yes. …

Below is a sample ADA-compliant survey that can be given to employees to anticipate absenteeism.

ADA-COMPLIANT PRE-PANDEMIC EMPLOYEE SURVEY

Directions: Answer “yes” to the whole question without specifying the factor that applies to you. Simply check “yes” or “no” at the bottom of the page.

In the event of a pandemic, would you be unable to come to work because of any one of the following reasons:

    • If schools or day-care centers were closed, you would need to care for a child;
    • If other services were unavailable, you would need to care for other dependents;
    • If public transport were sporadic or unavailable, you would be unable to travel to work; and/or;
    • If you or a member of your household fall into one of the categories identified by the CDC as being at high risk for serious complications from the pandemic influenza virus, you would be advised by public health authorities not to come to work (e.g., pregnant women; persons with compromised immune systems due to cancer, HIV, history of organ transplant or other medical conditions; persons less than 65 years of age with underlying chronic conditions; or persons over 65).

Answer: YES______ , NO_______

  • May an ADA-covered employer send employees home if they display influenza-like symptoms during a pandemic?

Yes. …

  • During a pandemic, how much information may an ADA-covered employer request from employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick?

ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA. …

  • When an employee returns from travel during a pandemic, must an employer wait until the employee develops influenza symptoms to ask questions about exposure to pandemic influenza during the trip?

No. …

  • During a pandemic, may an ADA-covered employer ask employees who do not have influenza symptoms to disclose whether they have a medical condition that the CDC says could make them especially vulnerable to influenza complications?

No. …

Employers should take the time to review the EEOC’s guidance and familiarize themselves with the nuances of the EEOC’s carefully worded answers. In the foregoing summaries, for brevity’s sake, only the EEOC’s conclusions (like “No”) are cited, but the EEOC’s answers, as indicated by the ellipses (“…”) proceed to qualify its answers.

Unemployment Insurance Worker FAQs | Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

Want a handy reference of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Program and availability of unemployment benefits as we go through this coronavirus experience? Check the state’s FAQ here: www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment-insurance-worker-faqs

BREAKING NEWS: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment issues paid-sick leave rule regarding coronavirus testing

According to a verbally issued executive order by Colorado Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has issued a rule (the “Colorado HELP” rule, aka the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay rule) requiring certain employers to provide up to 4 days of paid leave for employees awaiting a coronavirus test result. Rule 3 reads, as follows:

Rule 3. Paid Sick Leave for Certain Employees.
3.1 Any employer engaged in the field of leisure and hospitality, food services, child care, education at all levels (including related services, including but not limited to cafeterias and transportation to, from, and on campuses), home health care (working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals), operating a nursing home, or operating a community living facility shall provide up to four days of paid sick leave for an employee (A) with flu-like symptoms and (B) who is being tested for COVID-19. The paid sick leave ends if an employee receives a negative COVID-19 test result.

3.2 These rules do not require an employer to offer additional days of paid sick leave if it already offers all employees an amount of paid leave sufficient to comply with Rules 3.1. However, an employee who already exhausted his or her paid leave allotted by the employer, but then has flulike symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19, is entitled to the additional paid sick days provided by Rule 3.1.
3.3 During paid sick leave covered by these rules, pay shall be provided (A) at the employee’s regular rate of pay (the COMPS Order Rule 1.8 definition of “regular rate of pay” is incorporated into this rule), including all forms of wages and compensation (but increased to the applicable minimum wage for an employee paid below the minimum wage due to a tip credit), and (B) for the employer’s regularly worked hours. To the extent that the employee’s rate of pay or hours worked had varied before the absence for illness, pay shall be in the amount of the employee’s average daily pay for the preceding month.
3.4 To the extent feasible, employees and employers should comply with the procedures of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to pursue and provide paid sick leave under these rules, except that (A) no employer may terminate an employee for inability to provide documentation during an illness covered by these rules, and (B) FMLA provisions do not narrow the rights and responsibilities provided by these rules.

Governor Polis has stated an intent to continue to explore ways the state can respond, including expanding availability of unemployment benefits and possibly freeing up state-government money to assist with other wage losses.

The CDLE’s page on its Colorado HELP rule, including the CDLE’s FAQ list, is available here, which includes the following Q&As:

What does the rule do?

  • Temporarily requires employers in certain industries (listed below) to provide a small amount of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for coronavirus COVID-19.

How much paid sick leave must be provided?

  • The employer must provide up to four days of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for coronavirus COVID-19. If the employee receives a negative test result, the paid leave ends.

Is this a requirement on top of sick leave an employer already provides?

  • No. If an employer already provides the paid leave necessary to meet these rules’ requirements, then the employer does not need to provide additional leave. However, if an employer does not already provide enough paid sick leave to comply with these rules, it will have to provide additional paid sick leave to meet the rules’ requirements. And if an employee already exhausted any paid leave allotted by the employer, but then has flu-like symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19, he or she is entitled to the additional paid sick days these rules provide.

Which employees and employers are covered by these sick leave rules?

  • Employers and employees in one of the following industries or jobs:
    • Leisure and Hospitality
    • Food Services
    • Child care
    • Education, including transportation, food service, and related work at educational establishments
    • Home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals
    • Nursing homes
    • Community living facilities
  • Workers are covered regardless of pay rate or method (hourly, weekly, piece rate, etc.); the daily pay during leave is either their established daily rate or, if their pay fluctuates, their average daily pay for the past month.

How long will the rule stay in effect?

  • The rules take effect March 11, 2020, for 30 days, or longer if the state of emergency declared by the Governor continues.

Why are these rules being created?

  • With the continuing spread of coronavirus COVID-19, coming to work while ill poses a serious threat to the health and safety of co-workers, others at the business, and the public generally. These rules will temporarily entitle certain employees to paid sick days in order to limit the spread of this disease.

Will additional funds be available for workers who need to be out of work longer than four days?

  • The current emergency rules only speak to paid leave for the four-day period required for testing, because that is what CDLE could do immediately. The Governor has asked CDLE to identify other potential supports and wage replacement, such as access to unemployment insurance. These options are under review to determine rulemaking authority, eligibility, etc.