April 2, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Updates, changes, regulations, ordinances – it’s apparently not going to stop any time soon. Bear with us as we are doing our best to get as much information to you as possible – if you see or hear of something (that we haven’t covered) that may impact you, your business and your employees, please let us know. As noted previously, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out and we will do our best to assist.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) 
The Department of Labor (DOL) has released temporary regulations for the FFCRA that can be found here. For those who may not have time to read through all 124 pages, here are the highlights:

  • Employees must give notice to their employers of the need to take leave as well as provide documentation to support paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave.This is in conflict with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommendation that employers not require documentation due to overburdened healthcare providers and medical facilities.
  • The employee must also provide a signed statement containing the employee’s name, requested leave dates, the coronavirus-qualifying reason for leave and a statement that the employee is unable to work (or telework) because of the coronavirus-qualifying reason.
  • Additionally, the employee must provide the name of the government entity that issued the quarantine or isolation order if the employee is requesting sick leave for this reason.The same holds true for family care leave where an employee is caring for a person who is subject to quarantine or self-isolation.
  • Similarly, an employee requesting leave for the expanded family and medical leave must provide the name of the child for whom care is being provided; the name of the school, place of care or child care provider that closed or became unavailable due to coronavirus reasons; and, a statement representing that no other suitable person is available to care for the child during the requested leave period.

The IRS has also released guidance regarding COVID-19-related tax credits for paid leave.

We mentioned in our March 25, 2020 newsletter that the DOL is hosting a national online dialogue where employers and employees can offer their perspective regarding the FFCRA. The dialogue has been extended until close of business on April 10, 2020. Go here to participate.

Los Angeles
The L.A. City Council has passed a COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law that awaits Mayor Garcetti’s signature. Leave must be granted upon request (oral or written) and no documentation is required. Employees may take time off for the following reasons:

  • A healthcare provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine.
  • The employee is age 65 or older or has a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
  • To care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolation or self-quarantine.
  • To provide care for a family member whose senior care provider or school or childcare provider (for children under age 18) closes in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

The law covers employers with more than 500 employees nationally and employees who were employed from February 3, 2020 to March 4, 2020. Full-time employees receive 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave while those who work fewer than 40 hours per week (and are not classified as full-time) will receive supplemental paid sick leave in the amount no greater than the employee’s average two week pay over the period of February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020. The amount paid is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

The employer’s obligation to provide 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave is reduced for every hour an employer has already provided an employee to take paid leave for any of the reasons mentioned above.
The bill does not address employer responsibilities regarding temporary closures or laid-off employees that have occurred since March 4, 2020. The bill is set to sunset on December 31, 2020.

New Jersey
New Jersey has amended its Temporary Disability Benefits Law (effective March 25, 2020) as follows:

  • The definition of serious health condition (SHC) is now more in line with the Family Leave Act (FLA) definition which expands the definition during a governor-declared state of emergency or similar health crisis. In this situation, a SHC includes an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease which requires in-home care or treatment of a family member. For purposes of temporary disability benefits, the definition also refers to the employee.
  • For family temporary disability leave, the definition of a compensable disability now includes leave to care for family members suffering from accident and sickness (that fall under the expanded SHC definition above).
  • The seven-day waiting period for benefit claims for one’s own SHC is waived for conditions described above in the expanded SHC definition.

New York
The Workers’ Compensation Board Chair has adopted, on an emergency basis, an amendment to clarify that employees may take family leave to care for a family member diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. The amendment is effective for 90 days upon filing March 27, 2020.

San Diego County
The Health Officer of the County of San Diego has ordered (effective March 29, 2020 and continuing until further notice) that all businesses shall suspend any policy or procedure requiring doctor verification for sick or other leave approval. We will continue with our standard process of requesting certification for leaves of absence, but per the Health Officer’s order will not require certification.

EEOC Perspective on the ADA and COVID-19
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a recorded webinar March 27, 2020 in a question and answer format to address questions they have received about the COVID-19 pandemic. This recording supplements previous EEOC publications “What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19” and “Pandemic Preparedness In the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” They also established a COVID-19 resource page, which can be found here https://www.eeoc.gov/coronavirus/. All of these documents along with the YouTube webinar and its transcript can be viewed on this website.

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