Employer Law Report

Archives: COVID-19

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When can an employee in Ohio refuse to return to work and still get unemployment?

Conventional understanding of unemployment benefits leads to the logical conclusion that when employees are capable of working and offered suitable employment, they are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits. But like many other things in the post-COVID-19 world, conventional thinking no longer rules the day.

Last week, on June 16, 2020, Gov. DeWine issued an Executive Order addressing unemployment benefits eligibility during the COVID-19 epidemic. It provides that when an employee is called back to work in the same position as before the Director of Health’s special orders, there is a presumption that the position is considered “suitable work” under …

You know what they say about good intentions…Can an employer exclude employees 65+ from the workplace to prevent COVID-19 risk?

On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released additional guidance covering topics like the well-intended exclusion of workers over the age of 65 who, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are deemed to be at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19. The guidance also covers issues related to  pregnancy, remote harassment and employees living with family members who are high risk due to underlying health conditions.…

The avalanche continues – Illinois workers’ compensation law set for COVID-19 expansion

On June 5, 2020 Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 2455 into law, thereby amending the Illinois Workers’ Occupation Diseases Act with respect to claims related to COVID-19. Codified as Public Act 101-0633, the amendment creates a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s contraction of COVID-19 arises out of and in the course of that employee’s first responder or front-line worker employment, and that the injury or occupational disease is rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employee’s first responder or front-line worker employment.…

Premium deferral extended and other Ohio BWC updates

Previously, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) announced it will defer employer premium installment payments for the months of March, April and May, making those payments due June 1, 2020. Now the BWC has announced it will further defer premium installment payments for the months of June, July and August as well. This means the deferred premium installment payments are now due Sept. 1, 2020.…

Pandemic is time to revisit website and other tech accessibility

Have you ever made online purchases as frequently as you have in recent months? Have you ever had so many employees working remotely? The pandemic-related surge in consumer reliance on online purchases, with a workforce serving those customers remotely, makes website accessibility for disabled persons an increasingly high-profile issue.…

Time to review COBRA compliance

COBRA compliance is an area that, for many employers, is on auto-pilot. Many employers rely on outside consultants to administer COBRA and need not put much focus on COBRA time limits for electing and paying for coverage. One of the many ripples from the COVID-19 pandemic is a need to check on your method for COBRA compliance. The economic crunch from the pandemic has resulted in layoffs, furloughs, and terminations, many of which were COBRA-triggering events.…

New OSHA Guidance: Employers must decide if an employee’s COVID-19 is work-related

If an employee tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19, must that be recorded as a work-related illness on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA )records? OSHA says COVID-19 is a work-related illness if the virus is contracted at work. That can be very difficult to determine. Employers should not presume a COVID-19 event is work-related unless there are clear facts to support that conclusion.…

COVID-19 detection testing: You shall not pass (unless you pass the test)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released guidance allowing employers to test employees for COVID-19 under certain circumstances. Specifically, the guidance posed, and answered, the following question:

May an employer administer a COVID-19 test (a test to detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus) before permitting employees to enter the workplace? 4/23/20

EEOC updates guidance on addressing health risks of COVID-19 vulnerable employees who do not ask for accommodation

Businesses are beginning to reopen across the country, and as employees come back to work, employers are considering to what extent they can protect vulnerable employees who continue showing up for work in spite of the risk posed by COVID-19. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released guidance to address this question.

Individual eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits

The CARES Act enacted a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for those who have been laid off or furloughed. PUA funds are administered through the state agencies that manage the state unemployment insurance programs, and are funds that eligible individuals receive on top of their state unemployment insurance benefits. Because state reopenings are ongoing and ever-changing, and because PUA eligibility is determined on a weekly basis, understanding which employees can take advantage of these benefits is key.…

COVID-19 return to work considerations: Navigating the reopening process

Many states are releasing their plans to reopen businesses and lift stay-at-home orders. There are many important considerations for employers to take into account while planning their return to work. Porter Wright’s Labor & Employment Department developed a checklist of issues to consider for a safe and productive return to work. You can find that checklist here.…

Think twice before hitting “record”

It is simple enough: press record and you can easily share your internal video conference call, re-watch it later, or forget it and move on. You move on until you receive a discovery request or a subpoena for information if the company is sued. Now, your internal video call is discoverable and may be seen by those outside your intended viewership.

My colleagues Abby Chin and Molly Crabtree delve into this issue on the Technology Law Source blog.…

Completing the Form I-9 when COVID-19 prevents renewal of your employee’s identity document

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a COVID-19 temporary policy for List B identity documents when completing a Form I-9 for a new hire. As a reminder, the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification requires the employer to verify the identity and employment authorization of employees not later than three days after the first day of employment. List A includes documents that establish both identity and employment authorization. List B includes documents that establish identity. List C includes documents that establish employment authorization. The employer must physically examine one document from List A or a combination of one document from …

Employer responses to union organizing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic

It is difficult to imagine another time when uncertainty and concern in the workplace have been at a higher level. The COVID-19 pandemic has led many states to issue stay-at-home orders, mandating that non-essential businesses shutter and implement telework and essential businesses operate under restrictions. As states “reopen” essential and non-essential businesses, employees will be called back to workplaces different than the ones from which they were furloughed or laid off. There will be new rules and restrictions, new working conditions and, in some places, a new concern about workforce reductions for economic reasons. Workers’ concerns about job security, safety …

Avoiding the avalanche for now: Court Issues temporary restraining order barring Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s emergency amendment

On April 15, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission issued an emergency amendment creating a rebuttable presumption that, for any essential employee who files for COVID-19 related injuries, those injuries will be presumed to have arisen out of and be casually connected to their employment. You can read more about this amendment and its effects in our prior blog post. As we expected, challenges to the validity of this amendment have already begun.…

Ohio BWC pandemic-related developments

As Ohio attempts to move forward during this pandemic, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is doing the same. For example, the BWC has resumed the scheduling of medical exams where necessary, is using alternative methods such as file reviews when possible, and has provided guidance on telemedicine resources to assist with the continuation of benefits to injured workers. The BWC is also making efforts to ease the economic impacts to businesses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some highlights that employers, both self-insured and state-funded, should be aware of during this unprecedented time.…

Parsing President Trump’s latest tweet and proclamation on immigration

President Donald Trump released a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following COVID-19 Outbreak” on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. This proclamation provides the legal context and direction to implement a Monday night tweet asserting his intention to “suspend immigration.” While we analyze the legal implications of this proclamation below, it is also important to understand the context. As a practical matter, the limitation on the issuance of immigrant visas has been the result of the COVID-19 closure of consulates around the world. There have not been interviews in the …

Navigating the interactive process of the Americans with Disabilities Act during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated its COVID-19 guidance to provide employers with additional insight on how to properly engage in the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) interactive process.

Engaging in the interactive process

In parts of the country, governors are beginning to talk about reopening their states for business. When this occurs, employers are likely to experience an influx in disability accommodation requests.…

Proposed changes to Ohio workers’ compensation laws react to COVID-19 pandemic

Ohio lawmakers have proposed multiple bills that would expand the Ohio workers’ compensation laws in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of March 2020, lawmakers introduced House Bill 573 that would include COVID-19 as a statutorily defined occupational disease under the Ohio workers’ compensation laws, similar to other occupational diseases such as asbestosis.…

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission opens the door to an avalanche of COVID-19 claims

This blog was updated on April 28, 2020 in the blog, “Avoiding the avalanche for now: Court Issues temporary restraining order barring Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s emergency amendment.

As of April 16, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has created a rebuttable presumption that, for any essential employee who contracts COVID-19 and later files for workers’ compensation for those injuries, that employee’s injuries will be presumed to have arisen out of, and be causally connected to, their employment.…

When your #hashtag is not #humorous: Preventing harassment in a remote working environment

As millions of Americans are settling into a “new normal” and working from home, employers should revisit their company policy regarding workplace harassment. Because the workplace doesn’t look quite like it used to, employees must use creative channels of communication while working remotely. Conversations that may have taken place around a water cooler may now be reduced to writing, whether via text message, email or even messages exchanged within a video conferencing platform.…

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