It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a cataclysmic impact on small and large businesses across the state of Ohio. Some businesses have been shuttered indefinitely, while other businesses have had to adjust on the fly and upend their operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that have been able to reopen have also faced the question of whether they are subject to tort liability if an employee, customer, vendor or other person contracts COVID-19 while on the premises. House Bill 606 now answers that question – at least in the short term.

Continue Reading Ohio passes law granting temporary civil immunity to businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits

Last Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued new temporary rules on the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to address certain previously-implemented rules the Southern District of New York recently struck down. As background, check out our post from Aug. 6, 2020, describing the decision from the Southern District of New York. And by address, the DOL in fact decided to, as they put it, “reaffirm and provide additional explanation” for its position on furloughs and intermittent leave, which, on the whole, benefit FFCRA-covered employers.

Continue Reading These new rules look a lot like the old ones: DOL stands firm in response to SDNY decision in its revised FFCRA rules

On Aug. 3, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated several significant portions of a Department of Labor (DOL) Final Rule which employers had been relying upon to administer employee leave requests pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Although it is too early to know if the decision will be affirmed on appeal, or adopted by courts in other jurisdictions, employers should anticipate a renewed interest for FFCRA leave among employees previously  denied it or who believed it was unavailable. And those who continue to rely on the DOL’s rule to deny such requests will be doing so at their own risk.
Continue Reading Federal court muddies waters for employers navigating FFCRA leave issues

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses across the country, employers are faced with the difficult question of how to keep their workplaces safe. Some employers are attempting to restrict off-duty employee conduct to limit high-risk behavior.

The National Football League (NFL) is one employer taking steps to regulate off-duty conduct to reduce risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL has apparently reached an agreement with the players’ association that restricts the players’ off-duty conduct in some surprising ways. Players are prohibited from attending indoor night clubs, concerts, and even indoor religious services that allow attendance above 25 percent capacity. If a player violates these rules and then tests positive for COVID-19, he will reportedly not be paid for any games he misses and future guarantees in his contract will be voided. The NFL and the players’ association have presumably entered into this agreement for two chief reasons: to minimize COVID-19 outbreaks among teams and, in turn, to increase the likelihood that NFL football can be played this season. Commentators have thrown some challenge flags at the agreement, however, due to its potential for punishing employees for engaging in lawful off-duty activities.
Continue Reading NFL is tackling off-duty conduct to reduce COVID-19 spread. Can your business, too?

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 the Ohio unemployment insurance program. However, an employee may refuse to return to work and still be eligible for unemployment compensation if “good cause” exists for the refusal.
Continue Reading When can an employee in Ohio refuse to return to work and still get unemployment?

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

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

On June 3, 2020, the Ohio Industrial Commission unanimously voted to place all issues referred for adjudication on the active telephonic hearing docket. Since March, the Industrial Commission has conducted all hearings by phone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading Industrial Commission of Ohio unanimously votes to add remaining issues to active telephonic hearing docket

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.
Continue Reading Premium deferral extended and other Ohio BWC updates