Employer Law Report

New York becomes first state to enact paid sick leave law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

As we recently reported, President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide paid Family Medical Leave (FMLA) and paid sick leave to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the law provides a number of protections to American workers, it also has a few gaps. One gap in the FFCRA, for example, is that it does not apply to employers of 500 or more employees.

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Ohio “Stay at Home” order limits business operations to slow spread of COVID-19

On March 22, 2020, Dr. Amy Acton, health director for the Ohio Department of Health, signed the “Director’s Stay at Home Order,” calling on all Ohioans to stay at home or at their place of residence unless conducting or participating in essential activities, essential governmental functions, or essential businesses and operations.

The Director’s Order, which will be enforced by local departments of health and local law enforcement, goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020 and remains in effect until 11:59 on April 6, 2020. The Order has a number of key directives for businesses operating in Ohio.

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Ohio BWC guidance for employers during COVID-19 outbreak

On March 19, 2020, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) issued some guidance to employers and employees to explain how the BWC is continuing to operate during this crisis. The BWC is continuing to process claims. For employers, the present changes may result in increased claim costs attributed to their risk. The BWC is permitting benefits to continue while suspending some of the employees’ requirements to maintain those benefits.

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Navigating employment issues, help for small businesses and a delay in the tax deadline

There have been a number of helpful blogs over the past few days from our colleagues at Porter Wright aimed at helping businesses navigate the COVID-19 outbreak.

Navigating Employment Issues in the Wake of COVID-19 webinar

We have all felt the tremendous impacts to our workplaces and daily lives following the COVID-19 outbreak We’ve also watched the daily press conferences announcing new legislation and executive orders, but what happens next?

As your workplace adapts to growing restrictions, Porter Wright invites you to a live webinar on Monday, March 23, 3:00 – 4:00 pm with Porter Wright’s Leigh Ann Benedic and Mike Underwood. We will discuss the effects of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act on employers, state law developments and provide answers to frequently asked questions that will help you manage your workforce effectively through these unique times.

We will also be taking some of your questions as time permits. This webinar has limited capacity, so please register today!

Financial assistance for small businesses amidst the COVID-19 outbreak 

Across the country, state governments are ordering the indefinite closure of bars, restaurants, gyms, and other indoor spaces that may contribute to the community spread of COVID-19. At the same time, pending federal legislation may add additional financial burdens to small businesses that remain open and continue to operate. To help navigate potential sources of financial relief for small businesses, helpful information was curated by Porter Wright’s Victoria Hanohano-hong.

Read the full post on the Banking & Finance Law Report Blog.

UPDATE: Treasury delays April 15 tax filing and payment deadline

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased strain placed on individuals and business taxpayers during this time, the IRS has pushed back certain payment deadlines to ease the burden on taxpayers. Porter Wright’s Cassandra Rice and Gary Schulte explain the plan that impacts any person with a federal income tax payment due April 15, 2020.

Read the full post on the Banking & Finance Law Report Blog.

 

President Trump signs HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing relief to some American workers

The U.S. Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), and shortly after, President Donald Trump signed it into law. The Act will take effect no later than 15 days after its enactment. It will remain in effect until it expires under a sunset provision on December 31, 2020. This final version of the bill has some key differences from the one passed earlier in the U.S. House. But like the House bill, the final legislation does not apply to employers of 500 or more.

The FFCRA provides for expanded, paid FMLA as well as paid leave. Here are several key provisions that will have a significant impact on covered employers.

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COVID-19 and OSHA: Commonly asked questions

Below are answers to three common questions about COVID-19 and employer obligations under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA):

Is there any OSHA standard or regulation that covers workplace exposure to COVID-19?

No. OSHA standard applies specifically to workplace exposure to COVID-19. However, the OSHA General Duty Clause requires all employers to provide a workplace free from known hazards. That includes known exposure to infectious diseases. So, OSHA does expect employers to take reasonable measures to protect workers from workplace exposure to COVID-19, including taking reasonable hygiene and sanitation measures and taking reasonable precautions in the event it comes to light that workers have been exposed. In the event of a workplace exposure, other OSHA standards may come into play, like the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard. For detailed OSHA guidance, please review the OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance document and the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

If I become aware an employee has COVID-19 or has been exposed, do I have to report that to OSHA?

Not unless you have reason to believe the disease was contracted at work and it results in hospitalization or death. The duty to report workplace accidents or diseases to OSHA is very limited. Generally you must only report a workplace accident or illness if it also has resulted in hospitalization or death. In most cases, even when an employee tests positive, there will be no basis to conclude the disease was contracted at work.

Do I have to include employees who have conformed COVID-19 on my OSHA logs?

Only if there is clear evidence that the disease was contracted at work.

Information about COVID-19 and its impact on local, state and federal levels is changing rapidly. This article may not reflect updates to news, executive orders, legislation and regulations made after its publication date. Visit our COVID-19 resource page to find the most current information.

Workers’ compensation implications of COVID-19 in the workplace

Presently there are many uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. It is certainly possible employees will allege they contracted coronavirus while at work. Given that the United States has not experienced a pandemic in a significant period of time, this is a gray area for employers. Most states do not have specific legislation addressing this situation.

In general, any illness, injury or occupational disease could be a compensable claim if it arises out of the course and scope of the employee’s employment. The difficulty is that it is likely impossible to determine with certainty as to where the employee contracted the disease. Workplaces with significant public contact may see a rise in such claim applications. Continue Reading

Ohio takes executive measures to curb COVID-19 pandemic

Restrictions placed upon indoor recreational locations

On Monday, March 16, 2020, Ohio Governor Michael DeWine announced on Twitter that he will be issuing an order to close gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers, bowling alleys, indoor water parks, movie theaters and trampoline parks until further notice. This order took effect at the close of business on Monday, March 16th.

Restrictions placed upon bars and restaurants

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Ohio expands unemployment compensation protections in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Ohio Governor Michael DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced that the state has expanded unemployment compensation benefits to workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. By way of background, Ohio’s unemployment insurance system provides 50 percent of a qualifying worker’s former average weekly pay, subject to caps based on the number of dependents in the household.

Governor DeWine has issued an executive order that expands unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. Moreover, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has published a series of questions and answers related to the order. Here are the highlights: Continue Reading

Work from home and travel policy considerations for employees of nonimmigrant visa status during coronavirus outbreak

Public health experts recommend that companies encourage employees to work from home to stem the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in offices, large meetings, public transit and elsewhere. Remote work policies, coupled with travel bans and government-imposed quarantines, pose unique complications for employers and their employees holding nonimmigrant visa status.

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