On March 19, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its 2009 pandemic preparedness guidance: Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our colleague in the Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group published an alert discussing the updates. Read more.

As reported over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201, also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, early Saturday morning. Yesterday, the House began making changes and we understand the Senate is currently considering its own changes. We will provide updates on significant changes to this bill once more information is learned. We know there was discussion about changing the reasons for use of the proposed expanded FMLA and paid sick leave, and discussion about capping the dollar amount of both. Stay tuned. As with everything related to COVID-19, things are changing daily and sometimes by the hour. If you need assistance with these or other issues related to COVID-19, you can contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom your normally work or the firm’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 Task Force.

With 53 presumptive-positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan as of March 15, Michigan is taking proactive steps to reduce transmission of the virus. Below is a brief synopsis of what employers need to know.

On March 10, 2020, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Executive Order 2020-4. Two later, on March 13, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued Michigan Executive Order 2020-5, which prohibits all events and “single shared space” assemblies of more than 250 people. There are 3 exceptions to this: (1) industrial or manufacturing work, (2) mass transit, and (3) assembly for the purchase of groceries or consumer goods. A “single shared space” includes but is not limited to a “room, hall, cafeteria, auditorium, theater, or gallery,” and there is no express exception for private employers. We have contacted the governor’s office to confirm whether “single shared space” would include open-concept workspaces because it appears to. We will update this blog post on receipt of that additional information.

The order also closes all K-12 buildings, though residential and child care facilities at schools can remain open. This order is in effect until April 5, 2020, at 5 p.m. A willful violation of the order constitutes a misdemeanor. According to Michigan’s Attorney General, violations could lead to penalties, such as the loss of a business liquor license.

In light of Michigan’s approach to this ever-evolving issue:

  • Periodically check the State of Michigan’s Coronavirus website here. For example, the governor has indicated that she may close all restaurants and bars beginning on March 16 at 3 p.m., with the exception of carry-out. An executive order related to this would likely be posted to this website.
  • Remember that Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act allows employees to take paid medical leave related to the closure of the workplace by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or if it has been determined by health authorities that the employee or the employee’s family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others (i.e., the current situation).
  • Check the public health department websites for counties in which you have employees or facilities for local restrictions. For example, on March 16, Oakland County began requiring all bars, restaurants, entertainment facilities and physical fitness facilities to reduce capacity to 50%.
  • Employers subject to EO 2020-5 should eliminate assemblages of at least 250 persons. Consider limiting travel to educational conferences, having some employees work from home (if they are not already), creating a more frequent shift rotation, or separating employees across several shared spaces/facilities to reduce the number of employees in one space.
  • Employers must still maintain hours worked records for non-exempt employees, even if they are working from home. If you do not currently have a system for having hourly employees report their hours worked, create one, even if it is just in the form of a spreadsheet or emails from the employees reporting their hours worked.
  • If your employees will be working from home for an extended time, consider updating telecommuting policies to make clear that employees are expected to maintain the safe conditions and confidentiality practices at home that they would on company premise, if not more so. The telecommuting policy should also state that the company assumes no responsibility for injuries to third parties who may be present at the employee’s home office. Also, determine what expenses the company will reimburse in this situation.
  • Consider adding some flexibility to telecommuting policies and work hours, given that all K-12 schools are also closed through April 5. Children will be at home with their working parents, which may impact productivity during certain hours of the day.
  • For foreign nationals working under temporary non-immigrant work visas, there may be restrictions on working remotely, changes in location, changes in pay, and changes in hours and other conditions of employment, depending on the particular visa classification. Employers must ascertain whether they are required to notify the U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services of changes in the conditions of employment for employees that are working under such a non-immigrant work visa.

To keep on top of how COVID-19 may impact your workplace, subscribe to Jackson Lewis P.C.’s Disability, Leave & Health Management blog and contact a JL attorney with specific questions.

Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, on March 12, 2020, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives approved House Bill 2428 to establish a new unpaid emergency leave of 20 days for employees with a suspected or actual diagnosis of a pandemic illness.

HB 2428 seeks to amend Puerto Rico Law 180-1998, which establishes paid sick and vacation leave benefits to some private sector employees, excluding employees classified as executives, administrators, and professionals, among others.

If HB 2428 is enacted, employees who are sick or suspected of being sick as a result of a pandemic illness during a state of emergency declared by the Governor of Puerto Rico, or the Secretary of the Department of Health, must first use any accrued sick leave. Once accrued sick leave is exhausted, employees may use accrued vacation leave to receive pay during any absence. Should the employee need additional leave, HB 2428 provides an unpaid emergency leave of 20 working days. Under the bill, employers may allow employees to use the unpaid emergency leave before using accrued vacation leave. Read more.

Confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have risen swiftly in California and in response, administrative agencies have released guidance to employers regarding wage and hour issues and paid sick leave.

Late last, week, the Labor Commissioner’s office provided input on administering paid sick leave in light of coronavirus. The Labor Commissioner indicated that preventative care under paid sick leave would include self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19 if recommended by civil authorities or if the employee has traveled to a high-risk area.

Please find the rest of this article on our California Workplace Law Blog.

Pittsburgh employers take note:  March 15, 2020 is right around the corner.  That is when the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act finally goes into effect after its years-long journey through the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the Pennsylvania courts.

The ordinance requires employers with 15+ employees to provide paid sick leave, up to 40 hours per year, at a rate of 1 hour of leave for every 35 hours worked.  Employers with less than 15 employees must also provide paid sick leave at the same accrual rate, up to 24 hours per year.

Employers should take note that employees who work in the City can be covered under the law, even if the employer is not physically present there.  That is because the ordinance defines employers as any entity “situated or doing business in the City” and defines employees as anyone who works for such an employer and “who performs work within the geographic boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh for at least 35 hours in a calendar year.”

We previously posted about the ordinance here, shortly after the City revealed the law’s effective date.  The City also released guidelines on employee rights and employer obligations under the ordinance, which can be found here.

For guidance on leave management issues, please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney. Register here if you would like to receive information about our workthruIT® Leave & Accommodation Suite. The Leave & Accommodation Suite provides subscribers an expanding array of tools to manage leave and accommodation issues, including electronic access to a state and local leave law database that is developed and updated continually by our Disability, Leave & Health Management attorneys.

There is a new proposed bill in town, which attempts to create tax incentives to encourage employers to voluntarily support paid parental and medical leave programs. The proposed bill would also encourage employees to save for time away from work during these times, specifically through leave savings accounts for which the employee can contribute up to $5,000 of wages, annually, to pay for leave-related expenses.  Leave-related expenses include things like caring for the birth of a child or for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.  The bill would allow employees to claim a state income tax deduction for the amounts they or their employer contribute to the savings account and grant employers that pay an employee for leave between 8 to 12 weeks an income tax credit, equivalent to 15% of the amount paid.  Employers who contribute to employees’ leave savings accounts would also receive an income tax credit.

This is not the first time a paid family leave bill has been proposed in Colorado.  Indeed, just last year, there was a proposed bill, titled “FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program.”  The original drafting of the bill, which was much more aggressive, attempted to implement a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded by both workers and employers.  Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, this would have applied to employers of all sizes.  Many of Colorado’s top business associations opposed the original drafting of the bill and the bill eventually morphed into the creation of task force, becoming law in May 2019.  The bill, as passed, creates a study of the implementation of a paid family and medical leave program through this task force. The bill requires the department of labor and employment to contract with experts in the field of paid family and medical leave to report on the establishment of a paid family and medical leave program, and request information from third parties that may be willing to administer all or part of the leave program.

What do these two bills mean for paid sick leave in Colorado?  Though we are not there yet, paid sick leave is the trajectory and legislators continue to push forward in their pursuits.  Jackson Lewis will continue to track changes with this Colorado legislation.  Stay tuned.

The 2019 novel coronavirus continues to evolve and has been officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization replacing the previous 2019-nCoV designation. There are now over 46,000 confirmed cases across the globe, with the vast majority in mainland China, and 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. Many details about the virus are unknown including its severity and how it spreads leaving employers with many questions about how to appropriately respond. New guidance is available for employers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL OSHA). Read more.

As California employers continue to grapple with recent legislation effective January 1, California Governor Gavin Newsom is releasing his plans for even more employment legislation. Along with the Governor’s proposed budget, the Governor has announced various “trailer bills.”  Trailer bills are measures that accompany the annual state budget that theoretically are necessary to implement the budget. Yet they can also be an easy way for the Governor to get difficult legislation passed, as the trailer bills only require a simple majority to pass.

California already has several types of job-protected leaves of absence for employees. Even so, most job-protected leaves are limited depending on the size of the employer. For example, California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) applies to employers with five or more employees and requires these employers to provide up to four months of unpaid job-protected leave because of pregnancy-related illness.

Another is the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) which is California’s version of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). CFRA provides up to 12 weeks off in a year for either the birth/placement of a child or due to an employee’s or an employee’s family member’s serious health condition. Before 2018, CFRA, including provisions related to the birth/placement of a child, pertained only to employers of 50 or more employees. However, in 2017, the California legislature passed the New Parent Leave Act, which expanded baby bonding portions of CFRA to employees of employers of 20 or more employees. Job-protected leave under CFRA for a serious medical condition continues to apply only to employees of 50 or more employees.

One of the Governor’s new trailer bills seeks to repeal the New Parent Leave Act. This is not a nod to the struggles of smaller businesses with compliance. Instead, the trailer bill seeks to amend CFRA and PDLL to apply to all employers, regardless of size. This would be a drastic expansion to job-protected leaves in California.

It is difficult to predict how the trailer bill amending CFRA and PDLL will progress during the coming months as it winds through the legislature. Should the bill be passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, it would go into effect immediately upon signing and mean huge expenses for small businesses.

Jackson Lewis will continue to track changes with the legislation. If employers are not sure they are currently in compliance or want to plan for the potential future, they should contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to talk about their leave policies and procedures.