Employers Face a Myriad of Wage & Hour Issues with COVID-19

There are significant developments happening every day (and virtually every hour) relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  While we cannot predict all the effects of this virus, we can say that first and foremost, employers across all industries need to focus on the safety of their employees, customers, and guests.  Thus, whether your employees are working at your company’s office or from home, employers must monitor guidance from federal, state, and local public health experts and implement recommendations or orders designed to maintain a safe work environment.  To that end, please see our blog post from last week providing advice and FAQ’s regarding how employers can respond to COVID-19. COVID-19

In addition to so many other issues, COVID-19 poses unique wage and hour and human resource challenges. Indeed, Since our last post, we have received dozens of wage and hour related questions from clients resulting from this virus. Although no employer could have full been prepared for the scope of this pandemic, it is important to be aware of both federal and state laws that apply to situations such as this. The best protection is to have a policies and procedures in place in advance (or if that ship has already sailed, to quickly create some policies and procedures) to ensure your employees are paid and well taken care of during this unprecedented time. Our guidance can be used by employers in navigating through the legal and business implications created by this pandemic.  In addition, the information may be applicable to other future crises or disasters.

Therefore, please filed below answers to the most frequently asked questions we have received:

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March Update on How Employers Can Respond to COVID-19 with FAQs

By:  Kara M. Maciel and Beeta B. Lashkari

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Since publishing our previous post last month, there have been a number of significant developments related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now officially called “COVID-19.”  Notably, during the week of February 23, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reported community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in California, Oregon, and Washington.  Community spread in Washington resulted in the first death in the U.S. from COVID-19, as well as the first reported case of COVID-19 in a health care worker, and the first potential outbreak in a long-term care facility.

Recent Developments and Federal Guidance

  • CDC has published an Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, cautioning employers to use the guidance to determine the risk of the Coronavirus, and not to use race or country of origin to make a determination. The guidance covers recommended strategies for employers to use, including: (1) actively encouraging sick employees to stay home; (2) separating sick employees; (3) emphasizing staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees; (4) performing routine environmental cleaning; and (5) advising employees before traveling to consult CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices and other CDC guidance.  Additionally, the guidance states that if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

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NLRB Finalizes Joint Employer Rule

Joint EmployerOn February 26, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) published its final joint employer rule in the Federal Register, which tightens the test used to analyze whether workers are jointly employed by affiliated businesses. The final rule is intended to roll-back the stricter Obama-era standard that business interests have longed to overturn.

History of Joint Employer Rule

Under longstanding NLRB precedent, two employers could be joint employers if they shared or codetermined matters governing the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment. Until 2015, to be a joint employer, a business had to exercise “direct and immediate” control over these employment matters

Then, the Obama-era NLRB overruled the old standard in its decision in Browning-Ferris, and substantially relaxed the standards for proving joint Continue reading

[Webinar] Illinois and DC Area State Law Update

On Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Aaron R. Gelb and Daniel C. Deacon will present a complimentary webinar regarding “Illinois and DC Area State Law Update.”

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The New Year brings a host of changes and challenges for Illinois employers as the legislature passed and Governor Pritzker signed, in 2019, a variety of new labor and employment laws that go into effect in 2020. These new laws promise to keep employers busy as they revise and update employee handbooks, develop new training programs, reevaluate their arbitration agreements and deal with the decriminalization of marijuana. Beginning in January 2020, employers will be faced with an expanded Illinois Human Rights Act that applies beyond the physical workplace, covers non-employee contractors and protects against discrimination based on perceived (in addition to actual) protected status. Continue reading

Time’s Up:  Illinois Employers Are On The Clock To Provide Sexual Harassment Training

Late last year, we summarized the many new employment laws with which Illinois employers would have to comply in 2020, including the requirement to provide sexual harassment training by the end of the year.  Now that 2020 is not so new anymore, employers should begin preparations to comply, so they are not left scrambling later this year.  This article will summarize the key points you need to know to stay compliant.

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  • Does this law apply to me—what is the threshold for coverage?

One and done—in other words, if you have at least one employee, the law applies to your company and you must train that employee… presumably in a one-on-one session.

  • What must we cover in the training session(s)?

Presently, we know that employer-provided training must cover, at a minimum, the following topics:

  1. an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA);
  2. examples of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment;
  3. a summary of relevant federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, including remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; and
  4. a summary of responsibilities of employers in the prevention, investigation, and corrective measures of sexual harassment.
  • Who must be trained and when?

The law went into effect on January 1, 2020, but employers have until the end of the year—December 31, 2020—to provide the required training to both employees and managers.  There is no exception Continue reading

The PBGC Acts to Level Withdrawal Liability’s Procedural Playing Field

shutterstock_pensionThe recent action by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) to rein in run-away filing fees imposed by the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) brings to mind Homer Simpson’s declaration that alcohol was “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” In a like manner, the PBGC can be seen as the cause of, and now (happily) the solution to, the very steep filing fees previously imposed by the AAA on withdrawn employers.

By way of background, for many years, employers assessed withdrawal liability faced a Hobson’s choice: either pay the fees demanded by the AAA to initiate arbitration, or forego any chance to challenge the assessment. Of course, by failing to initiate arbitration, the amounts demanded by the pension fund become, in the words of the statute, “due and owing on the schedule set forth by the plan sponsor.”

This unpleasant situation for employers – pay up, or else – was set in motion by a PBGC regulation that allows pension funds to impose the AAA rules (and the required filing fees) on withdrawn employers. That regulation purports to allow Continue reading

How Employers Can Respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

By:  Kara M. Maciel and Beeta B. Lashkari

Medical ExamThe 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV” or “coronavirus”) is a respiratory illness that, with its spread to the United States, is raising important issues for employers.  This guide explains the outbreak, the legal implications of it, and how employers should be responding now to employees who might have the virus, are caring for affected family members, or are otherwise concerned about their health in the workplace.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

First detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, 2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus reportedly linked to a large outdoor seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.  At this time, it is unclear how easily the virus is spreading between people.  Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and the general feeling of being unwell.  The incubation period is approximately 14 days, during which time an individual may see no symptoms but may still be contagious. Continue reading