Recent Changes to COVID-19 Paid Leave Programs

The purpose of this article is to detail recent changes to COVID-19 laws that may apply to your business.  If your business is in the healthcare industry, if you employ emergency responders, or if you have 500 or more employees anywhere in the United States, these new laws apply to your business.

Introduction

Two significant changes expand existing COVID-19 paid leave laws and create a new California COVID-19 related leave program. Both laws may affect the types of paid leave programs available to employees within your business, affecting your obligation to provide FFCRA leave.

First, the Secretary of Labor published revisions and clarifications to the emergency paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), set to expire December 31, 2020. These revisions are effective September 16, 2020 and alter the definition of “health care provider,” making more employees eligible for FFCRA leave. Accordingly, employees within your health care business who were previously excluded from FFCRA leave may now qualify. The FFCRA applies only to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Second, on September 9, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1867 (“AB 1867”), which established COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for employees who are employed by private businesses of 500 or more employees or are employed by certain types of health care providers. This bill is effective on September 19, 2020 and expires December 31, 2020.

These two changes are described more fully below.

New Leave Obligations – Employers in the Health Care Industry with Fewer than 500 Employees

After the State of New York successfully challenged portions of the FFCRA, the Department of Labor reexamined provisions within the FFCRA and has now altered the definition of “health care provider.” This expanded definition makes more employees eligible for FFCRA leave, and requires an examination of the employee’s job duties to determine if they are eligible for FFCRA leave.

Originally, the FFCRA focused on the employer’s industry or business, stating that any employee employed by a “health care provider” is excluded from eligibility for FFCRA leave. Finding that this definition excluded too many employees—contrary to the law’s intended purpose—the DOL revisions require analysis of skills, role, duties, or capabilities of the employee. Specifically, the DOL revised the definition of “health care provider” to mean employees who are employed to provide diagnostic services, preventative services, treatment services, or services that are so integrated and necessary that their absence would negatively affect patient care. Employees whose duties fall into one of those categories may be excluded from FFCRA leave. The DOL provided the following examples of the types of duties in each category that would cause an employee to be excluded from FFCRA eligibility:

  • Diagnostic Services: Taking or processing samples; performing or assisting in the performance of x-rays or other diagnostic tests or procedures, and interpreting test or procedure results.
  • Preventative services: Screenings, check-ups, and counseling to prevent illnesses, disease, or other health problems.
  • Treatment Services: Performing surgery or other invasive or physical intervention, administering or providing prescribed medication, or providing or assisting in breathing treatments.
  • Services that are integrated with and necessary to diagnostic, preventative, or treatment services that, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care: Bathing, dressing, hand feeding, taking vital signs, setting up medical equipment for procedures, transporting patients and samples.

The DOL also provided a non-exhaustive list of employees that fall under the definition of “health care provider,” meaning their duties fall within the above categories and they are excluded from FFCRA eligibility:

  • Nurses, nurse assistants, medical technicians, and any other persons who directly provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care.
  • Employees providing diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care under the supervision, order, or direction of, or providing direct assistance to nurses, nurse assistants, medical technicians, and other persons who directly provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care.
  • Employees who may not directly interact with patients and/or who might not report to another health care provider or directly assist another health care provider, but nonetheless provide services that are integrated with and necessary components to the provision of patient care, such as a lab technician.

With this new definition, there are many employees of health care providers who were previously excluded from FFCRA leave eligibility who will now be eligible if they meet the other eligibility requirements. The DOL’s non-exhaustive list of employees whose job duties do not fall within the above definition of health care provider and are thus eligible for FFCRA leave include:

  • Information technology (IT) professionals;
  • Building maintenance staff;
  • Human Resources personnel;
  • Cooks;
  • Food service workers;
  • Records managers;
  • Consultants; and
  • Billers

Employers in the health care industry who have fewer than 500 employees will have to reevaluate the eligibility criteria they apply when an employee requests FFCRA leave. For more information visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic or the DOL’s FAQ page https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

New Leave Obligations Applicable to Employers with 500 or More Employees in the United States, And Employers of Health Care Providers and Emergency Responders Regardless of the Number of Employees Employed by the Business

AB 1867 establishes a COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) program that applies to:

  1. Employers with 500 or more employees in the United States; and
  2. Employers of any size who employ health care providers or emergency responders.

Employees are eligible for SPSL if they leave their place of residence to perform work, and are either employed by an employer that has 500 or more employees in the United States, or are employed as a health care provider (using the above detailed definition) or emergency responders, and employer has excluded them from emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

When the above requirements are met, employers shall provide SPSL to an employee if the employee is:

  • Subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; OR
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; OR
  • Prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.

Employers must provide eligible employees with 80 hours of SPSL if the employee is either considered as full time, or has worked—or was scheduled to work—on average of at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks before the date that the employee took SPSL.

An eligible employee who works fewer than 40 hours per week, SPSL is to be provided as follows:

  • For employees who have a normal weekly schedule, employers shall provide the same number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over two weeks.
  • For employees that have variable hours, employers shall provide 14 times the average number of hours worked each day in the last six months.
  • For employees that have worked for less than six months, but more than 14 days, this calculation shall be made over the entire period the employee has worked at the employer’s business.
  • For employees with variable hours, but who have worked with the employer for 14 days or less, employers shall provide the employee with the same number of hours worked.

Once an eligible employee determines how many SPSL hours to use, the employer shall make SPSL available to use. Employees may make SPSL requests either orally or in writing. SPSL is provided to employees in addition to any other paid sick leave they receive pursuant to existing law and employers may not require an employee to use other available paid time off or vacation time before or in lieu of SPSL.

The rate of compensation for SPSL is the highest of the employee’s regular rate of pay during the last pay period, or the state or local applicable minimum wage, up to daily and aggregate total maximum payments.

Employers are required to display a poster regarding SPSL, which may be disseminated electronically. We have attached a copy of the updated poster.

Conclusion

If you have any questions about your obligations as an employer of health care providers, emergency responders, or if you have 500 or more employees anywhere in the United States, and have questions about how these new laws apply to your business, do not hesitate to any of the attorneys in our employment practice group.  We will continue to monitor changes in the law and provide updates that affect your obligations as an employer.


California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

On September 9, 2020 Governor Newsom signed AB 1867 granting COVID-19 paid sick leave to many employees who were excluded from eligibility under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Covered employers must begin providing this new supplemental paid sick leave no later than September 19, 2020, and post a required notice.

Covered Employers

The California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Act expands leave coverage to:

(a) all employers with 500 or more employees in the United States (e.g., those not covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)), and

(b) health care providers and emergency responders whose employers elected to exclude them from FFCRA paid sick leave eligibility.

Eligible Employees

Employees are eligible to take the new COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the worker meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. The employee is employed by a covered employer;
  2. The employee is employed as a health care provider or emergency responder and the employer has elected to exclude the employee from FFCRA sick leave eligibility. The definition of “health care provider” has been narrowed, and includes only employees providing health care services, meaning the employee is employed to provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care and, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care. The new definition of health care provider states that employees who do not provide health care services are not health care providers even if their services could affect the provision of health care services, such as IT professionals, building maintenance staff, human resources personnel, cooks, food services workers, records managers, consultants, and billers.

An employee is not entitled to supplemental paid sick leave if the employee is able to work from home.

In addition, an eligible employee does not include:

  • An employee who works in the following industries:
    • Canning, Freezing, and Preserving;
    • Handling Products After Harvest;
    • Preparing Agricultural Products for Market on the Farm; or
    • Employed in an agricultural occupation
  • An employee who works for a food facility, defined as an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level.
  • An employee who delivers food from a food facility.

Although these employees are excluded from the COVID-19 Supplemental Sick Leave, they may be covered by Executive Order N-51-20, which provides paid sick leave to food sector employees.  See https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/COVID-19-Food-Sector-Workers-poster.pdf

Reasons for Taking Supplemental Sick Leave

An eligible employee is entitled for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the employee is unable to work because the employee is:

  • Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; or
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • Prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.

Amount of Leave

Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.  “Full-time” means the employee:

  • Is considered “full-time” by the employer; or
  • Is scheduled to work 40 hours per week; or
  • Worked, on average at least 40 hours per week during two weeks prior to taking leave.

Part-time employees are eligible for the number of sick leave hours equal to the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work in two weeks. If an employee works a varying schedule, the employee is entitled to sick leave hours equal to 14 times the average number of hours the employee worked each day in the six months prior to the leave, or over the total time of employment if less than six months.

The supplemental leave must be provided in addition to already existing State paid sick leave under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.  However, any California employer who provided COVID-19 related sick leave due to a local ordinance requiring COVID-related paid sick leave ordinance may count the local ordinance-provided paid sick leave toward this new California supplemental paid sick leave.  For example, if an employer provides a full-time worker 40 hours of COVID-19-related supplemental paid sick leave as required by a local ordinance, those 40 hours would count toward the employer’s obligations under this new California supplemental paid sick leave law as long as the leave provided by the employer is for a reason listed under this new California law and is at least at the same rate of pay as this new California law requires.  Employers may not require employees to use other paid or unpaid leaves before the employee uses this new COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

An employer may not require the employee to use other paid or unpaid leave, sick leave, vacation, PTO before using COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

Pay Rate

Eligible employees are paid COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay as if the employee has been scheduled to work the hours the employee took off as COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, up to a maximum of $511 per day and $5,110 in total.

Medical Certification

California employers may not require a doctor’s note or other certification regarding an employee’s use of this new supplemental paid sick leave, nor may the employer deny the employee leave based solely on a lack of certification.  However, the Labor Commissioner has stated that it may be reasonable in certain circumstances to ask for documentation before paying the sick leave when the employer has other information indicating that the worker is not requesting COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick leave for a valid purpose.

Notice Requirements

The law requires employers to post and to provide the following notice to all employees: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/COVID-19-Non-Food-Sector-Employees-poster.pdf

For any remote workers, the notice may be emailed to them.

Sunset Provision

Covered employers must begin providing supplemental paid sick leave no later than September 19, 2020.  The supplemental sick leave provision will expire on December 31, 2020, or upon the expiration of any federal extension of the federal emergency paid sick leave provisions under the FFCRA, whichever is later.

For more information, visit the FAQs at:  https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ-for-PSL.html


Fenton & Keller COVID-19 FAQs

There are some important changes to laws relating to COVID-19 as the Department of Labor and California Legislature respond to compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). We remain available to assist you with any questions you may have. The well-being of our employees, clients, business partners and community remains our constant priority. We value our relationship with you and are committed to staying connected and helping you through this extraordinary time.

May an employee refuse to come to work due to a fear of becoming infected with COVID-19?

Potentially. Employees may be protected from retaliation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) in certain circumstances when they refuse to perform work as directed.  Specifically, an employee may refuse an assignment that involves “a risk of death or serious physical harm” if all of the following conditions apply: (1) the employee has “asked the employer to eliminate the danger and the employer failed to do so”; (2) the employee “refused to work in ‘good faith’” (a genuine belief that “an imminent danger exists”); (3) “[a] reasonable person would agree that there is real danger of death or serious injury”; and (4) “[t]here isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.”  While each situation is different, and a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 is not likely to justify a work refusal in most cases, employers should conduct a thorough review of the facts before any disciplinary action is taken against an employee who refuses to perform his or her job for fear of exposure to COVID-19.

Do I have to provide my employees with paid leave if I require them to self-quarantine after traveling to a high-risk area?

            It depends.  Employees in California are entitled to paid sick leave under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (“HWHF”).  In addition, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), employees are entitled to up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order.  The California Labor Commissioner has taken the position that employees may use accrued HWHF sick leave to self-quarantine.  Unlike California paid sick leave, an employee would not be entitled to the FFCRA paid sick leave unless the employee’s quarantine is required by a federal, state, or local order or by the advice of a healthcare provider.  Thus, an employee in this situation would be able to use any accrued paid California HWHF sick leave but not paid FFCRA sick leave.  Once the employee exhausts his or her HWHF sick leave, the employer may allow the employee to use his or her other accrued PTO (e.g., vacation) while on leave.

How much information can I request from an employee who calls in sick with no explanation?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of a virus during a pandemic.  For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, or sore throat.  Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in files that are separate from the employee’s personnel file.

May I take all employees’ temperatures before allowing them to enter the workplace?

            Yes.  Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination that may only be performed in limited circumstances.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EEOC and the DFEH agree that employers may measure an employee’s body temperature for the limited purpose of evaluating the risk that the employee’s presence poses to others in the workplace.  Employers that maintain records regarding employee temperatures must keep all information confidential and separate from employee personnel files.

Can an employer ask an employee physically coming into the workplace if they have family members with COVID-19 or associated symptoms?

            No.  The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) forbids employers asking medical questions about family members of employees. The EEOC recommends asking more general questions such as “have you had contact with any people with COVID-19 associated symptoms?”

Can an employer bar an employee from entering the workplace if the employee refuses to answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms?

            Yes.  The EEOC and the DFEH both advise employers to follow CDC guidelines and send any employees with COVID-19 symptoms home.  California’s re-opening guidance requires employers to adopt screening measures for all employees entering the workplace.  Many employers have implemented questionnaires with questions that ask employees if they had or have COVID-19 symptoms.  Questions such as these help employers determine whether the employee would pose a threat to the health and safety of other employees.  Employees that refuse to answer such questions may be sent home.

What information may an employer reveal if an employee is quarantined, tests positive for COVID-19, or has come in contact with someone who has COVID-19?

            Employers should not identify any such employees by name in the workplace to ensure compliance with privacy laws.  If an employee tests positive for or is suspected to have COVID-19, the employer should contact local health officials and follow the most current local, state, or federal public health recommendations.  Directions from public health authorities may include closing the worksite, deep cleaning, and permitting or requiring telework.

Employers may notify affected employees (those who came in close contact with the infected employee) in a way that does not reveal the personal health information or identity of the infected employee.  For example, the employer could speak with employees or send an email or other written communication stating: “[Employer] has learned that an employee at [office location] tested positive for COVID-19.  The employee received positive test results on [date].  This email is to notify you that you have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and you should contact your health care provider and local public health department for guidance and any possible actions to take based on individual circumstances.”

Employers may not confirm the health status of employees or communicate about employees’ health.

Can I require employees to submit to a COVID-19 test before permitting employees to enter the workplace?

            The Centers for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) current guidance states that antibody tests should not be used to make decisions about returning employees to work because they are less accurate and reliable than virus testing.  Based on this guidance, the EEOC and the DFEH have taken the position that employers may require employees to submit to “viral” testing but not “antibody” testing before permitting employees to enter the workplace.  Employers should be aware that viral tests can have false-negative results and that a negative viral test does not mean that an employee will not acquire COVID-19 in the future.

If an employee has a medical condition that increases his or her risk for severe illness from COVID-19, is the employee entitled to a reasonable accommodation?

                Maybe.  According to the CDC, people of any age with the following underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD; immunosuppressed state from solid organ transplant; obesity; serious heart conditions; sickle cell disease; and Type-2 diabetes.  Individuals with the following conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: moderate to severe asthma; cerebrovascular disease; cystic fibrosis; hypertension or high blood pressure; immunocompromised state from blood or bone marrow transplant; immune deficiencies; HIV; use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; neurologic conditions such as dementia; liver disease; pregnancy; pulmonary fibrosis; smoking; thalassemia (a blood disorder); and Type-1 diabetes.

If the underlying medical condition qualifies as a disability, then the employer must reasonably accommodate the employee, absent an undue hardship.  In California, disabilities are broadly defined as conditions that limit a major life activity, including physical and mental disabilities, as well as medical conditions. California definitions and protections can be broader than protections under federal law. See https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/peoplewithdisabilities/. If the underlying medical condition does not qualify as a disability, employers are not required to reasonably accommodate the employee, though the EEOC and the DFEH suggest that employers attempt to accommodate workers who are or may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as a general strategy to keep employees safe and healthy.

Is an employee entitled to an accommodation in order to avoid exposing a family member who is at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition?

Yes, in California.  Federal law does not require that an employer accommodate an employee without a disability based on the disability-related needs of a family member or other person with whom he or she is associated.  For example, an employee without a disability is not entitled under the ADA to telework as an accommodation in order to protect a family member with a disability from potential COVID-19 exposure.

However, under California  law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of a perception that the employee is associated with a person, such as a family member, who has a disability.  Although California courts have not directly stated that there is an independent duty to provide such employees with a reasonable accommodation, an employer’s failure to do so could be used as circumstantial evidence that an employer’s decision to deny an employee’s accommodation request was motivated by a discriminatory animus toward that employee’s association with a disabled family member.

I heard that there are new changes this month to the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) regulations on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  What are the changes?

Recently, a District Court in New York issued a decision that found certain provisions of the DOL’s FFCRA regulations invalid. On September 11, 2020, the DOL posted revisions to its regulations in response to this court’s decision.  The revisions are set to be effective on September 16, 2020, and do the following:

  • Reaffirm and provide additional explanation for the requirement that employees may take FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave only if work would otherwise be available to them.
  • Reaffirm and provide additional explanation for the requirement that an employee must have employer approval to take FFCRA leave intermittently.
  • Expand the eligibility of employees who are eligible for paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave who work for in the health care industry.  This change is significant and means that some employees who work for a health care provider or facility will now be eligible for paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave. The FFCRA previously allowed employers to exclude employees who are “health care providers” or who are “emergency responders” from eligibility for paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave.  The DOL revised the definition of “health care provider” to significantly narrow this exclusion.  The DOL’s new definition of a “health care provider” for purposes of determining eligibility for FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave focuses on the duties of employees, rather than on the fact that the employer provides health care services.  Under the DOL’s new regulations, employers who are covered by the FFCRA can deny paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave only to those employees who meet this new definition of “health care provider.”  Health care providers are only those employees who  provide diagnostic services, preventative services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care which, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care. Some examples of employees who meet the definition of “health care provider” and are not eligible for FFCRA leave are nurses, nurse assistants, medical technicians, laboratory technicians who process test results, employees performing or assisting in the process of x-rays or other diagnostic tests and procedures, or transporting patients and samples.  Employees who do not meet the definition of “health care provider” and are therefore eligible for FFCRA leave include IT professionals, building maintenance staff, human resources personnel, cooks, food service workers, records managers, consultants, and billers.
  • Clarify that employees must provide required documentation supporting their need for FFCRA leave to their employers as soon as practicable.
  • Correct an inconsistency regarding when employees may be required to provide notice of a need to take expanded family and medical leave to their employers.

Political Rally Participation

Question: I have a strict “no politics” policy at my business, but I learned that two of my employees attended a political rally over the weekend.  One of the employees missed their scheduled shift to attend the rally and the other was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly.    Can I fire these employees because of their participation in this rally?

Answer:   California law allows private employers to place certain restrictions on employees’ political activities at work, including prohibiting the use of their positions and employer-provided equipment for political expression.  Similarly, employers may prohibit signage, clothing and other items that employees may use to communicate a political or protest message.  However, California law provides broad protections for employee political activity occurring outside of the workplace.

California Labor Code Section 1101 states, “No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy:

  • Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics.
  • Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct, the political activities or affiliations of employees.”

Section 1102 of the Labor Code provides, “No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.”  Additionally, Labor Code sections 96(k) and 98.6 protect employees from retaliation for “lawful conduct” occurring during non-working hours away from the employer’s premises.

An employee’s participation in a political rally would likely qualify for these protections.  That said, an employer may still discipline or fire an employee if their political activities violate employer policies.  Furthermore, the law does not require employers to provide time off to employees who wish to attend a rally, and employers may discipline any employee who violates internal attendance or leave policies when done so consistently. Selective enforcement of a policy could result in liability for retaliation if the employee shows the discipline was targeted at political activity or aimed at a certain political view.

Employees are entitled to these protections even if the employee’s participation in a march, protest or rally leads to the employee’s arrest.  California Labor Code 432.7 prohibits employers from asking job applicants and employees about an arrest that did not lead to a conviction and bars employers from using an employee’s arrest pending trial as the sole determining factor in making an adverse employment decision against them.

Employers in this situation should investigate the facts and circumstances of the employee’s arrest to determine whether conduct leading to the arrest violates the employer’s policies or is unlawful. Police may arrest participants in a march, protest or rally, but some of these arrests do not result in charges or convictions, so the fact that an employee is arrested will normally not by itself justify termination of employment.

Employees’ social media posts that violate an employer’s harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention or employee safety policies require a different analysis.  Private employees do not have an unfettered First Amendment right to free speech and may be held accountable for social media conduct.   Some examples of posts that may warrant disciplinary action or termination include:

  • Hate speech regarding any protected characteristic or group;
  • Speech that creates a hostile work environment; and
  • Threats to employee health and safety.

New California Employment Laws and Regulations

Question:  I am in the process of reopening my business after the COVID-19 shutdown.  Are there any new laws of which I need to be aware?

Answer:  Yes, although COVID-19 continues to be the focal point for most businesses, there are many new laws and recent court decisions of which employers must be aware – including expansion of anti-discrimination laws and updated guidance from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”); expansions to paid family leave and the applicability of the independent contractor ABC Test.

The DFEH issued new regulations, effective July 1, 2020, which set forth limitations in advertising, recruitment, and the interview process related specifically to age- and religious-based discrimination.  For example, the regulations provide that job advertisements cannot include a maximum experience limitation; cannot require that candidates maintain a college-affiliated email address; and cannot use terms such as “young,” “recent college graduate,” or other terms that imply a preference for employees under the age of 40 or that a reasonable person would interpret as deterring or limiting employment of people age 40 and over.

The regulations also provide that any information related to an applicant’s schedule or availability for work cannot be used to ascertain the applicant’s religious creed, disability, or medical condition.  Any scheduling inquiry, either in an interview or on a job application, must clearly communicate that an employee need not disclose any scheduling restrictions based on legally protected grounds in language such as: “Other than time off for reasons related to your religion, a disability or a medical condition, are there any days or times when you are unavailable to work?”

The DFEH also recently updated its COVID-19 FAQ.  While many of the updated answers defer to guidance from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the updated FAQ reminds covered employers of their obligations to engage in the interactive process with each employee who may need a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition – including a medical condition which may increase an individual’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19.  See https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2020/03/DFEH-Employment-Information-on-COVID-19-FAQ_ENG.pdf

Further, while California law already protects individuals from illegal discrimination by employers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that discrimination on the basis of these categories is unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The Supreme Court explained, “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.”

In addition to anti-discrimination laws, employers and leave administrators should also be aware that on July 1, 2020, two new California laws went into effect.  Employees who are eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits may NOW receive these benefits for eight weeks.  Additionally, the independent contractor ABC Test under AB 5 became applicable for purposes of workers’ compensation, requiring reporting of payroll for individuals who may have been classified as independent contractors but who are now considered employees under AB5.


Employee’s COVID-19 Exposure at Work

Question: I heard that employees who contract COVID-19 at work are automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  Is this true? If so, what am I required to do if my employee tells me he/she contracted COVID-19 at work?

Answer: On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20 (https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/5.6.20-EO-N-62-20-text.pdf) which provides that an employee who contracts any COVID-19 related illness between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020 is presumed to have contracted it at his or her jobsite, making the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The employee was diagnosed by a medical doctor who holds a physician and surgeon license issued by the California Medical Board or tested positive within 14 days after a day the employee worked, at the direction of the employer, at the employer’s job site, excluding the employee’s home or residence;

  2. If the employee was diagnosed by a medical doctor, the diagnosis must be confirmed by a further testing within 30 days of the date of the employee’s medical diagnosis; and

  3. The employee must have worked at the employer’s jobsite on or after March 19, 2020.

An employee who meets these criteria is presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work regardless of whether the employee was providing essential services.  The presumption applies to all employers (not just essential businesses) and regardless of the number of employees employed.  An employer can dispute this presumption by presenting evidence that the employee did not contract COVID-19 at work.  Employers have 30 days to investigate an employee’s claim and decide whether to accept or deny the employee’s claim. If an employer fails to deny an employee’s claim within 30 days, the COVID-19 claim is presumed to be a compensable workers’ compensation claim.  However, an employer can still rebut the presumption if evidence is discovered after the 30-day period.

This workers compensation presumption favors employees and employers because it makes it simpler for employees to qualify for benefits, and, in most cases, limits employee damages to those provided by the workers compensation program.

All employers have a duty to determine whether the employee contracted COVID-19 at work pursuant to the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.  Employers must perform a reasonable investigation to determine if the employee was exposed to COVID-19 at work based on information reasonably available to it at the time of its investigation.  Employers should ask certain key questions about the employee’s work environment to determine if exposure was possible and refrain from making inquiries that would violate the employee’s right to privacy.

Unless an employer has 10 or fewer employees or is in certain low-hazard industries, if it determines the employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, contracted it at work, and the illness resulted in the employee’s death, loss of consciousness, absence from work, work restrictions, or required more than first aid treatment, the employer must record the illness on OSHA Form 300 (“Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”).  Low-hazard industry employers are only required to report work-related COVID-19 illnesses if they result in the employee’s death, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.  A complete list of low hazard industries can be viewed at

https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1904/1904SubpartBAppA

If you are unsure what you should do if your employee tells you he/she has contracted COVID-19 at work, you should contact an attorney and take the necessary precautions to ensure your employees, customers and public remain safe.


In Order to Promote Prompt and Efficient Treatment, California Employees With COVID-19 Can Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order establishing a rebuttable presumption that certain California workers who contract COVID-19 are presumed to have a workplace injury covered by the workers’ compensation system.  The Order states that for any employee who tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after a day that the employee worked at the employer’s work site at the direction of the employer, such illness shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment for purposes of awarding workers compensation benefits.  This presumption does not apply to employees who work from home and did not visit a worksite at the employer’s direction within 14 days of receiving a diagnosis.

Full text of the Executive Order may be accessed here: https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/5.6.20-EO-N-62-20-text.pdf.


COVID-19 Supplemental Sick Leave and New Notice for Food Sector Workers

Executive Order N-51-20 (https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4.16.20-EO-N-51-20.pdf) requires hiring entities with 500 or more employees to provide supplemental paid sick leave to food sector workers for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Hiring entities with 500 or more workers nationwide must provide paid sick leave to food sector workers who are unable to work for defined reasons related to COVID-19.  In issuing the Executive Order the Governor noted that food sector workers are part of the essential critical infrastructure of food supply, but many were not eligible for paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) because they work for large employers who are exempt from the FFCRA.  To qualify for COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, a food sector worker must work for or through a hiring entity with more than 500 employees nationwide and:

  1. be exempt from the Governor’s March 19, 2020 Stay-at-Home Order (EO N-33-20);
  2. perform work for the business outside the home; and
  3. satisfy one of the following:
    • Work in one of the industries or occupations defined in Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders: 3 (the canning, freezing, and preserving industry), 8 (industries processing agricultural products after harvest), 13 (facilities on a farm that prepare products for market), or 14 (general agricultural occupations);
    • Work for a business that runs a food facility, which includes grocery stores, restaurants, food warehouses, distribution centers, and grocery and restaurant personnel; or
    • Deliver food from a food facility for or through a hiring entity.

The California Labor Commissioner released a required posting to inform food sector workers of their right to supplemental paid sick leave.  Covered employers must display the notice where workers can easily read it. If workers don't frequent the workplace, covered employers are required to electronically distribute the notice.  For more information see the FAQs at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ-for-PSL.html. The new notice can be accessed here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/COVID-19-Food-Sector-Workers-poster.pdf


Employers Are Not Required to File an EEO-1 This Year

Generally, businesses with 100 or more employees (or with fewer than 100 employees if the business is owned by or corporately affiliated with another company and the entire enterprise employs a total of 100 or more employees), are required by law to file an EEO-1 report with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) each year. The EEO-1 Report is a compliance survey that requires company employment data to be categorized by race/ethnicity, gender, and job category and reported to the EEOC.  The EEOC announced a delay in the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The EEOC expects to begin collecting the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 along with the 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 in March 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available.  For more information, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo-1-survey


Maintaining Exempt Worker Status

Due to reductions in workforce, managers and other exempt employees may now be spending more than 50% of their time doing non-exempt work, resulting in the loss of their exempt status.  As a reminder, employees must meet both a salary test and a duties test to be properly classified as exempt.  As a result of the current pandemic, exempt employees may now be doing the work of non-exempt employees who were laid off.  Exempt employees must spend more than 50% of their time performing exempt, non-production work in order to satisfy the duties test.

Employers should assess whether employees who are classified as exempt are currently spending 51% or more of their time doing exempt work, or if their duties have changed and they no longer meet the duties test. A description of the Executive, Administrative, Professional and other exemptions can be found in the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order that applies to your business, https://www.dir.ca.gov/iwc/WageOrderIndustries.htm


Employees Refusing to Return to Work

If an employee refuses to return to work, employers should first determine the reasons for the refusal.  Depending on the reason, the employee’s refusal may trigger the employer’s duty to engage in the interactive process to determine if the refusal is related to a disability and can be reasonably accommodated. The employee may also be eligible for expanded FMLA or paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) depending on the reason for the refusal.

An employee’s refusal to return to work due to the fact that he or she feels unsafe at the workplace due to COVID-19 may be permitted in some circumstances, although generally if the employer is permitted to reopen and has taken the safety steps required by state and federal law, a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 is unlikely to justify a refusal to return to work.

However, both the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) provide employees the right to refuse to work in conditions they believe to be unsafe, if they have a “reasonable, good-faith belief” that working under certain conditions is unsafe or unhealthy (NLRA) or if they believe they are in “imminent danger” (OSHA).  These standards are strictly defined by statute, and employers should consult legal counsel if any employee asserts these claims. Under the OSHA rules, an employee may refuse an assignment in an “imminent danger” situation, which involves “a risk of death or serious physical harm” if all of the following conditions apply: (1) the employee has “asked the employer to eliminate the danger and the employer failed to do so”; (2) the employee “refused to work in ‘good faith’” (which is defined as a genuine belief that “an imminent danger exists”); (3) “[a] reasonable person would agree that there is real danger of death or serious injury”; and (4) “[t]here isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.”

Additionally, the California Employment Development Department (“EDD”) recently issued new guidelines that clarify that individuals are disqualified from unemployment insurance benefits if they refuse to accept “suitable” employment when offered. Under California law, the EDD will consider whether the particular work is “suitable” in light of factors such as the degree of risk involved to the individual’s health and safety.  If an employer is in an industry permitted to reopen and has complied with required state and federal safety regulations, the employee may not have good cause to refuse to return to work and may be disqualified from receiving benefits. Employees who are receiving unemployment benefits are required to sign certifications for continued benefits and they will be asked if they have refused any work. Employees who have refused work are required to answer “yes” to that question, which will trigger an eligibility interview by the EDD. During that interview, the employee must inform the EDD of the facts surrounding the offer of employment that the employee refused, and why the offer was refused.  For more information, see https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs.htm


The Department of Fair Employment & Housing Offers Free Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Non-supervisorial Employees

On May 21, 2020 the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a free sexual harassment prevention training for non-supervisory employees. The online training can be used to meet a legal requirement that, by January 1, 2021, employers having five or more employees must provide at least one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment prevention to all non-supervisory employees in California. This legal requirement is contained in Government Code section 12950.1

The DFEH’s new training is interactive and optimized for mobile devices and is accessible for persons with disabilities. The training is currently available in English and will be available in five additional languages in the coming months (Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean).

The DFEH is planning to launch a similar online training for supervisors in California, who are required under Government Code section 12950.1 to complete two hours of training by January 1, 2021.

The training is available through DFEH’s website at:  https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/shpt/


It’s Time to Update Your Illness & Injury Prevention Program to Address

COVID-19 Prevention Measures

Every California employer is required to establish and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) to protect employees from workplace hazards, including infectious diseases. Employers are required to determine if COVID-19 infection is a hazard in their workplace. If it is a workplace hazard, then employers must implement infection control measures, including applicable and relevant recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself & Others. For most California workplaces, adopting changes to their IIPP is mandatory since COVID-19 is widespread in the community. For more information about what to include in your IIPP, see https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus and select the guidance applicable to your industry.


Privacy Implications in Collecting and Retaining COVID-19 Data

Question: What are some of the privacy implications for employers who ask an employee about his or her health conditions concerning COVID-19 and the retention of that information?

Answer:  As employers evaluate what measures to implement to address COVID-19 in the workplace, such as health questionnaires and on-site temperature measurements, employers must remember that the information they collect, and how they collect it, must be carefully controlled because that information is protected employee medical information.  Employers must continue to follow existing state and federal laws regarding confidentiality and employee privacy, especially as these pertain to medical information.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) recently issued guidance on employment issues related to COVID-19. The guidance clarifies that employers may ask employees if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and send employees home from work if they display COVID-19 symptoms. Moreover, employers may measure employees’ body temperature for the limited purpose of evaluating the risk that an employee’s presence poses in the workplace.  An employer may also ask why an individual did not report to work if the employer suspects an employee illness. These measures must be uniformly applied in a non-discriminatory manner, and the data collected must be maintained in a confidential medical file in a secure location like any other employee medical information. Access to the information should be limited to designated individuals.

The DFEH guidance also states that to comply with privacy laws, employers should not identify by name any employee who tests positive for, or is suspected to have, COVID-19.  Employers may notify affected employees of potential exposure to COVID-19, but without revealing the personal health information or identity of an employee who may be the source of the exposure.  The DFEH suggested notification is available at https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2020/03/DFEH-Employment-Information-on-COVID-19-FAQ_ENG.pdf

If an employer is addressing COVID-19 employee disability, accommodation, or leave issues under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, the employer should treat the COVID-19-related information the same way it treats other medical information it receives.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) also safeguards employee health information by providing national standards for the protection of such information.  HIPAA applies to entities such as health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers.  If a business or its business associates are governed by HIPAA, then HIPAA’s privacy rules apply to disclosures made by employees and other workers of such businesses.  HIPAA privacy requirements do not necessarily apply to employers who have medical information of employees pertaining to COVID-19, unless that business is otherwise subject to HIPAA.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires covered businesses to provide a notice to California consumers explaining what personal information they collect and how that information is used, including health-related information.  Businesses that either 1) Have annual gross revenues over $25 million, 2) Buy, receive, sell, or share for commercial purposes the personal information of more than 50,000 consumers, households, or devices; or 3) Derive 50 percent or more of its annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information are subject to the CCPA.  The CCPA notice requirement applies to information gathered about job applicants and employees.  Covered employers should review and update their CCPA notice to address the collection and use of information related to COVID-19.

The bottom line is that in trying to meet the challenge of ensuring employee protection from COVID-19, employers must also ensure the protection of employee medical information under multiple laws.


Fenton & Keller Update - April 17, 2020

We write to you today to inform you of some compliance action items and informational updates.

We are continuing to monitor developments of special importance to our clients that are occurring at the county, state and federal level.

April 17, 2020

❏  Implement a Remote Work Policy- We recommend you adopt a remote work policy applicable to the current work from home situation to clearly define rights and responsibilities and to make sure employees know that remote work will not become the norm for your business.

❏  Evaluate Expense Reimbursement for Remote Workers- Labor Code section 2802 requires employers to indemnify employees for “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.” The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement states, “The test for recovery under section 2802 is whether the expense or loss was incurred within the course and scope of employment.” This is broadly interpreted in the employee’s favor. If your remote workers are incurring expenses working from home (i.e. home internet, use of a personal computer, cell phone) they should be reimbursed a reasonable amount for the business-related use of these expenses.

❏  Provide the Notice to Employee, Labor Code 2810.5 form- If you reduce employees’ pay, you are required to provide this notice within 7 days of the change. Find the form here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/lc_2810.5_notice.pdf

❏  Post and Provide the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Posters- Employers are required to post these notices in the workplace and distribute them to employees who are working remotely. The posters are available in 10 languages at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/posters. A question and answer document from the Department of Labor about the posting of the notice is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-poster-questions.

❏  Implement Mandatory Social Distancing Protocol- Monterey County requires all Essential Businesses to prepare a social distancing protocol to explain how the business is achieving social distancing as required by the County’s April 3, 2020 Shelter in Place order. The County encourages businesses to use a form available at https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=88419.

The form is also available in Spanish at https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=88479

The Social Distancing Protocol must be posted at or near the entrance of the facility and must be easily viewable by the public and employees. A copy of the Social Distancing Protocol must also be provided to each employee, including electronically for remote workers.

❏  Consider the Consequences of Layoff v. Furlough- The emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA benefits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act do not apply to employees who have been laid off. Laying off employees, even if the employer intends to return them to work later, is interpreted by the California Labor Commissioner as a termination. If an employer instead furloughs its employees, that may also be interpreted as a termination unless the employer informs the employees of a definite return-to-work date within the regular pay period. At the time of termination, all wages, including vacation or paid time off, must be paid.

❏  Comply with WARN Notice Obligations- The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to provide 60-days notice to employees who are subject to a mass layoff, relocation, or termination at a covered establishment. The WARN Act also requires employers to notify the Employment Development Department, the Local Workforce Development Board, and the chief elected official of each city and county government within which the termination, relocation, or mass layoff occurs. On March 17, 2020 Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order modifying the required notice. Employers who implemented a mass layoff or termination should review the information at https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs/WARN.htm to make sure they have complied with WARN Act procedures and notice requirements.

❏  New Benefits for Self Employed Individuals- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance- As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Californians who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, have limited work history, and others not usually eligible for regular state unemployment benefits who are out of business or whose services are significantly reduced as a direct result of the pandemic. The EDD will begin accepting claims on April 28, 2020. For more information visit https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.htm

❏  I-9 Compliance Flexibility for New Hires – The Department of Homeland Security announced that employers may onboard new employees by using remote employment eligibility verification. Employers who are taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 may inspect documents listed in Section 2 of the I-9 remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2. These provisions may be used until May 19, 2020 OR within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first. Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. For specific details on remote verification see https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/dhs-announces-flexibility-requirements-related-form-i-9-compliance#wcm-survey-target-id

We are continuing to work and are fully available to provide legal services to address your needs. The well-being of our employees, clients, business partners and community remains our constant priority. We remain receptive to any suggestions that would make you more comfortable while working with us. We value our relationship with you and are committed to staying connected and helping you through this extraordinary time. 


Fenton & Keller Update - March 25, 2020

March 25, 2020

We are continuing to monitor developments of special importance to our clients that are occurring at the county, state and federal level.  Many businesses, large and small, have important questions about compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). 

Updated Resources Regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Today, the Department of Labor issued the required workplace posters, fact sheets and FAQ’s regarding the emergency paid sick leave and FMLA expansion benefits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Some of the important takeaways are:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is effective April 1, 2020.
  • The Department of Labor will not bring enforcement actions against any employer for violations of the Act that occurred between March 18 and April 17, 2020 provided the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the Act. After April 17 the Department will fully enforce violations of the Act.
  • The Act’s requirements to provide emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA apply only to leave taken by current employees between April 1 and December 31, 2020.
  • Although the Department of Labor states that details are forthcoming on small business exemptions from the paid leave requirements, it suggests that employers with fewer than 50 employees who feel their business would be jeopardized by providing the paid leave document its reasons for being exempt.

For more detail and to print the required posters see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

March 29, 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) National Online Dialogue- Your Opportunity to Provide Regulatory Input

The U.S. Department of Labor will be hosting a national online dialogue to provide employers and employees with an opportunity to offer their perspective as the Department of Labor develops compliance assistance materials and outreach strategies related to the implementation of the FFCRA.

According to the Department of Labor, the ideas and comments gathered from this dialogue will inform compliance assistance guidance, resources, and tools, as well as outreach approaches that assist employers and employees in understanding their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA. The DOL is requesting input by March 29, 2020. Anybody who is interested can participate online at https://ffcra.ideascale.com from March 23 through March 29, 2020 or can join a Twitter chat hosted by @ePolicyWorks on March 25, 2020 at 2 p.m. using the hashtag #EPWChat.

U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS and The U.S. Department Of Labor Provide Information on Coronavirus-Related Paid Leave For Workers And Tax Credits For Small And Midsize Businesses

The Act provides a tax credit for employers providing paid leave benefits in compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for emergency sick leave paid to employees at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days.  For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child-care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Examples of the credit are included in the guidance at https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320.

Warn Act Guidance Issued

On March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-31-20 (PDF), which addressed the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act (Lab. Code §§ 1400, et seq.) and temporarily suspended the 60-day notice requirement for mass layoffs, cessation or substantial cessation of business operations or relocation of a business. The Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the Employment Development Department (EDD) issued guidance regarding the Order’s conditional suspension of the California WARN Act at https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs/WARN.htm

The Governor’s order does not suspend the California WARN Act in its entirety, nor does it suspend the law for all covered employers. The order only suspends the California WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirement for those employers that satisfy the Order’s specific conditions and provide a written notice that complies with the order.


FAMILIAS PRIMERO  - ACTA DE RESPUESTA AL CORONAVIRUS

Actualizado el 31 de marzo, 2020

La Ley HR 6201

FAMILIAS PRIMERO  - ACTA DE RESPUESTA AL CORONAVIRUS

(“FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT”)

Resumen de la Ley Con Respecto a Asuntos de Interés para Empleadores

INTRODUCCIÓN

El 18 de marzo, 2020, el Presidente Trump firmó la ley “Familias Primero – Acta de Respuesta al Coronavirus” (conocida en inglés como “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” o por sus iniciales “FFCRA”).  La FFCRA contiene varias Actas separadas, incluyendo Actas para ampliar la ley de permisos familiares y médicos y para garantizar permisos para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad para empleados quienes trabajan para empleadores públicos y privados.  Ahora ciertos empleados tienen derecho a un permiso familiar y médico compensado y un permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad.  Mientras que los empleadores tienen la obligación de pagar por dichas ausencias, la FFCRA crea créditos con respecto a los impuestos sobre la nómina de los cuales los empleadores bajo el alcance de la ley pueden aprovechar en el futuro.

ÓRDENES DEL CONDADO DE MONTEREY Y A NIVEL ESTATAL

PARA REFUGIARSE EN CASA

El 17 de marzo, 2020, el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Monterey emitió una orden dirigiendo a todo residente del condado a refugiarse en casa, con ciertas excepciones.  Una de las excepciones es que individuos pueden ir al trabajo si trabajan para un “Negocio Esencial” o para proveer “Operaciones Básicas Mínimas” tal como se definen dichos términos en la orden.  El 19 de marzo, 2020, el Gobernador Newsom ordenó que individuos quienes trabajan en 16 sectores específicos pueden continuar con su trabajo, y toda otra persona en California tiene que refugiarse en casa.  Si estas órdenes prohíben que empleados vayan al trabajo, y ellos tampoco pueden trabajar de sus domicilios, es posible que sean elegibles para un permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad y un Permiso Familiar y Médico Urgente, detallados a continuación.  Pueden ver la Orden del Condado de Monterey para Refugiarse en Casa en el siguiente sitio web: https://files.constantcontact.com/6729da79001/1f16f3b4-7809-483c-ae28-7a8407cf8320.pdf  y la orden que aplica a nivel estatal se encuentra en el siguiente sitio web https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.19.20-EO-N-33-20-COVID-19-HEALTH-ORDER-03.19.2020-signed.pdf.

LA LEY DE PERMISO PARA AUSENTARSE CON COMPENSACIÓN

POR RAZONES URGENTES DE ENFERMEDAD

La Ley de Permiso para Ausentarse con Compensación por Razones Urgentes de Enfermedad (conocida en inglés como “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act”) hace provisiones para ausentarse provisionalmente con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad para ciertos empleados que no pueden trabajar (ni trabajar de su domicilio) por razones específicas que tienen que ver con el COVID-19.  Estas provisiones de urgencia toman efecto no más tarde del 1o de abril, 2020 y vencen automáticamente el 31 de diciembre, 2020.

Empleadores Bajo el Alcance de la Ley: La Ley aplica a empleadores privados con menos de 500 empleados y empleadores públicos con 1 o más empleados.  El Secretario de Trabajo tiene la autoridad para eximir empleadores con menos de 50 empleados “cuando la imposición de dichos requisitos perjudicaría la viabilidad del negocio como una empresa en funcionamiento.”

Empleados Elegibles: Todo empleado es elegible para usar este permiso para ausentarse inmediatamente, no importa cuánto tiempo ha sido un empleado del empleador.  Los empleadores que emplean proveedores de cuidado de salud o equipos de respuesta a emergencia pueden excluir dichos empleados de elegibilidad para el permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad.

Requisitos para Calificar: Los empleados tienen derecho a beneficios de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad como se detalla a continuación si no pueden trabajar (ni trabajar de su domicilio) debido a cualesquiera de las siguientes seis razones:

  • El empleado es sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19. Si un negocio cierra o se reducen las horas laborales de un empleado debido a la falta de trabajo, el empleado no es elegible para beneficios de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad aún si el cierre es debido al COVID-19.

(vea https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions);

  • Un proveedor de cuidado de salud le ha aconsejado al empleado que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19;
  • El empleado está sintiendo síntomas de COVID–19 y está buscando un diagnóstico médico;
  • El empleado está cuidando un individuo sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19 o quien ha sido aconsejado por un proveedor de cuidado de salud que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19. Tenga en cuenta que el empleado puede estar cuidando a cualquier individuo, no solamente un miembro de la familia;
  • El empleado está cuidando su hijo o hija si la escuela o lugar de cuidado de su hijo o hija ha cerrado, o el proveedor de cuidado de dicho hijo o hija no está disponible debido a precauciones relacionadas a COVID–19; o
  • El empleado es sujeto a cualquier otra condición sustancialmente semejante especificada por el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos en consulta con el Secretario de Tesorería y el Secretario de Trabajo. Anticipamos que el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos emitirá reglamentos que identifiquen “condiciones sustancialmente semejantes.” 

Los Beneficios de Permiso para Ausentarse con Compensación por Razones Urgentes de Enfermedad: Los empleados a tiempo completo tienen derecho a beneficios de 80 horas de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad.  Los empleados a tiempo parcial tienen derecho al número de horas, en promedio, que trabajan durante un período de 2 semanas.  Si el horario de un empleado a tiempo parcial varía de semana a semana, los empleadores pueden determinar el número de horas de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad para los cuales el empleado es elegible (1) usando un número que equivale al número de horas por promedio que el empleado estaba programado para trabajar durante los previos 6 meses, o (2) si el empleado no trabajó durante dicho período de tiempo, usando un número que equivale al número de horas que se hubiera esperado razonablemente que el empleado hubiera trabajado durante cada semana.

Uso de Beneficios de Permiso para Ausentarse con Compensación por Razones Urgentes de Enfermedad: Un empleado puede usar primero el permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad antes de usar tiempo libre compensado que haya acumulado (por ejemplo, vacación, permiso regular para ausentarse con compensación por enfermedad).  Los empleadores no pueden requerir que el empleado use otros permisos compensados para ausentarse que haya acumulado antes de que el empleado use los beneficios de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad.  Los beneficios de este permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad no pasan de un año al siguiente y la obligación de un empleador de compensar dicha ausencia debido a enfermedad termina cuando la necesidad del empleado para el permiso para ausentarse termina y el empleado regresa al trabajo.  Cuando el empleo del empleado cesa, el empleador no tiene que pagar compensación que el empleado no haya usado del permiso para ausentarse debido a razones urgentes de enfermedad.

Cantidad de Compensación de Beneficios de Permiso para Ausentarse con Compensación por Razones Urgentes de Enfermedad: Para cada hora que un empleado es elegible para beneficios de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad, el empleador debe de pagarle al empleado lo siguiente:

  • El mayor de la tasa regular del empleado o el salario mínimo que aplique si la ausencia con permiso es necesaria debido a las siguientes razones. En estas situaciones, los empleadores no tienen que pagarle a ningún empleado más de $511 por día o $5,100 en total.
    • El empleado es sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19;
    • Un proveedor de cuidado de salud le ha aconsejado al empleado que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19; o
    • El empleado está sintiendo síntomas de COVID–19 y está buscando un diagnóstico médico.
  • Dos Tercios (2/3) del mayor de la tasa regular del empleado o el salario mínimo que aplique si la ausencia con permiso es necesaria debido a las siguientes razones. En estas situaciones, los empleadores no tienen que pagarle a ningún empleado más de $200 por día o $2,000 en total.
    • El empleado está cuidando un individuo sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19 o quien ha sido aconsejado por un proveedor de cuidado de salud que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19. Tenga en cuenta que el empleado puede estar cuidando a cualquier individuo, no solamente un miembro de la familia;
    • El empleado está cuidando su hijo o hija si la escuela o lugar de cuidado de su hijo o hija ha cerrado, o el proveedor de cuidado de dicho hijo o hija no está disponible debido a precauciones relacionadas a COVID–19. El término “hijo o hija” refiere al propio hijo o hija del empleado, incluyendo el hijo o la hija biológicos, adoptado o adoptada, o un hijo o una hija acogidos, un hijastro o una hijastra, un pupilo legal, o un niño o una niña para el o la cual el empleado ostente su custodia en lugar del padre – alguien con responsabilidades diarias para cuidar o apoyar al niño o la niña financieramente. Dado las instrucciones del Congreso de interpretar definiciones de una manera consistente, la División sobre Salarios y Horas Laborales clarifica que, bajo la FFCRA, un “hijo o hija” también es un hijo o una hija adultos (es decir, uno que tiene 18 años de edad o más), quien (1) tiene una incapacidad mental o física, y (2) no es capaz de cuidarse debido a dicha incapacidad; o
    • El empleado es sujeto a cualquier otra condición sustancialmente semejante especificada por el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos en consulta con el Secretario de Tesorería y el Secretario de Trabajo. Anticipamos que el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos emitirá reglamentos que identifiquen “condiciones sustancialmente semejantes.”

Notificación por el Empleador: El Secretario de Trabajo ha emitido una notificación ejemplar que hay que publicarse en el lugar de trabajo y hay que distribuirse a empleados que están trabajando de sus domicilios.  La notificación está disponible en inglés y español en el siguiente vínculo: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

Notificación por Empleado: Después del primer día laboral (o porción del mismo) que un empleado reciba beneficios de permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad, un empleador puede requerir que el empleado cumpla con procedimientos razonables de notificación al empleador para continuar recibiendo dichos beneficios de ausencia compensada por razones de enfermedad.

Acciones Prohibidas: Un empleador no puede despedir, disciplinar, ni de ninguna otra manera discriminar en contra de ningún empleado quien use el permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad, o quien entable una demanda, o quien dé testimonio sobre la aplicación de esta ley.  También se les prohíbe a los empleadores requerir que empleados encuentren alguien para hacer su trabajo o trabajar su turno.

LA LEY DE URGENCIA DE EXPANSIÓN DEL PERMISO FAMILIAR Y MÉDICO

          La Ley de Urgencia de Expansión del Permiso Familiar y Médico (la “Expansión de la FMLA”) enmienda a la Ley de Permiso Familiar y Médico (conocida en inglés como “Family and Medical Leave Act” o por sus iniciales “FMLA”) para incluir varias provisiones de urgencia que tomarán efecto el 1º de abril, 2020 y terminarán automáticamente el 31 de diciembre, 2020.

Empleadores Bajo el Alcance de la Ley: La Expansión de la FMLA aplica a empleadores con menos de 500 empleados.  El Secretario de Trabajo tiene la autoridad de eximir a empleadores con menos de 50 empleados “cuando la imposición de dichos requisitos perjudicaría la viabilidad del negocio como una empresa en funcionamiento.”

Empleados Elegibles:  Para ser elegibles, empleados deben de haber estado empleados por el empleador durante por lo menos 30 días de calendario.  El Secretario de Trabajo puede eximir ciertos proveedores de cuidado de salud y equipos de respuesta a emergencia de la elegibilidad para permiso FMLA de urgencia o el empleador puede elegir excluir a dichos empleados del permiso FMLA de urgencia.

Requisitos para Calificar: Los empleados elegibles tienen derecho a los beneficios a continuación solamente si no pueden trabajar (ni pueden trabajar de su domicilio) debido a una necesidad para ausentarse para cuidar a su propio/a hijo o hija (incluyendo hijo/a biológico/a, adoptado/a, o en acogida, un hijastro/a, un pupilo legal, o un niño de una persona sirviendo en loco parentis) de menos de 18 años de edad, o un hijo adulto o una hija adulta (es decir, quien tiene 18 años de edad o más), quien (1) tiene una incapacidad mental o física, y (2) es incapaz de cuidarse debido a dicha incapacidad, porque la escuela o lugar de cuidado del niño está cerrado o porque el proveedor normal de cuidado para el niño no está disponible.  Esta necesidad tiene que ser relacionada a la emergencia de COVID-19.

Beneficios de Permiso Compensado Urgente de la FMLA: La Expansión de la FMLA provee permiso urgente de la FMLA tanto no compensado como compensado por un máximo de 12 semanas.  Los empleados tienen que proveer a los empleadores notificación de la necesidad de usar dicho permiso para ausentarse lo más pronto que sea pragmático.

Los primeros 10 días del permiso urgente de la FMLA pueden ser sin compensación.  Durante este tiempo, los empleados pueden elegir usar cualquier vacación que hayan acumulado, tiempo libre personal, o ausencia con permiso por razones médicas o por enfermedad.  El empleador puede requerir que el empleado sustituya permisos acumulados para ausentarse con compensación durante este período de tiempo si el empleado no está recibiendo ninguna otra forma de compensación tal como discapacidad a corto plazo.

Después de los primeros 10 días del permiso urgente de FMLA los empleadores tienen que pagarles a empleados elegibles por lo menos dos tercios (2/3) de su compensación regular para la duración de la ausencia con permiso.  La compensación regular se determina multiplicando la tasa regular del empleado por el número de horas que el empleado normalmente estaría programado para trabajar.  Si el horario del empleado varía de semana a semana, los empleadores pueden determinar el número de horas para el cálculo de la compensación regular haciendo lo siguiente: (1) usando un número igual al promedio del número de horas que el empleado estaba programado para trabajar durante el previo período de 6 meses, o (2) si el empleado no trabajó durante dicho período de tiempo, usar un número igual al número de horas que el empleado razonablemente hubiera esperado trabajar durante cada semana.

Límite en permiso FMLA con compensación.  No obstante, el requisito de compensar a empleados elegibles por lo menos 2/3 de su compensación regular, los empleadores no tienen que pagar más de $200 por día y $10,000 en total para permiso FMLA urgente a cada empleado.

Requisitos de Notificación: Se les requiere a los empleados proveer a los empleadores notificación de la necesidad de usar dicho permiso para ausentarse lo más pronto que sea pragmático.

Reinstalación Garantizada: Los empleadores con menos de 25 empleados no tienen que cumplir con la regla normal de la FMLA de reinstalar al empleado en su posición original al final del permiso FMLA urgente si: (1) proveen al empleado el permiso FMLA urgente; y (2) la posición del empleado ya no existe debido a condiciones económicas o cambios necesarios en las condiciones de operación del empleador como resultado de la emergencia de salud pública; y (3) el empleador hace esfuerzos razonables para reinstalar el empleado en una posición equivalente, pero dichos esfuerzos no tienen éxito.  Si una posición equivalente se hace disponible dentro de un período de un año después de concluirse la necesidad del empleado para el permiso para ausentarse, el empleador tiene que hacer esfuerzos razonables para comunicarse con el empleado para reinstalar el empleado en la posición del empleado.

CRÉDITOS FISCALES PARA EL PERMISO PARA AUSENTARSE CON COMPENSACIÓN POR RAZONES URGENTES DE ENFERMEDAD Y PERMISO FAMILIAR Y MÉDICO COMPENSADO

La FFCRA incluye una serie de créditos fiscales reembolsables para empleadores proveyendo el permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad y el permiso familiar y médico compensado.  Con respecto al permiso familiar y médico compensado, los empleadores tendrán derecho a un crédito de 100% para los salarios pagados a empleados por el uso de permiso familiar y médico compensado, con un límite de $200 por día y $10,000 en total por empleado.  Con respecto al permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad, los empleadores tendrán derecho a un crédito de 100% contra la porción del empleador de impuestos de Seguro Social para salarios pagados a empleados por el uso del permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad, sujeto a los siguientes límites:

$511 por día por hasta 10 días para ausencias con permiso tomadas por las siguientes razones:

  • El empleado es sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19;
  • Un proveedor de cuidado de salud le ha aconsejado al empleado que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19; o
  • El empleado está sintiendo síntomas de COVID–19 y está buscando un diagnóstico médico.

$200 por día por hasta 10 días para ausencias con permiso tomadas por las siguientes razones:

  • El empleado está cuidando un individuo sujeto a una orden Federal, Estatal, o local de cuarentena o aislamiento relacionada a COVID-19 o quien ha sido aconsejado por un proveedor de cuidado de salud que se ponga en cuarentena propia debido a preocupaciones relacionadas a COVID–19. Tenga en cuenta que el empleado puede estar cuidando a cualquier individuo, no solamente un miembro de la familia;
  • El empleado está cuidando su hijo o hija si la escuela o lugar de cuidado de su hijo o hija ha cerrado, o el proveedor de cuidado de dicho hijo o hija no está disponible debido a precauciones relacionadas a COVID–19; o
  • El empleado es sujeto a cualquier otra condición sustancialmente semejante especificada por el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos en consulta con el Secretario de Tesorería y el Secretario de Trabajo. Anticipamos que el Secretario de Salud y Servicios Humanos emitirá reglamentos que identifiquen “condiciones sustancialmente semejantes.”

Ejemplos del crédito se incluyen en las pautas que se encuentran en https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320.

CLAVES

Aquí le presentamos con unas claves que debe de considerar al leer y analizar los requisitos específicos de esta nueva ley.  Como siempre, no dude en comunicarse con cualesquier de los abogados en nuestro grupo que especializa en asuntos de empleo para más información y asistencia llamando al (831) 373-1241 o haciendo “clic” en nuestro sitio web www.fentonkeller.com.

  • El permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad y la expansión del permiso familiar y médico aplican solamente a empleados que no pueden trabajar ni pueden trabajar desde sus casas debido a preocupaciones relacionadas al COVID-19.
  • Crea nuevos códigos de pago para el permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad y la porción compensada de la expansión del FMLA.  Asegúrese de que esta clase de compensación se detalle en los talones de cheque de los empleados.
  • Crea una dirección designada de correo electrónico o un sitio en el “intranet” de su compañía donde sus empleados pueden hacer preguntas sobre estos beneficios.  Esto le ayudará a mantener comunicación consistente.
  • Los empleadores pueden evitar la necesidad de que empleados tomen la ausencia compensada y pueden acomodar dichas emergencias de familia dándoles a los empleados la opción de trabajar de sus casas.
  • Los empleadores deben de publicar una notificación de los derechos ampliados de permiso familiar en el lugar de trabajo y distribuirla a los empleados trabajando de sus domicilios.
  • La ley toma efecto el 1º de abril, 2020.
  • Siga sus pólizas vigentes de vacación y ausencias debido a enfermedad.  La FFCRA provee beneficios además de la ley vigente y las pólizas del empleador.
  • Los empleadores de proveedores de cuidado de salud y de equipos de respuesta a emergencia pueden elegir excluir a dichos empleados del permiso para ausentarse con compensación por razones urgentes de enfermedad y la expansión de beneficios de la FMLA.
  • Si usted está implementando despidos o ceses de empleo, debe de tener en mente consideraciones de la Ley WARN (en inglés “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification” / en español “Ley de Notificación de Ajustes y Reentrenamiento del Trabajador”).  La Orden Ejecutiva N-31-20 del Gobernador Newsom suspende las provisiones de notificación de antemano de 60 días y las multas de CAL-WARN para negocios implementando despidos o ceses de empleo masivos sujeto a ciertas condiciones.  La notificación de despido debe de proveerse a los empleados lo más pronto que sea pragmático.  La ley federal WARN contiene una excepción al requisito de notificación de antemano a los empleados cuando hay “circunstancias de negocio imprevisibles fuera del control del empleador” y desastres naturales. Vea más información en https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs/WARN.htm.
  • Los empleados despedidos o con horas laborales reducidas serán elegibles para beneficios de seguro de desempleo.
  • No olvide que, aunque la FFCRA es una nueva ley, los empleadores tienen que continuar siguiendo las reglas vigentes de la FMLA, las leyes que apliquen sobre discriminación, privacidad y compensación, y proveer hojas de pago que cumplan con la ley.
  • Manténgase informado sobre los reglamentos del Departamento de Obra eximiendo a negocios pequeños de los requisitos del ampliado permiso FMLA con compensación y otra legislación pendiente ofreciendo beneficios adicionales para empleados y ayuda para empleadores pequeños.

RECURSOS ESTATALES Y FEDERALES ADICIONALES:

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320

https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/#chart

https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm

https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/pandemic

 

 


H.R. 6201 – FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT

Employment Law Summary

March 20, 2020
Updated March 31, 2020

INTRODUCTION
On March 18, 2020 President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA contains several separate Acts, including Acts to expand family and medical leave and guarantee emergency paid sick leave for employees who work for public and private employers. Certain employees are now entitled to paid family and medical leave and emergency paid sick leave. While employers are obligated to pay for such leave, the FFCRA creates payroll tax credits that covered employers can take advantage of later.

MONTEREY COUNTY AND STATEWIDE SHELTER IN PLACE ORDERS
On March 17, 2020 the Monterey County Health Department issued an order directing all county residents to shelter in place, with certain exceptions. One of the exceptions is that individuals may go to work if they work for an “Essential Business” or to provide “Minimum Basic Operations” as those terms are defined in the order. On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom ordered that individuals who work in 16 specific sectors may continue their work, and all other Californians must shelter in place. If these orders prohibit employees from going to work and they cannot work remotely, they may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave, also discussed below. The Monterey County Shelter in Place Order can be viewed at: https://files.constantcontact.com/6729da79001/1f16f3b4-7809-483c-ae28-7a8407cf8320.pdf and the statewide order is available at https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.19.20-EO-N-33-20-COVID-19-HEALTH-ORDER-03.19.2020-signed.pdf.

EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (Emergency Paid Sick Leave) provides for temporary emergency paid sick leave for certain employees that are unable to work (or telework) for specific reasons that relate to COVID-19. These emergency provisions are effective April 1, 2020 and automatically end on December 31, 2020.
Covered Employers: The Act applies to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers with 1 or more employees. The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees “when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”

Eligible Employees: All employees are eligible to use this leave immediately, regardless of how long the employee has been employed by the employer. Employers who employ healthcare providers or emergency responders may exclude such employees from eligibility for emergency paid sick leave.

Qualifying Need: Employees are entitled to the emergency paid sick leave benefits below if they are unable to work (or telework) because of any of the following six reasons:

• The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19. If a business closes or an employee’s hours are reduced due to lack of work the employee is not eligible for emergency sick leave benefits even if the closure is due to COVID-19 (see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions);
• The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19;
• The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
• The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19. Note that the employee can be providing care for any individual, not just a family member;
• The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions; or
• The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor. We anticipate the Secretary of Health and Human Services will issue regulations to identify such “substantially similar conditions.”

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Benefits: Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid emergency sick leave. Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours that they work on average over a 2-week period. If a part-time employee’s schedule varies from week to week, employers can determine the number of emergency paid sick leave hours that the employee is eligible for by (1) using a number equal to the average number of hours the employee was scheduled to work over the previous 6-month period, or (2) if the employee did not work over such a period, using a number equal to the amount of hours the employee would reasonably have been expected to work during each week.

Use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave Benefits: An employee may first use emergency paid sick leave before using accrued paid time off (i.e. vacation, regular sick leave, etc.). Employers cannot require the employee to use other accrued paid leave before the employee uses emergency paid sick leave. This emergency paid sick leave does not carry over from one year to the next and an employer’s obligation to pay such sick leave ceases when the employee’s need for the leave ends and the employee returns to work. Employers are not obligated to pay any unused emergency sick pay upon an employee’s separation of employment.

Compensation Amount for Emergency Paid Sick Leave Benefits: For each hour an employee is eligible for emergency paid sick leave, employers must pay the employee the following:

• The greater of the employee’s regular rate or the applicable minimum wage if the leave is necessary because of the following reasons. In these situations, employers do not have to pay any employee more than $511/day or $5,100 in the aggregate.
• The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
• The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19; or
• The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
• Two Thirds (2/3) of the greater of the employee’s regular rate or the applicable minimum wage if the leave is necessary because of the following reasons. In these situations, employers do not have to pay any employee more than $200/day or $2,000 in the aggregate.
• The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19. Note that the employee can be providing care for any individual, not just a family member;
The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions. The term “son or daughter refers to the employee’s own child, including the employee’s biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, a legal ward, or a child for whom the employee is standing in loco parentis—someone with day-to-day responsibilities to care for or financially support a child. In light of Congressional direction to interpret definitions consistently, the Wage and Hour Division clarifies that under the FFCRA a “son or daughter” is also an adult son or daughter (i.e., one who is 18 years of age or older), who (1) has a mental or physical disability, and (2) is incapable of self-care because of that disability; or
• ; or
• The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor. We anticipate the Secretary of Health and Human Services will issue regulations to identify such “substantially similar conditions.”

Employer Notice: The Secretary of Labor has issued a model notice that must be posted at the worksite and distributed to employees who are working remotely. The notice is available in English and Spanish at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

Employee Notice: After the first workday (or portion thereof) an employee receives emergency paid sick leave, an employer may require the employee to follow reasonable notice procedures in order to continue receiving such paid sick time.
Prohibited Acts: Employers cannot discharge, discipline, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee who either takes emergency paid sick leave or files a complaint or testifies about the enforcement of this law. Employers are also prohibited from requiring employees to find coverage for their work/shift.

EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (the “FMLA Expansion”) amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to include several emergency provisions that take effect April , 2020 and automatically end on December 31, 2020.
Covered Employers: The FMLA Expansion applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees “when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”
Eligible Employees: Employees must have been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days. The Secretary of Labor may exempt certain health care providers and emergency responders from eligibility for emergency FMLA leave or the employer may elect to exclude such employees from emergency FMLA leave.
Qualifying Need: Eligible employees are only entitled to the benefits below if they are unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for their own son or daughter (including biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis) under 18 years of age or an adult son or daughter (i.e., one who is 18 years of age or older), who (1) has a mental or physical disability, and (2) is incapable of self-care because of that disability because the child’s school or place of care is closed or because the child’s normal care provider is unavailable. This need must be related to the COVID-19 emergency.
The Emergency Paid FMLA Leave Benefits: The FMLA Expansion provides for both unpaid and paid emergency FMLA leave for a maximum of 12 weeks. Employees are required to provide employers with notice of the need for such leave as soon as practicable.
The first 10 days of the emergency FMLA leave can be unpaid. During this time, employees may elect to use any accrued vacation, personal leave, or medical or sick leave. The employer may require the employee to substitute accrued paid leave during this period if the employee is not receiving any other forms of payment such as short-term disability.

After the first 10 days of the emergency FMLA leave employers must pay eligible employees at least two-thirds (2/3) of their regular pay for the duration of the leave. The regular pay is determined by multiplying the employee’s regular rate by the number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work. If the employee’s schedule varies from week to week, employers can determine the number of hours for the regular pay calculation by (1) using a number equal to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work over the previous 6-month period, or (2) if the employee did not work over such a period, using a number equal to the amount of hours the employee would reasonably have expected to work during each week.

Cap on paid FMLA leave. Notwithstanding the requirement to pay eligible employees at least 2/3 of their regular pay, employers do not have to pay more than $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate for emergency FMLA leave to each employee.

Notice requirements: Employees are required to provide employers with notice of the need for such leave as soon as practicable.

Guaranteed Reinstatement: Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to comply with the normal FMLA rule to restore employees to their original position at the end of the emergency FMLA leave if: (1) they provide the employee emergency FMLA leave; and (2) the employee’s position no longer exists due to economic conditions or necessary changes in the employer’s operating conditions as a result of the public health emergency; and (3) the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position, but such efforts fail. If an equivalent position becomes available within a one-year period after the employee’s need for leave concludes, the employer must make reasonable efforts to contact the employee to reinstate the employee to the employee’s position.

TAX CREDITS FOR PAID SICK AND PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE

The FFCRA includes a series of refundable tax credits for employers providing emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave. For the emergency family and medical leave, employers will be entitled to 100% credit for family and medical leave wages paid, capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate per employee. For emergency paid sick leave, employers will be entitled to a 100% credit against the employer portion of Social Security taxes for emergency paid sick leave wages paid to employees, subject to the following caps:

$511 per day for up to 10 days for leave taken for the following reasons:
• The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
• The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19; or
• The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
$200 per day for up to 10 days for leave taken for the following reasons:
• The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19. Note that the employee can be providing care for any individual, not just a family member;
• The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions; or
• The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor. We anticipate the Secretary of Health and Human Services will issue regulations to identify such “substantially similar conditions.”

Examples of the credit are included in the guidance at https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320.

TAKEAWAYS

Here are some takeaways to consider as you read and analyze the specific requirements of this new law. As always, feel free to contact any of the attorneys in our employment group for more information and assistance at (831) 373-1241 or www.fentonkeller.com

• The emergency paid sick leave and FMLA expansion apply only to employees who are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19 related concerns.
• Create new pay codes for the emergency paid sick leave and the paid portion of FMLA expansion. Be certain to reflect these types of pay on employee paystubs.
• Create a designated email address or location on your company intranet for employees to ask questions about these benefits. This will help you manage consistent communication.
• Employers may avoid the need for paid leave and accommodate such family emergencies by providing employees with the option to work remotely.
• Employers must post a notice of the expanded family leave rights in the workplace and provide it to employees working remotely.
• The effective date of this law is April 1, 2020.
• Follow your existing vacation and sick leave policies. The FFCRA provides benefits in addition to existing law and employer policies.
• Employers of health care providers and emergency responders may elect to exclude those employees from emergency paid sick leave and FMLA expansion benefits.
• If you are implementing layoffs or terminations, be aware of WARN Act considerations. Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-31-20 suspends the 60-day notice and penalty provisions of CAL-WARN for businesses implementing mass layoffs or terminations subject to certain conditions. The notice of layoff must be provided as soon as practicable. The federal WARN Act contains a notice exception for “unforeseeable business circumstances outside the employer’s control” and natural disasters. See at https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs/WARN.htm
• Employees who are laid off or have reduced hours may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
• Remember that even though the FFCRA is new, employers need to continue to follow existing FMLA rules, applicable discrimination, privacy and wage & hour laws, and provide compliant pay statements.
• Be on the lookout for Department of Labor regulations exempting small businesses from the requirements of the expanded FMLA paid leave and other pending legislation offering additional benefits to employees and assistance to small employers.

ADDITIONAL STATE AND FEDERAL RESOURCES:
https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic
https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320
https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/#chart
https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/
https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm
https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text
https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/pandemic