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U.S. CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILL: The CARES Act – Provisions Affecting Employers and Employees

Following tense negotiations throughout last week, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act” or “Act”) became law on March 27, 2020.  The CARES Act represents the third Phase of Congressional relief responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Phase I (Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123)) and Phase II (Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127)) were signed into law on March 6 and 18, respectively.   At 883 pages, the CARES Act is the largest relief bill in U.S. history and addresses on multiple fronts the hardships faced by individuals and businesses throughout this crisis.  These efforts include an unprecedented expansion of unemployment benefits, significant funding for the health care industry, aid to large and small businesses valued in the billions, and even direct payments to individuals.

The majority of economic relief provisions for U.S. workers and employers is provided in Titles I through IV of Division A of the Act (Division B consists of emergency appropriations to fund various program). The CARES Act also has specific provisions regarding relief for airlines, financial institutions, and other sectors that are considered critical to national security.  Titles I through IV of Division A of the CARES Act is are described in relevant part below.

Title I – Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act

Title I of the CARES Act provides relief through employee paycheck protections, loan forgiveness, and small business contracting relief.  The Act enables the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) to provide

U.S. Employers Weigh EEOC Guidance in Responding to Coronavirus

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread, U.S. employers considering taking preventative measures to reduce transmission should bear in mind employment laws that may restrict certain precautions, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Basic precautionary measures like promoting washing hands, encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick, and other good hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) are unlikely to raise concerns under the ADA.  Indeed, recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) makes clear that the CDC’s guidelines and suggestions for employers regarding COVID-19 do not violate the ADA.

However, the ADA does prohibit covered employers from excluding individuals with disabilities from the workplace for health or safety reasons unless they pose a “direct threat” (i.e., a significant risk to the health or safety of others that can’t be eliminated by reasonable accommodation).

Nonetheless, it is likely permissible for employers to ask employees who travel to or from an area affected by COVID-19 to work from home or, if remote work is not possible, take leave for 14 days (the incubation period for COVID-19) because the employees pose a direct threat under the ADA.   Whether the leave period must be paid or can be unpaid depends mostly on the employee’s classification under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as “exempt” or “non-exempt,” the particular state laws of the state in which the employee works, and the employer’s own sick leave policies.

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