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U.S. COVID-19: New FFCRA Q&A – Key Takeaways Regarding the “Need” for Leave, Joint Employers and Domestic Workers

The federal Department of Labor (“DOL”) is closing in on 100 informal “questions and answers” (the “Q&A”) relating to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), having issued Q&A #s 89-93.  The new Q&A address steps employers may take when determining whether employees truly “need” FFCRA leave; issues relating to domestic workers; and a reminder for joint employers that prohibitions on adverse action, interference and retaliation may apply even to employers who are not covered by the FFCRA.

Determining Whether Employees Have A Qualifying Reason For Leave

Three of the five new Q&A provide critical guidance for employers on permissible questions and documentation requirements to ensure that leave is being taken in appropriate circumstances.

In the first Q&A (# 91), the DOL posits a factual scenario in which an employee with children has been teleworking productively for several weeks despite school closings, but then requests FFCRA leave.  The hypothetical employer wonders:  Can I ask my employees why they are now unable to work or if they have pursued alternative child care arrangements?”  The DOL responds affirmatively, indicating that an employee may be asked “to note any changed circumstances in his or her statement as part of explaining why the employee is unable to work.”

Employers should “exercise caution” in this area, however, because, according to the DOL, the more questions asked, the greater “the likelihood that any decision denying leave based on that information is a prohibited act.”  There are many reasons why an employee may not have initially

U.S. COVID-19: Illinois Employers Take Note: Key Employment Provisions of the Illinois COVID-19 Executive Order Effective May 1, 2020

On April 30, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-32, effective May 1, extending social distancing requirements and, among other things, issuing new guidelines for Illinois employers.

The key employment-related aspects of the Executive Order are as follows:

  • All employers are required to evaluate which employees are able to work from home, and are encouraged to facilitate remote working when possible.
  • All employers that have employees who are physically reporting to a work site must post this guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General regarding workplace safety during the pandemic.
  • When working, all individuals who are able to medically tolerate a face covering (which includes “a mask or cloth face-covering”) are required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. This includes public indoor spaces such as stores.
  • All employers operating Essential Businesses and Operations and engaged in Minimum Basic Operations must take proactive measures to ensure compliance with “Social Distancing Requirements.”
    • Social Distancing Requirements include: “maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.”
    • In addition, employers should, where possible:
      • Provide employees with “appropriate face coverings” and require that employees wear face coverings

U.S. COVID-19: As the FFCRA Goes Live, the DOL Continues to Publish Revised and New Guidance for Employers

Although the federal Department of Labor (“DOL”) declared April 1 – 17 to be a temporary period of non-enforcement of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), the DOL was far from idle during that period.  To the contrary, the DOL hosted an FFCRA webinar, published versions of the required FFCRA poster in additional languages, and actively encouraged employers and employees to become familiar with the FFCRA through posts on social media.  Importantly, the DOL also provided key revised and new guidance for employers by: (1) issuing technical corrections to the temporary rule; and (2) posting additional informal questions and answers (the “Q&A”).

As described below, this new guidance provides much-needed clarity on key issues, especially since the period of non-enforcement is now over.

Interplay Between the FFCRA and Employer Paid Leave Policies

Although the rules remain complicated and not entirely clear, there is now more information regarding whether and when an employee may choose, or an employer may require, leave under an employer’s existing paid leave policies to be used before, concurrently with, or as a supplement to, the use of leave under the Paid Sick Leave (“PSL”) and Emergency FMLA (“EFMLA”) provisions of the FFCRA.

In this context, “concurrently” means “to cover the same hours as.”  In other words, to the extent various types of leave run concurrently, then the employee’s leave entitlement is used / reduced under both types of leave at the same time.  “Supplement” means that paid leave under an employer’s

U.S. COVID-19: My Employee Has COVID-19 – What Leave Entitlements Apply?

The call to HR is becoming more common:  I have COVID-19. Should I go on a leave of absence, and if so, will I be paid while I am out?

It is clear that an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 (or who is likely positive based on symptoms and/or exposure) should remain away from the workplace so as to avoid spreading the disease.  What can sometimes be less clear is what leave entitlements apply to the employee, and whether the employee will be paid for all or some portion of the leave.  When faced with these questions, employers should consider the following:

Leave Entitlements Under Federal Law

For employers covered by the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), an eligible employee may be entitled to up to 80 hours of Paid Sick Leave, if the employee is unable to work (including telework) due to either:

  • Having COVID-19 and being advised by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine; or
  • Having symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis from a healthcare professional.

Importantly, this leave is both job-protected and paid (subject to caps, although employers may permit employees to supplement these wages with other available accrued paid leave).  Of course, some employees who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms and are able to keep working (remotely).  In these cases, the FFCRA does not apply.  Click here for our latest blog posts on the FFCRA.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) may

U.S. COVID-19: Workplace Temperature Screening: How To Develop and Implement A Screening Protocol

The notion that U.S. employers would engage in broad-scale temperature screening of employees would have once been essentially unthinkable.  But the realities of COVID-19 are changing the workplace, as least for the time-being.  With the encouragement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and some state and local governments, and in light of the blessing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), more employers are now considering the implementation of daily temperature screening[1] before employees enter the workplace.

In Part 1 of our two-part series on temperature screening, we addressed the question of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol.  Here, in Part 2, we address the question of how to implement such a protocol, i.e. what procedures for temperature screening in the workplace should employers implement? Below are a number of issues for employers to consider:

  • Decide who will be screened. Some employers are screening only critical infrastructure workers who were or may have been exposed to a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.  Other employers are screening all employees, and often are also screening any contract workers and visitors who enter the workplace, unless doing so would be virtually impossible (e.g., a grocery store screening all customers).  Although deciding who will be screened is essentially a business decision, at all times, employers must ensure that employees are selected for screening on a nondiscriminatory basis.
  • Decide who will do the screening. The options for who will do the screening range
  • U.S. COVID-19: Employee Temperature Screening: What Employers Need To Consider When Deciding Whether To Implement a Screening Process

    In light of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the workplace, employers are confronting important questions pertaining to the screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including as it pertains to taking employees’ temperatures: May (or must) we screen employees for fevers, and if so, how should we implement such a practice?

    In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we address issues relating to the decision of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol.  In Part 2, we will provide guidance on how to do so.

    Non-Discriminatory Temperature Screening Is Permitted

    Taking an employee’s temperature is considered a medical exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and would normally be subject to strict restrictions. However, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has expressly stated in updated guidance that employers are permitted to screen employees for fevers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some state agencies are following suit; for example, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently issued guidance indicating that temperature checks are permissible and non-discriminatory under the present circumstances, so long as they are conducted on all personnel entering a facility.

    Federal Guidance Supports Temperature Screening In Certain Circumstances

    At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has advised all employers to consider “community level spread” of COVID-19 when determining appropriate workplace precautions, stating that workplaces in communities with minimal to moderate community spreading should, among other things, “[c]onsider regular health

    U.S. COVID-19: DOL (Yet Again) Publishes Revised Guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

    This weekend, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) released yet another set of updated and revised Questions and Answers (“Q&A”) regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  This updated informal guidance comes just days after the DOL published its formal Temporary Rules (“Rules”) interpreting the FFRCA.  As we’ve summarized in earlier posts, the FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and generally requires U.S. employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave (“Paid Sick Leave”) and emergency family and medical leave (“Emergency FMLA Leave”) benefits to employees in connection with COVID-19.

    The FFCRA’s Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave provisions became effective on April 1, 2020; however, as the DOL previously announced, to enable covered employers to come into compliance with the new law, the DOL will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement through April 17, 2020.  This temporary period of non-enforcement only applies if an employer makes a reasonable, good faith attempt to comply with the FFCRA.  As such, if they have not already, employers should take steps to comply with the FFCRA immediately, and should continue to monitor and incorporate guidance from the DOL into their policies and practices.

    Below is a summary of new or revised guidance outlined in the updated Q&A (that was not previously summarized in our earlier posts) that employers should consider as they comply with the FFCRA.  Links to our posts summarizing the earlier guidance are available here.

    Revised Q&A Guidance

    U.S. COVID-19: DOL Publishes Temporary Rules on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

    Over the past two weeks, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued a variety of informal guidance regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The FFCRA became effective on April 1, 2020, and on that same day, the DOL published a set of temporary rules interpreting the law (the “Rules”), which are effective immediately.  As we’ve summarized in earlier posts, the FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and generally requires U.S. employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave (“Paid Sick Leave”) and emergency family and medical leave (“Emergency FMLA Leave”) benefits to employees in connection with COVID-19.

    Our summaries of the DOL’s informal guidance are available here, here, here, here, and here.  Below is a summary of new or revised information outlined in the Rules (that was not previously summarized in our earlier posts) that employers should consider as they begin complying with the FFCRA.

    • Covered Employers:
      • 500-Employee Threshold: The Rules confirm that the following individuals do not count toward the 500-employee threshold:
        • Independent contractors who provide services for an employer; and
        • Employees who have been laid off or furloughed and have not subsequently been reemployed.[1]
          • In light of this rule, employers who are above but relatively close to the 500-Employee Threshold should realize that, going forward over the course of 2020, layoffs and/or furloughs could bring them under the threshold and thus require compliance

    U.S. IRS Publishes Much-Anticipated Guidance on Documents that Employers Must Retain Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

    The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which generally requires U.S. employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave (“Paid Sick Leave”) and emergency family and medical leave (“Emergency FMLA Leave”) benefits to employees in connection with COVID-19, officially goes into effect today.  This also means that employers are now able to immediately seek a quarterly payroll tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave wages paid to employees under the FFCRA.

    As we summarized in an earlier post, this past weekend the Department of Labor (“DOL”) revised its guidance to refer employers to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for questions regarding what documentation employers must retain in order to receive a tax credit.  Late on March 31, 2020, the IRS published this much-anticipated guidance.  Below are highlights from the IRS’s guidance on document collection and retention for employers to consider as they begin to comply with the FFCRA.  Summaries of other aspects of the IRS’s guidance will be available soon.

    • Leave for Which Tax Credits are Available: The IRS guidance confirms that tax credits are available only for Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.  Moreover, tax credits are available only for Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave wages that are actually paid.  For example, if an employer is not required to pay certain Paid Sick Leave and/or Emergency FMLA Leave wages (because

    US DOL Publishes Revised Guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

    DOL Publishes Revised Guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

    This weekend, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) released a revised and updated set of Questions and Answers (“Q&A”) regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  As we’ve summarized in earlier posts, the FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and generally requires U.S. employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave (“Paid Sick Leave”) and emergency family and medical leave (“Emergency FMLA Leave”) benefits to employees in connection with COVID-19.

    Notably, the new guidance includes a revision to the guidance that was just issued last Thursday, March 26, regarding what documentation employers must collect from employees requesting leave under the FFCRA.  Our summary of the DOL’s initial guidance is available here, but please note that in light of the DOL’s updated guidance, employers should rely on this post’s summary of documentation requirements.  The new guidance does not explicitly outline what documentation employers must collect.  Instead, it notes that if employers want to seek a tax credit for the Paid Sick Leave or Emergency FMLA Leave, they should “retain appropriate documentation.” The DOL then refers employers to consult with “Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit.”

    In addition to this revision, the updated guidance includes a number of questions and answers regarding new and key

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