Coronavirus-HR and Employer Information

Coronavirus-HR and Employer Information

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HR/EMPLOYER INFORMATION 
August 21, 2020


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HR Services: (720) 858-6057 

What financial relief/assistance is available for small businesses? What is the “CARES” Act?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020.  The legislation is aimed at providing relief to individuals and businesses that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.  

Under the provisions related to Payroll Protection, employers with 500 or fewer employees will have access to federally guaranteed loans made available to assist employers with payroll and benefit costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities for an 8-week period. These loans are issued by SBA 7(a) lenders and may be fully or partially forgiven.  

Additionally, employers can delay payment of their portion of 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022.  

For additional guidance and to review the full bill, go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)? Does it apply to my practice/facility?
FFCRA provides for paid sick time, protected paid family leave, and insurance coverage for private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and public sector employers of one or more employees. The law went into effect April 1, 2020 and stays in effect through December 31, 2020.

Paid Sick Leave is one of the major provisions. Employers will be required to provide to each employee paid sick time to the extent the employee is unable to work because of issues related to COVID-19, including diagnosis, self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, caring for an individual in this situation, and child care due to closed schools, etc.

Paid Sick Leave applies to all employees, regardless of how long the employee has been employed. Full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick time. Part-time employees are entitled to a proportional number of hours equal to their average hours worked over a two-week period. For employees with variable hours each week, paid leave would be equal to the average number of hours worked per day over the previous six months. An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave before the employee uses the paid sick time available. Paid sick time is capped at $511 per day or $5,110 in total. The cap for when the employee is needed to care for someone else is $200 per day or $2,000 in total. This leave provision is effective April 1, 2020 and ends on December 31, 2020.

Paid Family Leave: The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of protected leave to any employee who has been employed for at least 30 days and is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for a child under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such child is unavailable, due to a public health emergency. After the first 10 days of this leave, the employee is entitled to pay at two-thirds (2/3) the rate of their regular rate. This leave provision is effective April 1, 2020 and ends on December 31, 2020.

Mandated Health Coverage: Group health plans and insurers offering group or individual health insurance must cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing, pre-authorization, or other medical management requirements. The coverage must include related services furnished during urgent care, emergency room, in-person, or telehealth provider visits that result in an order for, or administration of, a covered diagnostic test.

Payroll tax credits will be available for businesses. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can file for an exemption due to the potential hardship on the practice.

FFCRA: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave  

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) first set of guidance has been released which includes a fact sheet for employees, a fact sheet for employers and a questions and answers document. These notices, the fact sheets, and the question and answers document can be found on the DOL website: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

The DOL has also created model notices that must be posted in the workplace and/or distributed by covered employers to current employees. The notices can be emailed to employees and/or posted on an internal website viewed by all staff. 

Colorado: Healthy Families & Workplaces Act of Colorado (HFWA): signed into law on July 14, 2020
For the remainder of this year, the Act will require all employers to comply with the emergency paid sick leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The Act will extend FFCRA coverage to larger employers, in addition to those with less than 500 employees. On January 1, 2021, employers with 16 or more employees will need to begin providing paid sick leave to their employees. On January 1, 2022, all employers will be subject to the Act’s requirements. 

I am not able to keep my employees employed full-time. What options are available to me?
There are several options available to you, including reduction of hours, the work-share program (Colorado), temporary layoffs, furloughs, etc.  

Please see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/layoffassistance for more information.  

What is the employer’s liability if an employee gets sick within the 2-week window? 
Full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick time. Part-time employees are entitled to a proportional number of hours equal to their average hours worked over a two-week period. For employees with variable hours each week, paid leave would be equal to the average number of hours worked per day over the previous six months. An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave before the employee uses the paid sick time available. See resources at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave

What are considered “appropriate steps” to take at this point as an employer? Is it unreasonable to stay open? 
Health care operations are considered “critical” at this time, so continuation of operations is reasonable. It is recommended to follow all guidelines for employers as provided by the CDC.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html

Can I ask an employee to stay home or leave work if they are exhibiting signs of being sick?
Yes, it is permissible to ask employees to stay home or leave work. While the employee may not have COVID-19, it is important to err on the side of caution to protect others in the workplace.   

I am concerned about following the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and the requirement for reasonable accommodation. Is there any flexibility for employers given COVID-19?
The EEOC states that, “the ADA does not interfere with employers following recommendations of the CDC or public health authorities, and employers should feel free to do so.” Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), qualified individuals with disabilities may be entitled to unscheduled leave, unpaid leave, or modifications to the employer sick leave policies as “reasonable accommodations.” The ADA allows employers to send sick or symptomatic employees home during a pandemic as long as the symptoms are akin to those attributable to the coronavirus, e.g., fever, coughing, shortness of breath, etc. Employers are permitted to ask employees if they are experiencing these influenza-like symptoms. As always, employers must maintain all information obtained about an employee’s illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.

We have an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. What is our obligation as an employer?
You should send home all employees for a 14-day period who worked closely with that employee to ensure the infection does not spread. Additionally, it is important to ask the employee to identify all employees who recently worked in proximity and to send those employees home as well for the 14-day period. It is important to not identify the person to others as there is potential risk of violating confidentiality laws. Furthermore, the CDC recommends cleaning and disinfectant protocols. 
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html 

We have an employee who has traveled to one of the “hotspots” for COVID-19.  Can we require an employee to quarantine for a period of time following their travels?
Yes, you can require an employee to quarantine for 14 days post travel.  

Am I required to pay my exempt staff for a full week, even if they did not work the full week? How do I need to pay my non-exempt employees?
Yes, you are required by the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) to pay your exempt employee for a full week if they worked any portion of that week. If an exempt employee did not work any part of a full week, no pay is required. Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked.  

For additional assistance on COVID-19 and the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA), go to:
https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic 

I would like to provide my employees with information regarding unemployment. Where do I find this information?
Below is an informative guide by the Colorado Department of Labor explaining unemployment benefits.  
https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/atoms/files/YourGuidetoUnemploymentBenefits.pdf 

I have an employee refusing to return to work due to their current unemployment benefits being higher than their current wage. What should I do?  
Most states have strict guidelines and laws prohibiting workers from refusing to work while collecting unemployment benefits. As an employer, you must report the worker who is refusing to come back to work. There are state guidelines on how to report when the employee is refusing to accept a suitable position.