COVID-19 Law Update

Note: As laws and regulations are changing daily to deal with COVID-19, we expect to update this alert between now and when the email is sent.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Required FFCRA Poster
The Department of Labor (DOL) has released a mandatory employee rights poster for the FFCRA. Employers must post this notice in a conspicuous location in the workplace (or each work location, if employees report to different buildings). Employees who are working from home must receive the notice as well; employers can get it to them by email, snail mail, or posting to an internal or external website intended to provide information to employees. More information on the DOL’s poster requirements can be found here.

Enforcement of FFCRA
The DOL will not bring enforcement actions against employers for violations of the FFCRA occurring within 30 days of the enactment, i.e. March 18 through April 17, 2020, provided that the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the Act.

For purposes of this non-enforcement position, an employer who violates the Act behaved “reasonably” and “in good faith” when all of the following are true:

  1. The employer remedies any violations as soon as possible, including making all affected employees whole as soon as practicable.
  2. The violations of the Act were not “willful” (essentially, it’s willful if you could have paid, but chose not to)
  3. The Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.

If the employer violates the Act willfully, fails to provide a written commitment to future compliance with the Act, or fails to remedy the violation upon notification by Department, the Department reserves its right to exercise its enforcement authority.

After April 17, 2020, this limited stay of enforcement will no longer apply, and the Department will fully enforce violations of the Act, as appropriate and consistent with the law.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
On Friday, March 27, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The new law is an economic stimulus package designed to repair the economic damage caused by COVID-19 and provide additional protection to individuals and businesses who may lose income due to the pandemic. While most of the act pertains to direct payments and loans, there are some sections that relate to employment.

What Employers Should Know
The CARES Act gives employers additional options and incentives to consider when making decisions about pay rates and employee retention. This includes provisions for small business loans with forgiveness for certain expenditures including payroll costs, an employee retention credit, a payroll tax deferral, and other tax benefits. We recommend that employers consider the options that may be available to them carefully.

Impact on Unemployment Insurance
The act expands unemployment benefits in two key ways. First, it extends the duration of regular benefits by 13 weeks. Second, it adds a $600 weekly payment to the weekly amount an individual would usually receive. While these unemployment benefits are generous, employers should still consider their options and incentives under the CARES Act mentioned above before making decisions about reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs.

Employees who experience reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs should be encouraged to file for unemployment insurance as soon as possible and to research rules, benefits, and options themselves to ensure they get the best benefit possible. We recommend that both employers and employees visit their state’s unemployment insurance department website and track local and state news, as departments across the country are updating their rules to facilitate displaced workers during this time.