As the United States still struggles with testing capacity for active COVID-19 infections, employers are increasingly asking “may we require our employees be tested for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies?” This is particularly true following the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position that employers were permitted to test for the presence of active COVID-19 infection, set forth in its What You Should Know About COVID-19 resource (Q&A 6).
Without fanfare on May 27, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for employers of office workers (as well as updated guidance for restaurants and bars). This is the first guidance that is targeted at white collar workers, with the message that employers will need to “[c]hange the way people work.”
In the COVID-19 recession, many employers made reductions in force en masse, thus avoiding selection decisions that might be challenged as discriminatory. If the same employers recall or rehire employees en masse, they will continue to avoid such decisions. But what if the employer’s need to recall or rehire is partial or gradual, such that some employees are brought back before others? Such choices can give rise discrimination claims. To protect itself, an employer will need to apply and document a non-discriminatory method of choosing among employees.
Bonuses, shift differentials, hazard pay, commissions and other add-ons do not preclude use of the fluctuating workweek method of computing overtime, according to a U.S. Department of Labor interpretive regulation issued May 20, 2020.
Apparently inspired by the tidying up trend, the Department of Labor threw out two sections of its interpretation concerning the commission sales exemption from overtime that no longer gave it joy. The commission sales exemption covers sales employees who are primarily paid by commission. To come under the exemption, the employee must be employed in a “retail or service” establishment, must earn at least 1.5 times the minimum wage, and more than half the employee’s compensation for a representative period (not less than one month) must represent commissions.
Various federal agencies have recently issued additional COVID-19 guidance of significance (more or less) to employers, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Some of this guidance applies to workplaces and employers generally, while others target specific industries, such as bars and restaurants, manufacturing, child care, schools, and mass transit. We summarize these developments below.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Agency Update: CDC and OSHA Issue Reopening Guidance, EEOC Explains Accommodation of High-Risk Workers, IRS Expands Employee Retention Credit, DOL Adds to FFCRA Q&As, FEMA Provides Exercise Starter Kit for Reopening
The Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address the “necessity certification” in the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan application and to extend the repayment period of “unnecessary” PPP loans to May 18 in order to allow entities to review the new guidance. The loan application requires certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”
As businesses slowly begin to reopen, workers are being recalled to the workplace. Some of them are expressing reluctance to return due to increased health risks from COVID-19 based on underlying medical conditions or age. Others are struggling with child care issues as schools remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and summer care programs are canceled. Some employers have asked what are their obligations to such workers under the law? Can they terminate them, or do they have to accommodate them?
By now we probably all have seen the YouTube Video of poor Danny, who finished his Zoom video meeting with his colleagues and forgot to end the call as he walked away from the screen, his colorful boxer short underwear in plain sight (along with his backscratching stretch to loosen his muscles). Or the son of the late Steve Reeve of Superman fame (Will), a reporter who was spied at the end of a news piece he broadcasted from home without any suit pants! Ah, Danny and Will! But, other things are happening while employees work from home that raise concerns. For example, the employee who during a conference call is slurring his speech as if intoxicated.
On April 24, 2020, Governor Hogan issued “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,” his plan for reopening the state as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis begins to ease. This plan is of critical interest and importance to Maryland employers, and we outline the plan here. This Roadmap is quite general in nature, as would be expected, given that there are many moving parts in play. But it provides some overall guidance as to the order in which certain businesses can expect to resume operations.