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DOL’s Informational Webinar re FFCRA Compliance Goes Live

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it would be posting an informational webinar regarding compliance issues with the recently-enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). That webinar, which provides information regarding the FFCRA for both employers and employees went live today and can be accessed at:  https://dolwhd.cosocloud.com/pawkgwfawza0/?proto=true. The DOL’s Wage & Hour Division also distributed Power Point slides to accompany the webinar, which can be accessed here.

California employers should continue to monitor our blog for future updates concerning the FFCRA and other employment developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also remind employers that they should seek legal advice to determine whether the FFCRA applies to their business, and if so, what steps to take to ensure compliance.

 

The IRS FAQs Provide Guidance on Employee Documentation/Information to Support FFCRA Leave

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations

On March 31, 2020, the IRS issued 66 FAQs providing guidance to employers in connection with the payment of, and tax credits for, emergency paid sick leave (E-PSL) and emergency FMLA leave (E-FMLA) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  Among other things, the FAQs answered a very important question that the DOL didn’t (instead, in its FAQ 15, the DOL essentially deferred to the IRS).  The important question is: what documentation or information can employers require employees to submit to support their request for E-PSL or E-FMLA?

IRS FAQ No. 44 states expressly:

  1. What information should an Eligible Employer receive from an employee and maintain to substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits?

An Eligible Employer will substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits if the employer receives a written request for such leave from the employee in which the employee provides:

  1. The employee’s name;
  2. The date or dates for which leave is requested;
  3. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
  4. A statement that the employee is unable to work, including by means of telework, for such reason.

In the case of a leave request based on a quarantine order or self-quarantine advice, the statement from the employee should include the name of the governmental entity ordering quarantine or the name of the health care professional advising self-quarantine, and, if the person subject to quarantine or advised to self-quarantine is not the employee, that person’s name and relation to the employee.

In the case of a leave request based on a school closing or child care provider unavailability, the statement from the employee should include the name and age of the child (or children) to be cared for, the name of the school that has closed or place of care that is unavailable, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the period for which the employee is receiving family medical leave and, with respect to the employee’s inability to work or telework because of a need to provide care for a child older than fourteen during daylight hours, a statement that special circumstances exist requiring the employee to provide care.

The IRS FAQs provide other useful information about determining the amount of the tax credit for qualified sick leave wages; determining the amount of allocable qualified health plan expenses; how to claim the credits; periods of time for which credits are available; and more.  You can read the full IRS FAQs here.

The Labor and Employment attorneys as Weintraub Tobin continue to wish you and your families good health during these difficult times.  Please reach out to any of us if we can assist you with your employment law needs.

DOL Announces Temporary Rules for FFCRA Implementation; Informational Webinar to be Released on April 3, 2020

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations

We have been keeping you informed of recent actions by the US Department of Labor to advise employers of their obligations under the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). This has included the DOL’s creation of a “Questions and Answers” webpage for both employers and employees. (Click here, here and here.) On April 1, 2020, the DOL announced the issuance of its Temporary Rules regarding implementation of the FFCRA and what employers who are subject to it must do to ensure compliance. (Click here for DOL Press Release.)

The 124-page Temporary Rule (available here is essentially the implementing regulations that were addressed in general terms by the DOL on its Q&A webpage concerning the FFCRA. The DOL also detailed its reasoning in adopting the limited “small business” exception to FFCRA compliance. It explained that it was trying to balance the competing interests in making sure that FFCRA leave was as widely-available as possible for small business employees while trying to prevent such leave from having little to no value if the company went under so that its employees had no leave entitlement and/or no jobs to which to return.

Importantly for employers, the DOL’s Wage & Hour Division will be posting a pre-recorded webinar on Friday, April 3, 2020, to provide further details concerning the FFCRA, including informing employers how to comply their FFCRA obligations for those subject to it. The webinar should be accessible at the following page on Friday:  www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

California employers should continue to monitor our blog for future updates concerning the FFCRA and other employment developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also remind employers that they should seek legal advice to determine whether the FFCRA applies to their business, and if so, what steps to take to ensure compliance.

 

2nd UPDATE: DOL Again Updates Question & Answers Page for Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

Last week, we alerted you to the fact that the US Department of Labor had issued a Question & Answers webpage, and subsequently updated it, to address numerous issues arising out of the passage of the FFCRA. (Click here and here.) Late Saturday night, the DOL again updated the “Questions and Answers” webpage and added more than 20 new questions and answers (## 38-59) regarding various issues under the FFCRA for both employers and employees. The DOL also revised its guidance regarding the types of documentation required to document FFCRA leave to simply the types of documents required and essentially punt the question to the IRS to provide forms/instructions for claiming the FFCRA tax credit. (## 15 & 16)

Here is a summary of the other various issues addressed by the DOL’s second update to the Q&A page:

  • Explains that the term “employee” for purposes of determining who is eligible for FFCRA leave shall have the same meaning as the term “employee” used in the FLSA. (#38):
    • “Employee” includes full-time employees (work 40 or more hours per week); part-time employees (less than 40 hours per week) and “joint employees”, provided that the employee has been employed for the required 30 days preceding the FFCRA’s effective date. (## 48 & 49)
  • Clarifies which employers are subject to the FFCRA as having less than 500 employees, although some small businesses (less than 50 employees) may be exempted from the FFCRA (#39):
    • Unlike regular FMLA, employers must count employees as of the date the employee is to take leave. (#50)
    • Small businesses (less than 50 employees) can be exempted from providing paid FFCRA leave if “authorized officer” determines one of the following:
      • Expense of compliance with FFCRA exceeds the company’s revenues and will cause business to cease even minimal operations;
      • Employee’s absence will cause substantial risk to company’s financial health and/or operational capabilities; or
      • Insufficient employees remaining to all company to meet minimal business operations. (## 58-59)
  • Defines “son or daughter” to mean any biological, adopted and/or foster child and can include children over the age of 18 if that child has a physical or mental disability and is unable to “self-care” because of the disability. (# 40)
  • Establishes a “hot line” for employees to call when they believe employer is not complying with FFCRA leave requirements. (## 41-42)
  • Describes an employee’s general right to return to work after taking FFCRA leave except in limited circumstance where employer can show hardship conditions to justify failure to return. (# 43)
  • Clarifies that employee can take FFCRA leave, and timing for such leave, even if employee has already exhausted FMLA leave. (## 44-45)
  • Allows time that employee is on FFCRA leave to count towards eligibility for employer-provided health coverage. (# 51)
  • Discusses FFCRA’s applicability to certain public-sector employees. (## 52-54)
  • Defines “health care provider” who can certify FFCRA leave as including “a licensed doctor of medicine, nurse practitioner or other health care provider” who is also allowed to issue FMLA certifications. (# 55)
  • Discusses which “health care providers” and “emergency responders” who an employer may exclude from paid leave but urges employers to be “judicious” in making these determinations so as to minimize the spread of COVID-19. (## 56-57)

California employers should continue to monitor our blog for future updates concerning the FFCRA and other employment developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also advise employers to seek legal advice to determine whether the FFCRA applies to their business, and if so, what steps to take to ensure compliance.

 

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: Expansion of Unemployment Benefits Through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

Posted in Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

On March 27, 2020, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Safety (CARES) Act was passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Trump as the largest emergency aid bill in history. The CARES Act significantly expands unemployment benefits and comes on the heels of 3.3 million Americans having applied for unemployment benefits last week. In California specifically, there were 186,809 claims for unemployment benefits to the Employment Development Department last week.

The CARES Act includes a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that is fully funded by the federal government. The assistance applies retroactively to January 27th and extends through December 31st, with a maximum of 39 weeks of assistance (inclusive of weeks when the employee received extended benefits or regular compensation). Individuals who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits and those that can work remotely with pay are excluded from the program.

The program expands unemployment insurance to those who do not typically qualify, including gig economy workers who are classified as independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Specifically, benefits will be provided to any person who is unemployed or partially unemployed due to any of the following:

  • The individual has received a COVID-19 diagnosis, or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • The individual is providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • The individual is the primary caregiver for a another person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility due to COVID-19;
  • The individual is unable to reach the workplace because of a quarantine imposed due to COVID-19;
  • The individual was scheduled to begin work, but could not do so because the place they were scheduled to begin work at has been shut down due to COVID-19;
  • The individual lives in a household where the head of household died directly due to COVID-19;
  • The individual’s workplace has been closed because of COVID-19.

Individuals who are furloughed, but have not fully been laid off, are also eligible for unemployment benefits.

Every individual receiving unemployment benefits will be provided $600 per week, in addition to the weekly benefit amount authorized under state unemployment compensation law, for up to four months. Additionally, the program provides an extra thirteen weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits through the end of the year to assist individuals who remain unemployed after state unemployment benefits are no longer available.

For the standard unemployment benefits that the state remains responsible for, the federal government will provide payments to the state to reimburse government agencies, nonprofits, and Indian tribes for fifty percent of the costs they incur through the end of the year to pay unemployment benefits. For those states that decide to pay recipients of unemployment benefits as soon as they become unemployed, rather than waiting a week, the federal government will provide funding to pay the first week of unemployment benefits. This is applicable in California, as Governor Newsom has waived the first week waiting period, meaning that people will receive a full two weeks of benefits on their first unemployment benefits check, as opposed to one week. Further, for those states that offer “short-term compensation” programs for employees who have their hours reduced, California being one of them, the federal government will pay one hundred percent of the costs incurred by the state through the end of the year.

The attorneys at Weintraub Tobin continue to wish you and your families good health during these difficult times. Please feel free to reach out to one of us if you have any questions regarding this expansion of unemployment benefits and how that may relate to your workforce.

 

DOL Updates Questions & Answers Page for Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations

Earlier this week, we advised you that the US Department of Labor had issued a Question & Answers webpage that addressed some issues arising out of the passage of the FFCRA, most importantly clarifying that it would become effective on April 1, 2020. (Click here.) Yesterday, the DOL updated that “Questions and Answers” webpage and added more than 25 new questions and answers regarding various issues under the FFCRA for both employers and employees. Here is a summary of the various issues addressed by the updated Q&A page:

  • Clarifies that the FFCRA creates a new paid leave as of April 1st and does not apply retroactively:
    • Employees are not entitled to FFCRA leave if:
      • Employer has closed work site and/or furloughed employee prior to April 1; 2020; or
      • Employer closes work site and/or furloughs employee after April 1, 2020 but before employee has started FFCRA leave.
  • Makes clear that FFCRA leave can be taken intermittently in certain circumstances related to having to take care of children who are subject to school/child care closures.
  • Only employees who have been on the employer’s payroll for at least 30 calendar days prior to the FFCRA’s effective date (i.e. as of March 2, 2020) are eligible for FFCRA leave.
  • Explains the types of documentation that an employer can require from an employee (and must maintain) in relation to FFCRA leave as well as the employee’s obligations to provide such documentation.
  • Employees are only eligible for FFCRA leave if they are unable to work (even remotely) as a result of COVID-19, which includes those employees required to stay-home by local authorities and are unable to work remotely. If an employer has work for the employee, and the employee can perform that work remotely, the employee is not eligible for the leave (absent having symptoms of, or caring for a family member with symptoms of COVID-19) just because they cannot report to their normal worksite.
  • Employees cannot receive both unemployment pay and FFCRA paid leave.
  • Although employers can consider paying employees on FFCRA leave an amount in excess to that required by the law, the employer will not be able to claim, or be entitled to receive, a tax credit for that excess amount.
  • Employers who are subject to multi-employer collective bargaining agreements may be able to satisfy their FFCRA obligations by making contributions to the multi-employer fund or plan under certain conditions.

California employers should continue to monitor our blog for future updates concerning the FFCRA and other employment developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also advise employers to seek legal advice to determine whether the FFCRA applies to their business, and if so, what steps to take to ensure compliance.

 

San Francisco Issues New Guidance on San Francisco Paid Sick Leave During Pandemic; Financial Relief for San Francisco Employers

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

On March 24, 2020, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement issued guidance pertaining to the use of Paid Sick Leave under the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO).  This publication supersedes the OLSE’s guidance issued just last week. Employers should be aware of temporary changes in the PSLO rules specific to the current pandemic:

  1. No Doctor’s Notes for Duration of COVID-19 Local Health Emergency

Under normal circumstances, employers may require a doctor’s note to verify the need for sick leave of more than three consecutive work days.  For the duration of the COVID-19 “Local Health Emergency,” however, employers may not require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave taken pursuant to the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

The rule will automatically revert to normal after the Local Health Emergency expires, or the OLSE revokes it sooner.

  1. Eligibility for Paid Sick Leave

The OLSE clarifies that employees who have been laid off, as opposed to furloughed, are not entitled to Paid Sick Leave.

Employees who are not ill and otherwise do not qualify for PSL (see item 3, below), but who have had their hours reduced or eliminated due to business slowdowns, are not entitled to use accrued paid sick leave to make up their lost pay.  Employees who remain scheduled to work may continue to use their accrued paid sick leave for any qualifying reason for any portion of their scheduled hours they are unable to work.

Note, however, that employers with 499 or fewer employees in San Francisco may need to provide employees who are unable to work or telework due to local, State or Federal quarantine or isolation orders, with up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which takes effect April 1, 2020.  See https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

  1. Employee Use of Paid Sick Leave for Local Health Emergency Reasons

An employee may use accrued paid sick leave if he or she needs to take time off work because:

  • Public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend that the employee isolate or quarantine him or herself;
  • The employee falls within the definition of a “vulnerable population” under the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s (DPH) March 6, 2020 guidelines or any subsequent updates.  As of March 6, 2020, a “vulnerable population” is a person who is 60 years old or older or a person with a health condition such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or weakened immune system;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee’s business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation – subject to the “Eligibility for Paid Sick Leave” guidelines above;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolate or quarantine; or
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, child care provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.
  1. Paid Sick Leave Not Paid Out at Separation

The OLSE also revised two of its FAQs, which clarify but do not represent a change in the law:

  • Employees are not entitled to a payout of Paid Sick Leave upon termination. However, if the employer uses a combined “PTO,” unlimited PTO, or vacation policy to comply with the SF PSLO (and does not separately track and accrue Paid Sick Leave for its employees) then the PTO is paid out upon separation. This is consistent with existing California law.
  • If there is a separation from employment, and an employee is later rehired by the employer within one year, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated, and the employee is entitled to use the previously accrued and unused paid sick leave and to accrue additional paid sick leave upon rehiring.

Financial Relief Available for Employers (Updated 3/30/2020)

As noted in my blog post last week, if employers pay their San Francisco employees for extra sick time (beyond the amount required by the SF PSLO), the City will reimburse $15.59 per hour for extra sick leave up to 40 hours, for up to 499 employees, through its new Workers and Families First Program.  Employers will need to pay their San Francisco staff the extra sick time at their regular rate before they can get reimbursed.

A step-by-step program guide has been published here, and the reimbursement application form is now available here.

Employers should apply for reimbursement as soon as possible once they have paid out sick time, because the funding is limited to $10 million and is first-come, first-served.

Additional financial relief for San Francisco businesses is available during the local COVID-19 emergency:

  • The City has deferred business taxes due April 30, 2020, for businesses with up to $10 million in gross receipts, for nine months with no interest or penalties.
  • The City is deferring collection of annual small business license and permit fees, for at least three months.
  • Water shut offs and late fees are being suspended for at least 60 days.
  • The City has declared a moratorium on commercial (and residential) evictions due to nonpayment until at least April 15, 2020, for small business and residents.

Please be sure to frequently check the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s list of resources and financial assistance available, or contact one of the Labor and Employment attorneys at Weintraub for guidance.

DOL Issues Model Notice To Employees Of Rights Under Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). Among other things, the FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees’ leave rights under the FFCRA apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

The FFCRA requires that employers “post and keep posted, in conspicuous places on the premises of the employer where notices to employees are customarily posted, a notice, to be prepared or approved by the Secretary of Labor, of the [FFCRA’s requirements].”  The FFCRA also requires the Labor Secretary to create that model notice and make it publicly available within 7 days.

Today, the Department of Labor issued that notice. The document is entitled Employee Rights: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and a copy of can be found on the DOL’s website here.

The notice contains summaries of employees’ paid leave entitlement amounts, an explanation of which employees are eligible, the qualifying reasons for which employees can use the leave, and information on the DOL’s enforcement mechanisms.

Consistent with other employment law posting obligations, employers should post this DOL notice in a conspicuous place where it can be easily read throughout the workday. Employers who have employees telecommuting should post the notice in an online portal where remote workers can easily access and read it, or alternatively email or otherwise electronically transmit a copy of the document to its remote workforce.

More information about the FFCRA can be found in our previous blogs here (summary of the new law), here (tax relief for employers), here (payroll tax credit and period of non-enforcement), and here (DOL Qs & As).  If you have any questions regarding the FFCRA or the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on your workplace, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of our Labor and Employment attorneys for guidance.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Takes Effect April 1, 2020

Posted in FMLA and Other Leaves of Absence, Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

We have kept you advised of recent federal actions taken in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) which, among other things, provides paid family leave for certain employees. (See previous blogs at here, here, and here.) The FFCRA was to take effect “no later than 15 days” after being signed by the President. Given that it was signed on March 18, 2020, many legal commentators advised that it would take effect on April 2nd. The U.S. Department of Labor has now clarified that the FFCRA will instead take effect one day earlier on April 1, 2020.

Yesterday, the DOL issued a “Questions and Answers” webpage for the FFCRA. This Q&A page states: “The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.” The Q&A page addresses a number of questions for both employers and employees, including which employers are subject to the FFCRA and calculating pay for purposes of complying with the FFCRA, such as computing hours for part-time employees and including overtime for full-time employees. The Q&A page also states that while there is an exemption for small businesses, the DOL will address that exemption in more detail in a future Q&A page.

We recommend that employers continue to monitor our blog for future updates concerning the FFCRA and other employment developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also advise employers to seek legal advice to determine whether the FFCRA applies to their business, and if so, what steps to take to ensure compliance.

 

More On The FFCRA: Payroll Tax Credits And Period Of Non-Enforcement

Posted in Labor Law, New Legislation and Regulations, Wage & Hour

As we told you on March 22, 2020, the Department of Treasury (DOT), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to provide some relief for small and midsize employers in light of the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). In their announcement, it was also stated that employers may make immediate use of their tax deposits to pay employees taking emergency leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (E-FMLA) or as Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (E-PSLA). The DOL further announced that it would not bring any enforcement actions against employers for any violations within the first 30 days the law is in effect, provided the employer can show it is acting in good faith to comply with the new law.

Use Of Tax Deposits/Payroll Tax Credits:

Generally, when employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold various taxes, such as federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Employers are then required to deposit these taxes, along with the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS. The announcement stated that employers who pay qualifying emergency leave under the E-FMLA or E-PSLA, will be able to retain a portion of these payroll taxes, equal to the amount of emergency leave paid. If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of the emergency leave, the announcement stated that employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS.

The IRS provided the following examples:

  • If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.
  • If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.

We expect the details of this new procedure to be announced sometime this week.

Non-Enforcement Period:

The announcement further clarified that the DOL was issuing a temporary non-enforcement period, and providing employers with 30-days to come into compliance with the Act. During this time, the DOL stated that it intends to provide employers with “compliance assistance.” In doing so, the DOL made clear that the brief period of adjustment was only available to employers acting “reasonably and in good faith.” Employers should use this time to work with legal counsel to make sure they are in compliance with the new Act.

We are watching for the issuance of more formal guidance, and we will provide an update at that time. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of our Labor and Employment attorneys for guidance.