California Employers – Know Your COVID-19 Obligations

Employers in California have new reporting obligations related to employee COVID-19 cases under California legislation AB 685. The purpose of AB 685 is to allow the state to more closely track COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

The new law goes into effect for California employees on January 1, 2021 and requires employers to provide written notice to all employees who worked at their worksite during an infectious period who may have had exposure to the virus. It also enhances the reporting requirements to local health authorities in the event there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at your worksite.

Required Notice to Employees and Employee Representatives

Under the new notice requirement, employers in California are required to take action within one business day of a “potential exposure” based on a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 by someone at the worksite. The notice must be provided in writing to all employees and any subcontractors who were at the worksite during the infectious period and may have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.  Written notice should also be provided to any employee representatives such as union representatives or attorneys.

The notice can be delivered in person or distributed via email or text message if the employee is anticipated to see the notification within one business day. The notice should be both in English and any other language that is understood by the majority of your employees.

Notices should include information related to any COVID-19 related benefits such as workers’ compensation benefits, COVID leave of absence such as that provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), paid sick leave, etc. You should also include the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies. In addition, the notice should include details regarding the company’s protocols for disinfecting the worksite and the safety plan to prevent any further exposures per CDC guidelines.

 Required Reporting of a COVID-19 Outbreak at Your Worksite

If you have multiple COVID-19 positive cases at your worksite, you may be subject to new reporting requirements related to outbreaks at the worksite. Local public health authorities determine the number of positive COVID-19 cases are considered an outbreak. Upon learning of the outbreak, employers are required to report the required information to their local public health agency within 48 hours.

In the event of a COVID-19 related fatality, California employers are required to notify their local health department of the name, number, occupation, and worksite location of any employees who have died due to COVID-19 exposure.

Employers are encouraged to create an action plan for their company and worksites related to COVID-19. You should identify the risks of COVID-19 exposure at your worksite(s) and decide how you will act to prevent exposure (looking at things such as improved ventilation, providing personal protective equipment such as masks or face shields, requiring social distancing when possible, etc).

What to Do If An Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

If you have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, there are a number of steps you should take to ensure compliance with the various federal, state and local requirements. Detailed below some of the current recommendations for employers:

CDC Recommendations Continue reading

New Department of Labor FAQs Related to COVID-19 and Federal Labor Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued more guidance for employers and workers related to rights and responsibilities under federal leave and wage and hour laws related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Updates were made to guidance for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Highlights of the updates are included below. Continue reading

Joint-Employer Relationships: US Department of Labor Final Ruling

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a final ruling on what constitutes a joint employer relationship when it comes to liability for wage and hour matters. In a wage and hour investigation, a four-factor balancing test will be used by courts to determine whether two entities are considered joint employers. The four-factor test will assess whether the company: Continue reading

California Bill Would Significantly Change the Definition of an Employee

California businesses who rely on “gig workers” to perform the work for the company may soon need to restructure their business model based on a new bill that has been passed by Congress in California and is expected to be signed soon by Governor Gavin Newsom. This new bill would require that companies using these “gig workers” (the two biggest companies being Uber and Lyft) reclassify their workers to be considered employees rather than continue to be classified as independent contractors.  

It’s important to note that this would only apply to California workers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled earlier this year that Uber drivers (and similar workers) were independent contractors because they used their own equipment, set their own schedules, could work for competitors, and were responsible for their own profit and/or loss. Continue reading

Michigan Employers: New Paid Sick Leave Law

Update (1/5/2019):

The Michigan paid sick leave act has been signed into law, and with that several amendments were made.

* The law will go into effect on March 29th, 2019.

* Only employers with 50 or more employees will be required to participate.

* Regardless of participation, all employers in Michigan are required to post the Michigan Paid Sick Leave labor law poster in their places of business.

* There will be exemptions for several types of employees, including, but not limited to overtime exempt employees, temporary employees, and employees who are already covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

* Previously the act stated that each employee would need to accrue 1 hour paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked, due to the amendments this has been updated to 1 hour for every 35 hours worked.

* The original amount of paid sick leave an employer would have been required to allow was 72 hours per benefit year, this has been reduced to 40 hours. The same numbers were adjusted for the required carry over amount.

Michigan has recently joined other states in passing legislature that would require employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees beginning in March 2019.

The paid sick leave law and the new minimum wage law (read more about that here!) were passed with the intention of amending them after the general election in November 2018.  Both were to appear on the ballot this November but now will not as they have already been signed into law. By passing them as laws prior to the hammer-485712_1920election, Congress is now only required a majority vote to amend the laws rather than a vote of three fourths if the initiatives had been passed on the ballots in November.

As the law stands in September 2018 (subject to any future amendments), all employers in Michigan would be required to provide paid sick leave to all employees (full time, part time, temporary, etc). Employees must accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work performed. Continue reading

Employee Paid Time Off Donation Program

Let’s discuss a situation that’s somewhat common among employers.  You have an employee, Sharon, who has used all of her allowed paid time off (vacation, personal, sick, etc.) for the year. Sharon’s mother falls ill with a serious medical condition and Sharon needs to take additional time off work to help care for her mother, but she doesn’t have any paid time off available. Sharon’s coworker, Kim, has a lot of accrued paid time off with no vacation plans so she asks you if she can donate some of her available paid time off balance to Sharon to be able to use during her absence so that Sharon doesn’t have to take unpaid time off work to care for her mother. Can you allow Kim to donate her paid time off to Sharon?

You can. But it’s not that simple.

Continue reading

Encourage Your Employees to Take Breaks

Many states require that employees are allowed breaks for rest and/or meal periods (see our previous blog post here for information on your state’s requirements, if any).  But even for employers in states with no requirements, there are many reasons you should encourage your employees to take regular breaks.

While taking breaks may seem counterproductive when you want your employees to be as productive as possible during their work time, there are actually several benefits, both for the employee and the employer, when employees take breaks.

Continue reading

Handling the Death of an Employee

While nobody wants to think about tragic situations such as the death of an employee, it’s best to have a list of items to take care of should one of your employees pass away. Having a plan of action in place will help you stay organized and ensure all necessary items are addressed properly.

Prior to the death of an employee, and on an at least annual basis, it is recommended that you have employees review and update personnel forms.  These forms include emergency contacts, their life insurance and 401k forms, and health medical savings accounts.  There are many life events that can occur throughout your employees’ time with your company that can affect how their end of life benefits are administered (when applicable) such as separation, divorce, or death within their family resulting in a change of beneficiary information. Continue reading

Before a Closing or Layoff, WARN Your Employees

Were you aware that before closing a plant or laying off a large number of employees you may be required to provide advance notice to the affected employees? Many employers are not aware of this requirement.  The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires that some usdol_seal_circa_2015_svgemployers give employees at least 60 days’ advance notice prior to certain plant closings and mass layoffs.

Employers with 100 or more employees must comply with the WARN Act.  The 100 employee count does not include employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or those employees who work less than 20 hours per week. It’s important to note that even though these employees are not included in the employee count, they still must be provided notification at least 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff. Continue reading