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COVID-19 Compliance with State and Federal Changes: Practical Guidance for Employers

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Compliance

The Department of Labor has started issuing interpretive guidance on the FFCRA, which provides for paid sick and FMLA leave for certain employees. The DOL’s guidance, along with the required Notice of Rights Poster can be found here. Covered employers must share this poster with all employees by either displaying it in a conspicuous place or otherwise distributing it. Email distribution is acceptable. See the DOL’s FAQs for more information.

Stay-at-Home Orders

Many states have issued “stay-at-home” orders, which require all non-essential workers to remain at home. Workers who support essential or critical businesses and systems are generally exempt from such orders, but only to the extent they cannot perform necessary job functions from home. To determine who is an essential or critical works, many states look to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response.” Minnesota employers can also consult this list of business sectors the Department of Employment and Economic Development (“DEED”) has categorically determined to be essential. DEED is regularly updating the list as it makes additional determinations, so be sure to check for updates periodically.

CARES Act (Unemployment and Payroll Taxes)

The massive federal rescue package, known as the CARES Act, provides a historic expansion to unemployment benefits through December 30, 2020.

  • Unemployment benefits are extended for those who are out-of-work due to COVID-19-related reasons. Specifically, a person qualifies if:
    • the individual has been diagnosed with COVID–19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 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 a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID–19;
    • a child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID–19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;
    • the individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID– 3 19 public health emergency;
    • the individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19;
    • the individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID–19 public health emergency;
    • the individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID–19;
    • the individual has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19;
    • the individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID–19 public health emergency;
    • Or other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.
  • Unemployment benefits are also extended to those who typically do not qualify, such as those who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, do not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law. These individuals must be out of work due to one of the reasons above.
  • Eligible individuals will receive $600/week in addition to the state maximum benefit. In Minnesota, benefits are capped at 50% of an employee’s average weekly salary, up to $740/week. Under CARES, an individual could receive up to $1,360/week.
  • The length of benefits will be extended to up to 39 weeks, with an additional 13-week emergency unemployment period for eligible individuals who have exhausted other benefits and remain unemployed. By contrast, unemployment benefits are capped at 26 weeks under normal circumstances.
  • The CARES Act boosts funding to Short-Time Compensation programs, which permit employers to reduce non-exempt employee hours to avoid layoffs.

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