In this unprecedented business environment, many employers have been forced to take swift action to stay afloat during the pandemic. Two common actions have been furloughs and layoffs. But each raises legal risks under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN”) and related state laws.
Impact Analysis for Higher Education: Weighing Risks Posed by Demands for Tuition and Housing Refunds
“Stay-at-home” orders in response to COVID-19 have shifted learning from college classrooms to online platforms and emptied residence and dining halls. Campus administrators are responding to demands from parents and students to refund tuition, housing and meal plan costs, and student fees. Most institutions have adopted policies to reimburse prorated fees and expenses, but are not offering tuition refunds. For many families, this is not enough, and several have filed class-action lawsuits against the schools, with more likely to come.
Returning to Work: Minnesota allows more businesses to resume in-person operations starting April 27
On April 23, Governor Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-40, which expands the number of businesses permitted to operate in-person during Minnesota’s “stay-at-home” order. Under the Order, individuals working in certain types of businesses are permitted to return to work starting next week, Monday, April 27, provided other conditions are met.
Ensuring that hourly employees accurately record their work time—and that employees are paid for all work time—can be a challenge even under the best of circumstances. But it’s crucial to avoid or defend costly class litigation or audits from the Department of Labor. These “off the clock” issues may be exacerbated for employers who now have hourly employees working remotely during the pandemic. Remote work means employers have less oversight and ability to enforce timekeeping rules. This is made even more complicated because employees may be working—and responding to work requests—during odd hours as they navigate other home obligations.
Last week, the EEOC issued additional COVID-19 related guidance designed to aid employers as they begin to welcome employees back to work, including disability accommodation requests under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and anti-harassment issues. The EEOC’s expanded guidance is summarized below.
Unlike the majority of states, Minnesota has no anti-price gouging statute on its books. Minnesota has sought to ban price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic through an executive order issued by Governor Walz on March 20, 2020. Since that time, the Minnesota Attorney General has received hundreds of complaints of alleged price gouging and pursued enforcement action against many businesses. The potential also exists that private litigants could seek to bring lawsuits against businesses for alleged price gouging activity.
Some of the COVD-19 pandemic emergency loan programs limit eligibility to businesses and to nonprofits based on their size or other qualifications. Businesses or nonprofits with more than 500 employees are often left wondering what loans they can apply for, and which loans would be the best for their organizations and their needs.
ERISA lawsuits typically grow in numbers whenever there is an economic downturn. Though COVID-19’s financial impact is still unfolding, employer-sponsored employee-stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and the employers themselves are likely to once again face a heightened risk of litigation. In particular, we anticipate a rise in so-called “stock-drop” lawsuits involving ESOPs.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide Executive Order requiring large employers to provide up to 80 hours of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) for food sector workers and to permit extra handwashing breaks, effective immediately (April 16, 2020).
Saks Fifth Avenue and several luxury designers were recently hit with a nationwide class-action lawsuit regarding their alleged use of no-poach agreements to limit solicitation of retail store employees between Saks and the designers. Employers using similar agreements (written or otherwise) not to hire other companies’ employees should reconsider those agreements in light of this emerging litigation.
The Importance of Social Media In Communicating Changes and Delays To Recall Remedies and Information
In response to the global pandemic and disruptions to supply chains, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has alerted consumers for the past few weeks that recall remedies might be unavailable or otherwise delayed.
On April 9, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance to help employers manage workplace issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic without running afoul of federal non-discrimination laws. The EEOC’s updated guidance focuses primarily on employers’ obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We discuss the highlights.
During the week of April 6, 2020, several cities expanded paid sick leave entitlements during the COVID-19 crisis. We outline a few of these here.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, here's how nonprofits should be approaching board and member meetings.
CDC Issues New Guidance on Safety Measures for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Potential Exposure to COVID-19
On April 8, 2020, the CDC issued new guidance advising critical infrastructure workers (essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions that communities depend on daily) to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and certain precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) creates, for the first time, a federal requirement to issue paid sick leave and paid FMLA benefits for most private employers with fewer than 500 employees. To help offset the cost, the legislation permits employers to claim tax credits on qualifying paid leave wages, certain health plan expenses, and the employer's share of Medicare taxes.
Employers: How to Handle the New Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law That Extends Greater Protection to Front-Line Employees
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a workers’ compensation bill on April 7, 2020, to help first responders, healthcare workers and daycare workers who contract COVID-19 in the workplace. Here's what employers need to know about handling these claims.
Since shelter-in-place and self-isolation orders have become the norm around the country, more employers are utilizing video interview tools in lieu of interviewing candidates in person. These tools allow HR and hiring teams to continue to assess talent with little interruption. But Nilan Johnson Lewis labor and employment attorney Mark Girouard urges companies to keep certain legal requirements in mind before turning on the cameras.
The U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on April 2, 2020, released an Interim Final Rule regarding how the agency will implement the “Paycheck Protection Program” of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act also expands the SBA’s long-standing Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). We address some Frequently Asked Questions as to why nonprofits, foundations, and small businesses should be paying attention to these CARES Act loan programs.
On April 2, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a HIPAA enforcement update regarding disclosures made by Business Associates (BA) during COVID-19.