Archive | June, 2020

Heat Illness – A Real Menace

30 Jun

Heat Illness

Workplace Safety Measures and Heat Illness Tools

Now approaching the summer season heat and as employers begin to return to work (RTW) after months of COVID-19 quarantine, they may be out of shape, out of practice on workplace safety procedures, and will be required to re-breathe hot air through face coverings.
As employers focus on COVID-19 RTW efforts, it is vital that they remain aware of risks of safety rule violations, injuries, and heat illness.
Prepare Employers & Employees for a Hot Summer:
  1. Have a Written Heat Illness Plan and a post a copy where outdoor employees are working. If you have not updated your plan in the past three years, it will not be compliant with Cal/OSHA’s current rules. Our CalWorkSafety & HR, LLC team can help you quickly update.
  2. Memorize these three words: Water – Rest – Shade. Ideally, workers require cool water as often as possible, but they may need sports beverages containing balanced electrolytes if they are sweating for several hours at a time. Employers should ensure workers can access shaded or air-conditioned rest areas to cool down as needed.
  3. New and temporary workers are most at risk. The body takes time to build a tolerance to heat (more than 70% of outdoor heat fatalities occur during a worker’s first week of working in warm or hot environments); building tolerance is called “acclimatization.” Our Heat Safety experts help companies create a Heat Illness Prevention Plan to ensure all employees are fully trained and acclimatized in the 1st work week.
  4. Indoor workers also suffer from heat illness. Kitchens, laundries, warehouses, foundries, boiler rooms and many other indoor work environments can become dangerously hot. Click below to view Cal OSHA’s workers High-Risk occupation list.
  5. Use engineering controls or modify work practices to protect employees. By increasing ventilation using cooling fans; scheduling work at a cooler time of the day; rotate job functions among workers to minimize heat exposure. Refer to the Best Practices OSHA resource.
  6. Familiarize everyone at your workplace with the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Ilness from CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention): and ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency. This includes:
  7. Common heat exhaustion signs present: dizziness, headaches, cramps, sweaty skin, nausea and vomiting, weakness, and a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke symptoms may include red, hot, dry skin; convulsions; fainting; very high temperature and confusion. Also: Pair workers with a buddy to observe each other for early signs and symptoms of heat illness … as well as Employees should call a supervisor for help if they believe someone is ill – and 911 if a supervisor is not available, or if someone shows signs of heat stroke. CalWorkSafety & HR offers training materials to help you!
  8. To help calculate the heat index at your worksite download the iPhone or Android device application – which provides specific recommendations for planning work activities and preventing heat illness based on the estimated risk level where employees are working.
  9. Ensure workers and supervisors know the location where they are working and how to direct emergency responders to your work site if needed.
  10. On high heat days, keep extra watch on workers health and stress need to drink water frequently and use cooling off breaks if needed – When the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool Features offers a visual indicator of the current heat index and associated risk levels specific to your current geographical location; Precautionary recommendations specific to heat index-associated risk levels; An interactive, hourly forecast of heat index values, risk level, and recommendations for planning outdoor work activities in advance; Editable location, temperature, and humidity controls for calculation of variable conditions and Signs and symptoms and first aid information for heat-related illnesses.
The Bottom Line
As Workers continue to Return to Work After a Prolonged
Absence Due to COVID-19
Employers should be more vigilant in refreshing employee training, especially as it relates to heat illness prevention and other safety requirements. Return to work may necessitate generalized retraining on core safety rules. We know that you will face challenging decisions during this national crisis. Please be assured that we are here to help you meet your evolving needs and thrive.

Enforce Face Covering at Work

23 Jun

Masks Required

Enforce Face Covering at Work

Our clients are now reporting new instances every day where their employees are testing positive for COVID-19. On June 19th, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to wear face coverings in most indoor settings – including offices and clients calls – and many outdoor settings. New guidance from the California Department of Public Health outlines when masks or cloth face coverings are required to assist in limiting the spread of the Coronavirus which is continuing to increase currently in California.

Do This Now! Encourage Those in Contact with Someone
Testing Positive to Get Tested – CVS Has Many Locations Where Free
Testing is Provided in LA/Orange County & Other Metro Areas
CDPH Guidance: People in CA must wear face coverings when they are in the high-risk situations below:
  • Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank.
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or para transit or while
  • Masks Now Required Everywhere in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle
  • Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when:
    • Interacting in-person with any member of the public
    • Working in any space visited by members of the public regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time
    • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others
    • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities
    • In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance.
Additionally, masks are required when operating a public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or ride-share vehicle when passengers are present and CDPH recommends then even when driving solo. Masks are also required in outdoor public spaces if six feet of physical separation is not possible.

Exemptions

Under the guidance, a face covering is not required for:
  • Persons age two years or under
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
  • Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.
  • Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they can maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
  • Persons who are incarcerated.

The Bottom Line

Existing guidelines about social distancing and frequent hand washing remain in effect.

COVID-19 continues to speed up its spreading of infection and the most important step is to have the cooperation and compliance of ALL PERSONS to limit spread by wearing face covering. Unless you stay home or are always more than six feet away from others, face covering is required and works to protect EVERYONE’s health.
CalWork Logo for Bottom Line

California Law Requires Face Masks

22 Jun

Wear Mask

CalWorkSafety clients are currently reporting new instances every day that their employees are testing positive for COVID-19.  It is now critical to enforce face coverings at work, and to encourage those who have been in contact with someone who tests positive, to get tested themselves.  Free testing is now available at many CVS locations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Inland Empire counties.

California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has ordered Californians to wear face coverings in most indoor settings, including offices and many outdoor venues.

New guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) outlines when masks or cloth face coverings are required, to assist in limiting the spread of Covid-19 that is now continuing to increase currently in California.

As reported instances of Covid-19 are currently on the rise, the most important step to take is to have the cooperation and compliance of all persons to limit the spread by wearing face coverings.  Unless staying at home or maintaining at least a distance of six feet away from others at ALL times, face coverings are required to protect everyone’s health.

CDPH guidance holds that people in California must wear face coverings when they are in the high-risk situations listed below:

  • Inside, or in line to enter, any indoor public space
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle
  • Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when these situations exist:
    • Interacting in-person with any member of the public
    • Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time
    • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to other
    • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities
    • In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present and when one is unable to physically distance

Additionally, masks are required when operating a public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or ride-share vehicle when passengers are present, and the CDPH recommends even when driving solo. Masks are also required in outdoor public spaces, if six feet of physical separation is not possible.

Exemptions

Under the guidance, a face covering is not required for the following persons:

  • Persons age two years or under
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering
    • This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines
  • Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service
  • Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence
  • Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others
  • Persons who are incarcerated

Existing guidelines regarding social distancing and frequent hand-washing remain in effect.

To ensure your business operation remains in compliance with these new California requirements, please contact us at (949) 533-3742 and one of our experienced safety and HR experts will be in touch with you right away.

COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Claim Presumption Flowchart

15 Jun

Jessica Mulholland  June 9, 2020 6  HR Watchdog – Cal Chamber

Workers Comp

In early May, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order extending workers’ compensation benefits to California employees who contract COVID-19 while working outside of their homes during the state’s stay-at-home order. This workers’ compensation benefits extension is causing some confusion, but a Sacramento-based law firm recently created a flowchart to help employers.

As previously reported, the order prompted many questions about its scope, criteria and implementation — and created a “rebuttable presumption” that workers meeting certain criteria who contract COVID-19 did so during employment (which means the law automatically assumes workers’ compensation covers their claims and shifts the burden to employers, who may then present evidence to rebut the presumption).

The California Department of Industrial Relations answered some questions in its Question and Answer page, but Sacramento-based law firm Mullen & Filippi went a step further, creating a COVID Claim Presumption Flowchart to further simplify how employers can determine whether a presumption applies.

Start at the top of the chart. If you answer yes to the first seven questions — which include whether the worker received a COVID-19 diagnosis or tested positive for the virus, whether the diagnosis was from a medical doctor holding a license from the California Medical Board and whether the diagnosis was confirmed with a positive virus or antibody test within 30 days, to name a few — COVID-19 is presumed as an industrial injury. This means that, unless you can rebut the presumption by providing evidence of an alternate cause, you must provide workers’ compensation benefits. If, however, you answer no to any of the questions, no presumption exists, and the normal evidentiary rules apply.

Assuming the claim is compensable, employers can use page two of the flow chart to help determine apportionment, compensable consequences, death benefits and temporary total disability benefits.

This executive order is retroactive to March 19, 2020, and extends through July 5, 2020.

Jessica Mulholland, Managing Editor, CalChamber

For more COVID-19-related federal, state and local resources, visit the CalChamber Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage and access additional COVID-19-related HRWatchdog blogs.

Can an employee refuse to return to work?

HR CAlif. 6/11/2020

Yes. Although you can’t force a furloughed employee to return to work, their refusal to return may disqualify them from receiving unemployment benefits.

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has released general guidance on COVID-19-related unemployment benefits.

For example, if a business has abided by local and state guidelines and is providing adequate employee protections, an employee who refuses to return to work out of a general fear of contracting COVID-19 wouldn’t qualify to receive unemployment benefits.

If, however, the business doesn’t have proper protective measures in place, an employee can use the lack of protective measures as a valid reason for not returning to work and will thus be able to claim unemployment benefits.

An employee who earns more money on unemployment cannot use the higher pay as a valid reason for refusing to return to work; their refusal would disqualify them from receiving unemployment benefits.

If an employee doesn’t have suitable childcare and cannot return work, it would likely be good cause for not returning to work and the employee would likely be able to keep their unemployment benefits.

Read more about Unemployment Insurance in the HR Library and HRCalifornia Extra’s Unemployment Insurance: A Guide for Employers with Newly Displaced Workers.

Q&As

OSHA Issues FAQ on Face Coverings

The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators.

JUN 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of masks in the workplace.

“As our economy reopens for business, millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”

The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. It further reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on washing face coverings.

These frequently asked questions and answers mark the latest guidance from OSHA addressing protective measures for workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OSHA published numerous guidance documents for workers and employers, available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/, including five guidance documents aimed at expanding the availability of respirators.

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage.

 

Employers Learn How To Help Employees Who Test Positive to COVID-19

10 Jun

June 2020

JOIN OUR   

JUNE 18th  BROADCAST  

Remember …  

Many people have heard this … but like the flight attendant’s warning … we tend to ignore the information unless our plane begins losing altitude. Your goal and ours is to AVOID THE CRASH!

Pat Haley

PAT HALEY

Her effective communication style and problem-solving abilities enable Pat to partner with diverse businesses where emphasis on employee relations matters and both management and employee training helps resolve problems.

WE LOOK

FORWARD TO

YOU JOINING
US …

Pandemic Support

Please Attend Our Broadcast

When: Thursday, June 18   

Time: 10:00 AM pst  

Speaker: Pat Haley

 PHR, CPCU, 

HR & Employee Conflict Trainer 

Topic: Employers Learn How To

Help Employees Who Test Positive to COVID-19
Everyone is back to work and our business is almost back to normal … Or so we thought. Then 3 Weeks Later … when a manager gets a call on a Monday morning – from a customer service employee:

   “I guess I won’t be in for a while…the voice said.

   “I was tested on Saturday afternoon and just got the report”

   “I tested Positive for Covid-19 …What should I do?”

Learn 8 Steps: What to Expect & What to Do

    1. Communication with the Employee – Specific
    2. HR & Recordkeeping – Sample forms
    3. Communication with Close Contacts
    4. Communication with Managers & Supervisors
    5. Communication with Employees
    6. Reactions to the Announcement
    7. Responses to Employees’ Reactions
    8. When the Employee Returns

To Participate Join Zoom Meeting Now:

Meeting ID: 868 8469 7055

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86884697055 

One tap mobile: Find your local number: 

https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kfIULvaz9

CalWork Logo for Bottom Line

Local Minimum Wage Increases Coming July 1

8 Jun

Bianca Saad  June 2, 2020 HR Watchdog – Cal Chamber

Minimum Wage

July is just around the corner, and with it comes several local minimum wage increases throughout California. Here’s a list of localities that will have minimum wage increases effective July 1, 2020:

  • Alameda: $15/hour.
  • Berkeley: $16.07/hour.
  • Emeryville: $16.84/hour;
  • Fremont: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $13.50/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Los Angeles City: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Los Angeles County (unincorporated areas): $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Malibu: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Milpitas: $15.40/hour.
  • Novato: $15/hour for employers with 100 or more employees; $14/hour for employers with 26-99 employees; $13/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Pasadena: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • San Francisco: $16.07/hour.
  • San Leandro: $15/hour.
  • Santa Monica: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • (NEW) Santa Rosa: $15/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $14/hour for employers with fewer than 25 employees.

Note: Eligibility rules may vary based on different locations

Santa Rosa’s City Council recently considered whether to delay the implementation of the city’s minimum wage ordinance due to businesses’ struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic but, ultimately, decided to proceed as planned. Santa Rosa’s minimum wage rates will increase again on January 1, 2021, and will be $15/hour plus annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for both large and small businesses.

Minimum Wage Delays

Due to the economic burdens imposed on businesses due to COVID-19, two city councils did decide to delay implementation of their recently adopted minimum wage ordinances: Hayward and San Carlos. Initially slated to take effect on July 1, 2020, both localities’ minimum wage rates will increase beginning January 1, 2021.

San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance Expansion

San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Ordinance, which requires employers to provide supplemental compensation to employees collecting California Paid Family Leave wage replacement benefits, will increase paid supplementation from six weeks to eight weeks on July 1, 2020. This aligns the ordinance with the state’s expansion of Paid Family Leave benefits for all claim effective dates beginning on or after July 1, 2020. A new poster is anticipated.

Many of these local ordinances contain notice requirements, but, thankfully, the CalChamber store sells required posters that are compliant with various California city and county local ordinances. Check to see if your city or county has any required posters.

Employers should review their hourly wage rates for their employees working in any local jurisdictions listed above and make any necessary adjustments by July 1 to comply. Don’t forget to pay attention to where your remote employees are located, as they could be subject to local minimum wage and other ordinances they may not typically be when reporting to the worksite.

Bianca Saad, Employment Law Subject Matter Expert, CalChamber

Most Counties in California Now Permitted to Move to Accelerated Stage 2 Reopening

By Ellen E. Cohen & Sarah H. Scheinhorn on June 4, 2020 Jackson Lewis PC

covid_reopening_roadmap

At the beginning of May, California implemented a staged reopening for businesses closed due to the shelter in place orders resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan, referred to as the “Resilience Roadmap” allowed for counties to apply for a variance if certain criteria set by the state public health officer are met. The variances allow counties to proceed with reopening certain businesses not permitted under the overall state plan.

To date, a majority of counties have been granted variances that permit dine-in restaurants, hair salons, and barbershops to reopen pursuant to specific guidance, in particular, pertaining to conducting work at these businesses.

As businesses prepare to reopen, they should remember that the state mandates all facilities that reopen must:

  1. Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan
  2. Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them
  3. Implement individual control measures and screenings
  4. Implement disinfecting protocols
  5. Implement physical distancing guidelines

In addition to the State requirements, the individual counties have their own health orders which at times include additional requirements along with state mandates. Many counties require businesses to post social distancing protocols at the worksite. For example, the County of Los Angeles has developed several protocols for businesses such as retail stores, hair salons, and restaurants.

Along with social distancing and similar protocols, many counties are including other requirements as businesses bring employees back to work. San Diego County, one of the first more populace counties to be granted a variance, mandates temperature checks for employees in certain industries. Sonoma County has deployed a cell phone application that employers are required to use (unless they can provide the county with the same information by an alternative means) which verifies that employees are symptom and fever-free.

As employers move toward bringing more employees back to work, they should review state and county orders to ensure they are complying with location-specific requirements. Employers will also need to continue to monitor changes as some counties have suggested that reopening may be rolled back as necessary due to COVID-19 spikes.

Congress Approves Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act

By Amberly Morgan on  June 4, 2020 Littler law firm.

PPP Loan Faq

Update: The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act was signed into law on June 5, 2020 following the U.S. Senate passage by voice vote the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010). The House of Representatives had approved this bill with near unanimity on May 28. Generally, the PPP provides low-interest, forgivable loans to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new bill responds to complaints that the strict requirements on how employers spend the PPP funds disqualify them from obtaining the promised loan forgiveness, given the ongoing inability for many businesses to reopen. The bill is expected to be signed into law.

What changes would the bill make to the PPP?

The bill relaxes a number of the program’s requirements. Specifically, the bill:

  • Reduces the percentage of the loan that must be used on payroll expenses. The first Interim Final Rule interpreting the PPP required borrowers to spend at least 75% of loan proceeds on payroll costs. No more than 25% of non-payroll costs would be eligible for loan forgiveness. H.R. 7010 allows borrowers to spend up to 40% on allowable non-payroll costs, such as covered rents, utilities and mortgage interest. This change is especially welcome to borrowers that have been unable to reopen but are still obligated to pay rent, mortgages and utilities.
  • Provides more time for borrowers to spend loan funds and meet forgiveness requirements. The PPP requires borrowers to spend loan proceeds during an eight-week Covered Period. Additionally, subject to certain Safe Harbor provisions, the PPP required borrowers to maintain headcount and wages within the Covered Period relative to specified reference periods in order to obtain full loan forgiveness. Now borrowers have the option to extend the Covered Period until the earlier of 24 weeks after loan origination or the end of the year. This flexibility better meets the needs of borrowers that have been unable to reopen but need the PPP funds in order to do so.
  • Increases the time to repay unforgiven loan amounts. The PPP statutory text provides that any loan balance not forgiven would have a maximum maturity of 10 years. The SBA determined that loans would mature in two years. The bill amends the PPP to provide for a minimum maturity of five years, but also allows lenders and borrowers to mutually agree to modify the maturity terms.
  • Lengthens the term of payment deferral. The PPP provides that borrowers are not required to make loan payments (including principle, interest and fees) for at least six months and up to one year.  Under H.R. 7010, such payments can be deferred until the amount of forgiveness is remitted to the lender by the SBA or until at least 10 months after the last day of the borrower’s Covered Period if the borrower has not yet applied for loan forgiveness. This removes the requirement that borrowers make payments on loan balances while awaiting a decision on loan forgiveness.
  • Extends the Safe Harbor for restoration of headcount and wages. The PPP provides a Safe Harbor that allows borrowers an extended time to restore full-time equivalent (FTE) employees and salary or wages that were reduced between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020, while still obtaining loan forgiveness. The bill extends this Safe Harbor from June 30, 2020 until December 31, 2020. This addresses difficulties employers are having related to rehiring workers, finding replacement workers, and continued delays in reopening.
  • Expands protections for borrowers unable to rehire staff or unable to return to pre-COVID business levels due to social distancing measures. Borrowers unable to restore headcount will potentially be able to obtain full loan forgiveness.  Under the terms of the bill, if the borrower can document, in good faith, the inability to re-hire individuals who were the borrower’s employees as of February 15, 2020 and an inability to hire similarly qualified individuals for unfilled positions on or before December 31, 2020, then reductions to FTEs will not impact loan forgiveness. Similarly, reductions to FTEs will not impact loan forgiveness if the borrower is able to document an inability to return to the same level of business activity as prior to February 15, 2020 due to compliance with worker or customer safety requirements related to COVID-19.
  • Permits borrowers to defer payroll taxes. PPP recipients who received any amount of loan forgiveness were previously not able to defer payment of payroll taxes as provided in section 2303 of the CARES Act. The new amendments would remove that restriction.

Next Steps

The bill is now official and its amendments take effect as if they were included in the original CARES Act, the law that created the PPP.  Employers should evaluate their use of PPP funds in light of these new changes and consult with knowledgeable counsel to evaluate the available options for using loan funds and maximizing loan forgiveness.

Employers Must Post Certain Notices Upon Re-opening in Orange, San Diego, and Los Angeles Counties

1 Jun

May 30, 2020 from Payne & Fears PC

Reopen

As counties move to re-open businesses, many counties have issued requirements for businesses to post notices regarding their compliance with safe re-opening protocols.

Orange County

On May 29, 2020, and effective the same day, the County Health Officer of the Orange County Health Care Agency issued an amended order and strong recommendations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Included in this amended order was a mandate that all businesses, industries, and entities listed on the state’s websites on industry guidance and county roadmaps that reopen in Orange County as part of Stage 2 of the State’s Resilience Roadmap post certain notices. All re-opening businesses, industries, and entities must post the following in a location visible to the public at the public entrances of each property:

  1. Industry-specific checklist. The State of California has prepared checklists for a variety of industries and businesses to help these employers implement their plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These checklists can be found here. Scroll down to find your industry/business type and press the “+” on the right side. The checklists will be linked below.
  2. An attestation by the owner and/or operator that the business has:
  • Performed a detailed risk assessment and implemented a site-specific protection plan;
  • Trained employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them;
  • Implemented individual control measures and screenings;
  • Implemented disinfecting protocols; and
  • Implemented physical distancing guidelines.

San Diego County

San Diego County has a similar mandate effective as of May 27, 2020: All reopened businesses, other than restaurants providing dine-in services, must prepare and post a “Safe Reopening Plan” on this form for each of their facilities in the county. Restaurants providing dine-in services must prepare and post a “COVID-19 Restaurant Operating Protocol” on this form for each restaurant in the county. These documents must be posted at or near the entrance of the relevant facility and shall be easily viewable by the public and employees. Note that a copy of the Safe Reopening Plan or COVID-19 Restaurant Operating Protocol must also be provided to each employee performing work at the facility.

Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County has had similar notice requirements in place. Relevant businesses must post the relevant protocol notice at or near the entrance to the facility so that it is easily viewable by the public and employees. The required protocol that a business must post depends on the type of business. The order describes what protocol businesses need to post. The relevant information of the order starts on page 8. LA also has a website with available signs for businesses to post.

Other counties have similar requirements.

Small Business Administration Issues Additional Guidance on Forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program Loans

PPP-loan-forgiveness-guidelines-payroll-457x305

By Melissa Ostrower and Robert R. Perry May 26, 2020, Jackson Lewis PC

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued guidance on the forgiveness provisions applicable to loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by the CARES Act.

The SBA was required to issue guidance on these provisions within 30 days of the enactment of the CARES Act, or no later than April 26, 2020. On May 15, 2020, the SBA issued guidance in the form of the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application and Instructions. On May 22, 2020, the SBA issued additional guidance in the form of an Interim Final Rule.

(For details on PPP, see our article, Paycheck Protection Program Loans: Basics for Small Businesses, Sole Proprietorships.)

The Forgiveness Application answers many questions, including:

  1. Is there flexibility in determining Covered Period?

Under previously issued guidance, the SBA made clear that the Covered Period is the eight-week (56-day) period following the date the PPP loan proceeds are disbursed. For example, if the employer received its PPP loan proceeds on Monday, April 20, the first day of the Covered Period is April 20 and the last day of the Covered Period is Sunday, June 14.

In the Forgiveness Application, the SBA has introduced an Alternative Payroll Covered Period concept. Under this alternative, employers with a biweekly (or more frequent) payroll schedule may elect to calculate eligible payroll costs using the eight-week (56-day) period that begins on the first day of their first pay period following their PPP Loan Disbursement Date (Alternative Payroll Covered Period). For example, if the employer received its PPP loan proceeds on Monday, April 20, and the first day of its first pay period following its PPP loan disbursement is Sunday, April 26, the first day of the Alternative Payroll Covered Period is April 26 and the last day of the Alternative Payroll Covered Period is Saturday, June 20.

  1. What are “costs incurred and payments made” during the Covered Period?

The Forgiveness Application provides: “Borrowers are generally eligible for forgiveness for the payroll costs paid and payroll costs incurred during the eight-week (56-day) Covered Period (or Alternative Payroll Covered Period).” (Emphasis added.) Costs that are incurred but not paid during the applicable period are eligible for forgiveness if they are paid on or before the next regular payroll date (for payroll costs) or before the next regular billing date (for nonpayroll costs.)

Additionally, the Forgiveness Application provides that eligible nonpayroll costs eligible for forgiveness include expenses paid during the Covered Period or incurred during the Covered Period and paid on or before the next regular billing date, even if the billing date is after the Covered Period. This provision appears to permit the payment of past due eligible nonpayroll costs during the applicable period (subject to the 25% limitation on nonpayroll costs).

  1. What does “full-time equivalent employee” mean?

The Forgiveness Application is the first guidance to shed light on the meaning of “full-time equivalent.” This critical term was not defined in the CARES Act or addressed in any other guidance issued.

To calculate the average full-time equivalency (FTE) during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period, determine the average number of hours paid for each employee per week, divide by 40, and round the result to the nearest one-tenth (but in no event greater than 1.0). Employers with a workforce that has a lower headcount but greater hours and earnings (such as a nursing home) get no extra credit (and could actually be penalized, depending on applicable facts and circumstances) under this formula. A simplified method that assigns a 1.0 for employees who work 40 hours or more per week and 0.5 for employees who work fewer hours may be used at the election of the employer.

The reference to “employee” and “paid” in this definition suggests that furloughed employees or other employees receiving pay while not rendering services should be included in the FTE calculation. However, as terminated employees are generally no longer considered to be “employees,” it is unlikely that former employees who are receiving pay can be included.

  1. If an employer decides to pay furloughed employees or to give employees bonuses or raises during the Covered Period or Alternative Payroll Covered Period, do these count as payroll costs?

When calculating cash payroll costs under the Forgiveness Application, the borrower is directed to include the sum of gross salary, gross wages, gross tips, gross commissions, paid leave (vacation, family, medical or sick leave, not including leave covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), and allowances for dismissal or separation paid or incurred during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period (subject to the $100,000 annual salary cap, as prorated for the Covered Period).

The Interim Final Rule clarifies that:

  • If a borrower pays furloughed employees their salary, wages, or commissions during the Covered Period, those payments are eligible for forgiveness, as long as they do not exceed an annual salary of $100,000, as prorated for the Covered Period; and
  • If an employee’s total compensation does not exceed $100,000 on an annualized basis, the employee’s hazard pay and bonuses are eligible for loan forgiveness, because they constitute a supplement to salary or wages, and are thus a similar form of compensation.
  1. Are some FTE reductions excluded?

Yes. The Forgiveness Application recognizes it is appropriate to exclude certain employees from the FTE calculation. The following FTE reductions do not reduce an employer’s loan forgiveness:

  • Any positions for which the employer made a good-faith, written offer to rehire an employee during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period that was rejected by the employee (previously announced in FAQ 40); and
  • Any employees who during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period (a) were fired for cause, (b) voluntarily resigned, or (c) voluntarily requested and received a reduction of their hours.

The Interim Final Rule adds the following requirement to the rehire provision: The employer must have informed the applicable state unemployment insurance office of each employee’s rejected offer of reemployment within 30 days of the employee’s rejection of the offer. Further information regarding how borrowers will report information concerning rejected rehire offers to state unemployment insurance offices will be provided on SBA’s website.

To utilize these exceptions, employers must maintain documentation regarding any employee job offers and refusals, firings for cause, voluntary resignations, and written requests by any employee for reductions in work schedule.

  1. How do salary and wage reductions affect the forgiveness calculation?

The Forgiveness Application provides detailed guidance on how to calculate the loan forgiveness amount where the salary or hourly wages of certain employees have been reduced during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period (as compared to the January 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020, period). If the employer timely restored or restores salary/hourly wage levels, the employer may be eligible for elimination of the Salary/Hourly Wage Reduction amount.

The Interim Final Rules clarifies that to ensure borrowers are not doubly penalized, the salary/wage reduction applies only to the portion of the decline in employee salary and wages that is not attributable to the FTE reduction. Thus, if a terminated employee is excluded from the numerator of the FTE reduction fraction, the reduction in the employee’s salary or wages is not also deducted from the forgiveness amount.

  1. What about amounts paid to general partners and members of an LLC?

The Forgiveness Application also clarifies whether and to what extent amounts paid to partners and LLC members count as potentially forgiven payroll costs. Line 9 of Schedule A includes in the calculation of payroll costs the “[t]otal amount paid to owner-employees/self-employed individual/general partners.” The instructions to Schedule A provide that Line 9 includes “any amounts paid to owners (owner-employees, a self-employed individual, or general partners) … capped at $15,385 (the eight-week equivalent of $100,000 per year) for each individual or the eight-week equivalent of their applicable compensation in 2019, whichever is lower.”

Cal/OSHA Expands Employer Injury and Illness Prevention Program Requirements

May 27 2020 – COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Workplace Safety – Matthew J. Roberts, Esq.

CalOsha

Cal/OSHA has provided guidance on COVID-19-related employee training including cough and sneeze etiquette.

The California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known as Cal/OSHA, continues to modify rules and guidance for businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. General industry and several industry-specific rules and guidelines have been modified. Recently, Cal/OSHA modified its rules and guidance on all employers’ obligation to establish and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

Under California law, employers must establish, implement and maintain an IIPP to protect employees from hazardous workplace conditions. The IIPP must be in writing, accessible to employees and contain several provisions including:

  • Procedures for creating safe and healthful work practices;
  • Procedures for identifying, evaluating and investigating workplace hazards, injuries and illnesses;
  • Systems for communicating hazards to employees; and
  • Employee training whenever the employer learns of a new or unrecognized hazard.

When COVID-19 infections started appearing, employers were required to determine if COVID-19 infection was a workplace hazard. Now that COVID-19 is a pandemic with widespread community exposure, employers must update their IIPPs with measures to control infection in the workplace.

Cal/OSHA instructs employers to follow applicable and relevant recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cal/OSHA references two CDC publications for employers to use when establishing infection prevention measures: Interim Guidance for Business and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself & Others.

In addition, Cal/OSHA has provided guidance on COVID-19-related employee training which includes the following components:

  • Training provided in a language readily understood by all employees.
  • General description of COVID-19, symptoms, when to seek medical attention, how to prevent its spread and the employer’s procedures for preventing its spread at the workplace.
  • How an infected person can spread COVID-19 to others even if they are not sick.
  • How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using cloth face covers, including:
    • CDC guidelines that everyone should use cloth face covers when around other persons.
    • How cloth face covers can help protect persons around the user when combined with physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.
    • Information that cloth face covers are not protective equipment and don’t protect the person wearing a cloth face cover from COVID-19.
    • Instructions on washing and sanitizing hands before and after using face coverings, which should be washed after each shift.
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, after interacting with other persons and after contacting shared surfaces or objects.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding sharing personal items with coworkers (i.e., dishes, cups, utensils, towels).
  • Providing tissues, no-touch disposal trash cans and hand sanitizer for use by employees.
  • Safely using cleaners and disinfectants, which includes:
    • The hazards of the cleaners and disinfectants used at the worksite.
    • Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) (such as gloves).
    • Ensuring cleaners and disinfectants are used in a manner that does not endanger employees.

Employers may access the full general industry guidance on the Cal/OSHA website. Several additional guidelines for specific industries, such as agriculture, childcare and construction, can be viewed here. Employers who need to update their written IIPP should consult with legal counsel to ensure that it meets with the requirements under California law.

Matthew J. Roberts, Esq., Employment Law Counsel Subject Matter Expert