• Your People Professionals: COVID-19 Updates

    We have been getting some common questions:

    Can I require employees who are sick to stay home?
    Yes, you can require sick employees to stay home, or send them home if they come to work sick, without violating the ADA.   For these employees, we have to pay sick leave, including the new federally mandated sick leave once that is effective.

    My business meets the critical infrastructure criteria to remain operating.  I have an employee (or multiple) who have said they do not want to report to work.  What can I do?
    First, we need to ensure that we know the reason(s) why an employee does not want to report for work.   If the employee is immuno-compromised, is caring for someone ill with COVID-19 or other qualifying reasons, we need to determine if he or she qualifies for applicable sick, disability, unemployment or leave laws.  If none of those apply and the employee just doesn’t want to come to work, most likely due to fears of COVID-19, you can tell them that there is work available and you need them to report.  If they really do not want to, let them know that if they prefer not to work they can stay home, but that will be treated as voluntary and we do not believe they will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

    We have requested some of our employees to work remotely to minimize the number of people in the office and ensure safe social distancing.  Can an employee refuse to work remotely?
    We do not believe an employee can make their own determination where they perform their work, as employers are obligated to provide a safe working environment.  Remember, however, that for remote work you need to ensure employees have the equipment and tools needed to perform remote work, and you need to reimburse expenses like phones, etc.

    Some additional updates for today:

    DHS has recognized the challenges of verifying I9 documents with COVID-19 and have provided interim guidance.  Employers observing social distancing measures, including remote work, will not be required to view the documents in the direct presence of employees.   The new rules can be reviewed at https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/dhs-announces-flexibility-requirements-related-form-i-9-compliance. Note this important part of that release:  Employers who avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. This burden rests solely with the employers.  If you plan to hire and use the temporary I9 procedures, please contact our HR team for assistance preparing this required policy.  

    Federal guidance is beginning to be issued for the employer reimbursements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  In a release last Friday, promises to make prompt payments to businesses whose SSA tax is not sufficient to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave, and they are to provide details on an expedited procedure this week.  You can review the release here:  https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/treasury-irs-and-labor-announce-plan-to-implement-coronavirus-related-paid-leave-for-workers-and-tax-credits-for-small-and-midsize-businesses-to-swiftly-recover-the-cost-of-providing-coronavirus.   

    On March 18th, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a notice - http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/2020/upload/nr030-BillingGracePeriodNotice03182020.pdf – requesting insurance carriers to provide insureds with at least a 60-day grace period.  The current grace period for health insurance plans is 30 days.  We will be contacting all brokers we work with on behalf of clients this week to identify all carriers who are complying with this request.

    The second stimulus package failed a vote this afternoon, so we need to continue to monitor that to determine any additional relief that may be available.   If you have not already, you should review this legislation, as well as the SBA emergency legislation from last week, with your CPA to determine if either of these would be suitable for your business.