As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, it’s imperative to prioritize the rapidly evolving state and federal level regulations and act accordingly to ensure your business is complying, but also accessing available federal and state assistance. In an effort to help navigate the unique challenges government contractors face during this time, our attorneys will discuss recent developments and preview risks associated with what has essentially become war-time contracting.

In this webinar, Labor & Employment attorney Tim Garrett will join Bass, Berry & Sims’ Government Contracts and Isaac Natter, Associate General Counsel (Acquisition & Logistics) at the Department of Defense (DoD) to discuss these timely developments and offer practical guidance on key topics of interest, including:

  • A DoD insider’s view on the new Section 3610 “Ready State” CARES Act Authority
  • Latest on SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program
  • Overview of FFCRA benefits and qualifying reasons
  • Contractual issues such as excusable delays, stop-work order and terminations
  • Government use of the Defense Production Act in response to
    COVID-19

WEBINAR DETAILS

Title: Fighting the Virus: Update on COVID-19 Issues Impacting Government Contractors

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2020 Time: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT

Who Should Attend

  • Executives
  • Private equity professionals
  • Management professionals
  • General counsel
  • Other in-house legal and compliance personnel of government contractors, financial institutions and manufacturers

I recently explained how employers can legally respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 in an article for the Washington Business Journal. Many employers think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) protects employee health information, but that pertains specifically to health providers.

For employers, the Americans with Disabilities Act, protects the privacy of a workers health records and information, so employers may ask employees if they’ve tested positive for the coronavirus, but must keep that information confidential in accordance with the ADA.

When it comes to taking an employee’s temperature, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to get thermometer readings given the potential direct threat to others who could be exposed. I advised in the article to “treat this like a real medical test,” and go to a private room to take someone’s temperature and keep results completely confidential in that employee’s medical file.

Continue Reading Working in the Age of the Coronavirus

Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Davidson French, Bob Horton and Kimberly Veirs recently presented a Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management’s (MTSHRM) webinar.

The webinar, entitled “Update on Federal Legislation in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic Impacting Employers,” reviewed the latest DOL guidance for employers implementing the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act as well as provide general guidance regarding the elements of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Access the recording here.

Since the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), many healthcare organizations, especially those with a structure that includes a friendly or captive PC model, have struggled to determine whether they may aggregate employees across all affiliated entities to reach the 500-employee threshold that exempts employers from the paid leave requirements of the FFCRA.

However, based on rolling FFCRA guidance recently issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), employers of healthcare providers may exclude such employees captured by the DOL’s definition of healthcare provider from paid leave benefits under the FFCRA.  Because of the broad scope of the definition of healthcare provider recently provided by the DOL, many healthcare organizations and even those entities that provide services to healthcare organizations may be able to exclude all of their employees from paid leave benefits under the FFCRA regardless of whether they meet the 500-employee threshold.

Continue Reading DOL Offers Definition of Healthcare Provider under FFCRA

Please note that the content below was posted on March 30, 2020. We have since provided updated guidance on the topics discussed in this post here.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is issuing ongoing guidance regarding the application of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The guidance has provided answers to many pressing questions faced by employers as they prepare to implement the FFCRA’s requirements starting April 1, 2020, including how a “healthcare provider” is defined, whether furloughed employees are entitled to paid leave benefits, whether leave under the FFCRA may be taken intermittently, and the application of the small business exception.  DOL’s guidance can be found here.  Below is a summary of some of the most common FAQs.

Continue Reading DOL Issues Second Round of Guidance on FFCRA

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the new stimulus package recently passed by Congress, includes a “union neutrality” mandate for mid-sized employers who accept loan proceeds.  This union neutrality commitment would be in place for the life of the loan.  Mid-sized employers are defined as those with 500 to 10,000 employees.

For many years, to assist their organizing efforts, unions have demanded of certain multi-state employers that they commit to “stay neutral” in union organizing campaigns at other company sites.  Such neutrality demands have included asking the employer not to express opinions which disfavor the union’s organizing efforts, or not to hold captive audience speeches during the union’s organizing drive, or to accept a showing of majority status by way of checking authorization cards (i.e., that the employer not demand a secret-ballot election to determine if the union has majority support).

Continue Reading Employers Beware – Union Neutrality Requirements in New Stimulus Package

Government-mandated protocols and social distancing directives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to significant business interruptions and tremendous financial strain on employers. These measures may continue to disrupt businesses and the economy for the foreseeable future. As a result, employers are faced with difficult choices regarding their employees – including how to keep them working during this unprecedented time and for many employers, possibly reducing employees’ hours, furloughing employees, or terminations – all of which can directly affect retirement plans and other types of employee benefit plans. In addition, a wave of new federal legislation affecting employee benefit plans, much of which is intended to provide relief to employees, is being rolled out.

Bass, Berry & Sims’ employee benefits attorneys have compiled a series of FAQs providing the latest guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on employee benefit plans. We are closely monitoring the government’s response to this developing situation and will update our website with further guidance as it unfolds.

Please note that the content below was posted on March 26, 2020. We have since provided updated guidance on the topics discussed in this post here.

The Department of Labor has issued a Notice Poster outlining employees’ rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s (FFCRA). This poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place in a location visible to employees and is available for download on the DOL website.  Additional facts regarding posting requirements can be found here.

Both the FFCRA’s leave provisions (Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA) apply to private employers with fewer than 500 employees.  The Department of Labor has issued a Questions and Answers resource addressing one of the FFCRA’s most lingering questions – which employees are counted for purposes of the 500 or less employee threshold?

Continue Reading DOL Issues Notice Poster and Answers to FFCRA Frequently Asked Questions Clarifying 500-Employee Threshold

COVID-19 is spreading and testing, in many states, is increasing.  As a result, increasing numbers of employers will be faced with the reality of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.  When that happens, what’s an employer to do?  Below are some FAQs about COVID-19 in the workplace.

An employee has tested positive.  What can an employer do?

Send the employee home immediately.  The employer may require a doctor’s note releasing the employee to return to work, although the CDC has asked employers to consider foregoing such documentation due to current healthcare constraints.  If the employer chooses to forego the medical release to work, the CDC has provided that employees should not return to work until they are free of fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and any other COVID-19-related symptoms for at least 24 hours.  The CDC has indicated that healthcare professionals diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to work after seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared AND after three days have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms.

The employer should consider a deep clean of the employee’s workplace, including common areas.  The employer has the option to notify the diagnosed employee’s co-workers of the diagnosis, without releasing the employee’s name.  A sample notice is below:

Continue Reading COVID-19 in the Workplace: Employer FAQs

The economic repercussions of COVID-19 have been immediate and in many cases, debilitating, to American business across all industries, from food & beverage to manufacturing to healthcare.  Challenges faced include government-mandated closures of certain “non-essential” businesses and reduced demand of products and/or services.  As business revenue plummets, many companies are faced with the need to cut significant human capital costs in order to keep their business afloat.  Below are some options for companies to consider as they work to address reduced staffing needs.

Furlough

While the term furlough is used to describe various arrangements, typically a furlough is an unpaid leave of absence.  A furlough is often ideal for employers who anticipate a temporary need for reduced staffing.  Employees on furlough are still technically employed by the employer and, as a result, may be able to remain on the employer’s group health plan(s) if permitted by the terms of the plan(s).  Employers may require employees to pay the applicable employee portion of the premium during the furlough.  If the employer’s group health plan(s) is not available to employees on furlough, COBRA coverage would commence.  Also, many states allow for unemployment compensation to employees on an unpaid furlough.

Continue Reading Workforce Reduction Options Amid COVID-19