Know where to find COVID-19 guidance
With new developments rapidly unfolding on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, employers need to know where to find the latest guidance. In this Alert, we’re sharing links to the resources we’re finding to be most helpful. We’re also tracking pending federal legislation which is expected to temporarily expand the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and mandate paid sick leave for some workers. After the bill is finalized and signed by the President, we’ll issue an Alert explaining the work-related provisions. We’ll also answer commonly asked questions in our newsletter later this week.
Federal legislation is pending
The federal legislation we’re tracking is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). The latest version of the bill, as amended by House on March 13, 2020, can be found here. As of the writing of this Alert, it hasn’t yet been posted on Congress.gov, but that’s where to follow the official copy of the bill as it winds its way through the Senate and eventually to the President’s desk. We’ll be back in touch with a summary of the final provisions after the bill is signed.
Government directives are changing rapidly
Please monitor updates from your state and local authorities to determine whether there are any restrictions that may affect your business. Below are some of the resources we continue to turn to.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Effective March 15, 2020, the CDC recommends cancellation of in-person events involving 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. This doesn’t apply to businesses, but you should be actively looking for opportunities to limit workers’ in-person contact. This may include staggering breaks and meal periods (while still complying with state law – see our Legal Guides on breaks and meal periods in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.) The CDC recommends limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people and keeping a distance of at least six feet between people, so even though these aren’t mandatory at work, they may provide a useful guide for limiting in-person interactions.
DOT drivers: In an unprecedented move, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has temporarily suspended the rules on maximum driver hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers supporting emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19.
Oregon: Governor Kate Brown announced that effective March 17, 2020, social events involving 25 or more people are prohibited in the state of Oregon for the next four weeks. Restaurants and bars will be permitted only to offer takeout and delivery. The 25-person limit doesn’t apply to workplaces such as manufacturing facilities. However, the governor is encouraging employers to evaluate options for working remotely or even temporarily closing. Reliable Oregon resources include the Oregon Governor’s Office, the Oregon Health Authority and OregonLive.
Tips For Employers: Stay on top of developments by monitoring government and news outlets, but also keep in mind the human aspects of this extraordinary situation. Ask employees how they’re doing. Consider options for people to work from home. If you have to reduce shifts or close, encourage workers to file for unemployment benefits. Many states are expanding eligibility to include people who aren’t sick but are sent home by their employers. If you offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), remind employees it’s available. Keeping your workers healthy and safe is a top priority. If you have any questions on workplace-related issues surrounding COVID-19, members can contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney. We’re here to help and we’ll be back in touch soon.