Virginia update: Governor loosens pandemic restrictions, except in Northern Virginia, Richmond City, and Accomack County

On May 8, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 61 outlining Phase One of the commonwealth’s plan to gradually ease temporary public health and business restrictions related to COVID-19, effective May 15, 2020, through at least June 10, 2020. Since issuing Executive Order 61, however, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 62 delaying this reopening for the following jurisdictions through at least May 28, 2020: the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park, and the Towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna. The order stated that the Northern Virginia region has about a 25-percent rate of positive tests for COVID-19, while the rest of the commonwealth is closer to 10 percent. In addition, just hours before reopening was set to take effect, Governor Northam amended Executive Order 62 to also exclude the City of Richmond and the County of Accomack from the May 15 reopening.

The Executive Orders outline the following Phase One requirements for Virginia (except for the excluded counties): Continue Reading

New York announces additional reopening guidance, including a regional monitoring dashboard

As we previously detailed, last week New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined guidelines for when Empire State businesses can reopen and return to “in-person” operations.  Under the Governor’s plan, reopenings will be determined, first, on a region-by-region and then, once a region is eligible to reopen, on a phased industry-by-industry basis.

In the wake of Governor Cuomo’s announcement, New York businesses have been clamoring for additional information on the reopening requirements.  Yesterday, the Governor provided such information – specifically, he:

  • Unveiled a regional monitoring dashboard – available here – showing where each of the Empire State’s 10 regions stands with regard to satisfying the Governor’s criteria for reopening.

According to the dashboard, the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley regions have each satisfied all seven of the Governor’s reopening criteria.  This means that, starting on May 15 (when the State’s “stay at home” order lifts), these three regions can likely reopen “phase one” businesses, which include construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, select retail for curbside pickup only, agriculture, forestry, and fishing (a comprehensive list can be found here).

New York City has, thus far, satisfied the fewest reopening criteria – four – of any region.

  • Released a comprehensive, 51-page “New York Forward Reopening” plan –available here. The plan addresses business reopenings plus a host of other COVID-19-related issues.
  • Announced that certain low-risk businesses and recreational activities, including landscaping, gardening, tennis, and drive-in movie theaters, will reopen statewide on May 15.

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California Executive Order expands workers’ compensation eligibility for employees diagnosed with COVID-19

On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, which dramatically expands workers’ compensation eligibility for employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19, as part of his continued plan to create a robust safety net for California workers. The Order creates a rebuttable presumption that employees who test positive for or are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at their place of employment contracted the virus while at work.

To be entitled to this presumption, an employee must show: (1) the employee was diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at the employee’s place of employment and under the employer’s direction; (2) the work day at issue was on or after March 19, 2020; (3) the place of employment at issue was not the employee’s place of residence; and (4) when the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was done by a California board-certified physician and confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the initial diagnosis.

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Returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic: Employer’s rights and obligations to high-risk workers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated and expanded a Technical Assistance Publication on May 5, 2020, and then again on May 7, 2020, focusing on employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EEOC’s guidance comes as many states are reopening their economies and allowing businesses to admit employees back into the workplace.

The Question-and-Answer format of the updated publication reminds employers of their obligation to continue to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace, even in the middle of a pandemic. Of particular interest to employers are situations where the worker is already known to have a medical condition that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has flagged as putting the individual at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The full CDC list is available here, and includes people with moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity, diabetes, and many other impairments. The EEOC’s position regarding the employer’s rights and obligations when returning such individuals to the workplace has two key parts.

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Pennsylvania’s governor issues additional requirements for businesses currently authorized to be open

On May 4, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a document titled “Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency” (the Business Guidance or the Guidance). The Business Guidance contains the latest requirements applicable to businesses during Pennsylvania’s Red, Yellow, Green phased reopening approach. These new requirements are directed at businesses already conducting in-person operations during the Red phase, and those businesses preparing to open in-person operations in counties designated in the Yellow phase. The governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania has more information regarding Pennsylvania’s phased reopening approach. Briefly, in counties designated as Red phase, only businesses designated as life-sustaining or that otherwise obtained exemptions are permitted to lawfully operate. In counties designated as Yellow phase, some identified additional businesses may lawfully operate subject to certain requirements. A future Green phase would allow for all in-person business to reopen without special state requirements, subject to general adherence to guidelines in place at that time provided by health authorities such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). Continue Reading

Los Angeles City’s New Right of Recall and Worker Retention Ordinances

On April 29, 2020, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, signed into law two COVID-19-driven workforce ordinances: the Right of Recall Ordinance and the Worker Retention Ordinance.

The ordinances cover “Airport,” “Commercial Property,” “Event Center,” and “Hotel” employers, including:

  • Owners, operators, or managers of (i) Event Centers (g., concert halls, stadiums, sports arenas, racetracks, coliseums, and convention centers), (ii) Hotels with 50+ rooms or gross revenues exceeding $5 million in 2019, and (iii) any restaurant physically located on the premises of said covered Hotel.
  • Any employer that provides any service at any Airport it operates in the City or provides any service to any employer servicing these airports. This ordinance does not apply to airlines.
  • Owners, operators, managers, or lessees, including contractors, subcontractors, or sublessees, of a non-residential Commercial Property in the City that employs 25 or more janitorial, maintenance, or security service workers.

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Illinois withdraws rebuttable presumption rule for COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has withdrawn an emergency rule it passed just weeks ago that would have made it easier for essential workers to claim they became sick with COVID-19 while on the job.

The withdrawal comes in the face of a Sangamon County Circuit Court decision granting an emergency request by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to block the new rule. The court found that in passing the emergency rule, which created a rebuttable presumption that essential workers who become sick with COVID-19 contracted it in the course of their employment, the Commission exceeded its rulemaking authority under the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act and the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. Under these laws, the Commission only has the authority to create procedural rules. The court determined the Commission had improperly created “new substantive rights for employees and new liabilities for employers,” which is the province of the Illinois Legislature, not the Commission. Continue Reading

COVID-19 FAQs for California employers

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a substantial impact on the U.S. workplace. We have prepared a series of FAQs compiled based on some of the more common questions that clients with California-based employees have posed to us over roughly the past six weeks.

These FAQs are general and high-level in nature and they should not be used as a substitute for speaking with a Reed Smith employment lawyer. This is true especially because the COVID-19 situation is a fluid, rapidly evolving one, and there are many considerations that are unique to particular circumstances, industries, and jurisdictions (for example, California has numerous state and local rules and regulations that far exceed the requirements of federal workplace law).

To that end, the information contained in this memorandum is current as of May 1, 2020. Federal, state, and local agencies continue to issue regular updates and implement new laws, regulations, and guidance in response to COVID-19 that may impact these FAQs in the future.

Please note that this is not legal advice. To speak with a Reed Smith employment lawyer concerning any issue related to COVID-19, please contact us at rsCoronavirusEmploymentTeam@ReedSmith.com.

Gov. Cuomo announces guidelines to “reopen” New York

Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined guidelines for when Empire State businesses can reopen and return to “in-person” operations.  Under the Governor’s plan, reopenings will be determined on a region-by-region and industry-by-industry basis.  And when businesses do ultimately reopen, they will be required to adopt a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer, and implement specific safety precautions.  Below we will delve into the Governor’s staggered, phased approach to reopening New York. Continue Reading

Employees refusing to return to work? The SBA offers some protection of PPP forgiveness

The SBA’s latest round of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) gives employers an important new tool to address one of the biggest challenges of trying to maximize PPP forgiveness: How to respond to employees who refuse to return to work by June 30, 2020.

Loan forgiveness is the cornerstone of the PPP, which was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). To protect jobs, the PPP’s offer of loan forgiveness is in part based on an employer’s ability to maintain headcount through the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, if between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020, an employer reduces its employee headcount, then the amount of loan forgiveness will be reduced. If the employer reinstates those employees by June 30, 2020, however, the loan forgiveness amount will not be reduced. Further explanation of the PPP and loan forgiveness reduction calculation can be found here. Continue Reading

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