- On May 8, 2020
By: Paula E. Pitrak
Railroad Retirement Board
On May 1, 2020, the RRB updated its Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Flexibilities Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) during the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak—adding questions and answers related to the RRB’s process for determining employee eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits and sickness benefits and related to the relevant provisions of the CARES Act. In this updated guidance, the RRB explained that where an employee chooses to participate in a COVID-19 negotiated plan that includes a period of furlough, rather than be subject to an employer-imposed furlough, the furlough under the negotiated plan will be considered to be an involuntary furlough for purposes of determining eligibility for UI benefits.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
On May 5, 2020, the EEOC expanded its technical assistance questions and answers: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws—providing information about the accommodation of employees with underlying medical conditions at questions and answers, G.3, G.4., and G.5. Specifically, the EEOC addresses the direct threat to self that an employer would have to meet to exclude someone from the workplace due to a CDC-identified underlying medical condition.
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
On May 4, 2020, the Department of Labor issued a News Release announcing that OSHA has translated and published its “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus” poster in 11 additional languages—all of which are accessible via the above link.
In addition to its agency guidance, OSHA’s COVID-19 Response Summary page provides a daily summary of whistleblower complaint and enforcement data. As of May 6, 2020, the total number of whistleblower complaints filed was 1,036—284 of which were screened and administratively closed and 81 of which were docketed for investigation.
Wage and Hour Division
Since the end of the temporary non-enforcement of paid leave protections under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the WHD has investigated and ordered two companies to pay back wages after denying paid sick leave to workers whose doctor ordered coronavirus quarantine. In News Release: Tucson Arizona, Company to Pay Back Wages After Denying Paid Sick Leave to Worker Whose Doctor Ordered Coronavirus Quarantine, Director Eric Murphy of the WHD’s Phoenix District made clear “[t]his case should serve as a signal to others that the U.S. Department of Labor is working to protect employee rights during the coronavirus pandemic.” For more information regarding these two investigations, visit the WHD’s News Releases page.
Internal Revenue Service
On May 7, 2020, the IRS again updated its fact sheet: New Employee Retention Credit helps employers keep employees on payroll—explaining employer eligibility, amount of credit, qualified wages, how to claim the credit, and recordkeeping for claim substantiation. The IRS continues to expand its FAQs: Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act and makes clear the FAQ is not part of the Internal Revenue Bulleting, and therefore, may not be relied upon as legal authority in support of a legal argument in a court case. Along with its tax regulations, the IRS Guidance page offers access to the Internal Revenue Bulletins.
In addition to state WARN laws (enacted in California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin) and state OSHA plans (enacted in 22 states covering both private sector and state and local government workers and 6 state covering only state and local government workers), employers should be sure to keep current on state legislation and gubernatorial executive orders related to civil liability for damages allegedly resulting from COVID-19.
For more information regarding your company’s compliance with the FFCRA, the CARES Act, and other applicable federal, state, and local employment laws regarding COVID-19, contact Fletcher & Sippel’s Labor & Employment Group.