CARES Act Signed Into Law

Earlier today, President Trump signed into law the ‘‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’’’ or the ‘‘CARES Act.’’ The Act is part of a continuing effort to help businesses and American workers confronting the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key provisions of the Act include:

  • Paycheck Protection Program amends Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act (SBA) (pages 9-21 and pages 41-52)
    • Covered period: 2/15/20 – 6/30/20
    • Eligible recipients: businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations with fewer than 500 employees, as well as sole proprietors, independent contractors, eligible self-employed individuals
    • Employees: includes individuals employed on a full-time, part-time or other basis
    • Loan amounts: 250% of the employer’s “payroll costs” for the preceding year, up to a max of $10 million
    • Allowable uses of covered loans: loan may be used to cover payroll costs; costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums; employee salaries, commissions or similar compensations; payments of interest on any mortgage obligations; rent; utilities; interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period
    • Expected loan forgiveness period and amount: the expected forgiveness amount includes the following expenses incurred during the 8 week period beginning on the date of origination of a covered loan: payroll costs; payments of interest on any covered mortgage obligation; payment on any covered rent obligation; and covered utility costs
      • Payroll costs include salary, wages, commission, paid time off, dismissal or separation pay, insurance premiums, retirement benefits, payroll taxes and payments to independent contractors or sole proprietors (See pages 10-12)
  • Emergency EIDL Grants amends Section 7 (b)2 of the SBA to provide an emergency grant (pages 66-72)
    • Covered period: 1/31/20 – 12/31/20
    • Eligible recipients: businesses with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and others
    • Emergency grant: recipients can request an initial emergency grant within 3 days of application for a loan under Section 7(b)2 of the SBA under the Existing SBA Disaster Loan Program
    • Grant amount: up to $10,000
    • Allowable uses: grant may be used to cover paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to COVID-19; payroll to retain employees during business disruptions or substantial shutdowns; increased costs due to supply chain interruptions; rent or mortgage payments; obligations that cannot be met due to revenue losses
    • Forgiveness: no requirement to repay
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance extends duration of current state unemployment benefits programs and establishes supplemental benefit payments (pages 84-111)
    • Covered period: 1/27/30 – 12/31/20
    • Eligible recipients: includes employees, furloughed employees, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors who are unemployed, partially employed or unable to work, but excludes individuals who can telework and those receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits
    • State benefits program expanded: individuals are eligible to receive benefits for up to 39 weeks (as opposed to the current 26 weeks in WI), and the one week waiting period is eliminated
    • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: in addition to unemployment compensation benefits received under a current state program, an eligible recipient may receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation in the amount of $600 per week until July 31, 2020
  • One-time stimulus payments of $1,200 to adults with incomes of $75,000 per year or less, and additional one-time direct payments to families of $500 per child (pages 144-157)
    • Shall be reduced by 5% of the amount of adjusted gross income that exceeds $75,000 for an individual, $150,000 for a joint return, and $112,500 for head of household

We encourage to consult with your accounting and tax advisors about the details of the small business loan provisions and any other business-related consequences of the Act.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for new blogs  or subscribe to our mailing list for important legal updates and HR best practices. If you have any questions regarding our quick tips, the attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Tips for Employers: FFCRA Payroll Issues

Over the past two weeks, the HR professionals and attorneys at Lake Effect HR & Law have been helping our clients weather the storm of COVID-19. Every day, we meet as a group on Microsoft Teams to collaborate on client issues, discuss and assess the latest developments, share legal and HR research we have conducted, and, equally as important, touch base with each other as friends, not coworkers. At the end of each meeting, we share quick tips that we have gained throughout the prior 24 hours. Please find below some of our latest tips for employers:

  • Set up New Pay Codes for EFMLEA and EPSLA paid leaves: Establish two new pay codes in your payroll system to track employee time for paid time off under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Leave Act (EPLA). This will facilitate your ability to receive tax credits. See our summary of these acts Families First Coronavirus Response Act – Enacted 3/18/2020 which are part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • Inspection of Employee’s Form I-9 Work Authorization Documentation: Employers will not be required to review new hires’ identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence when the new hire will immediately be working remotely due to COVID-19. Employers must still inspect the Section 2 documents over video conference, fax, or e-mail and obtain and retain copies of the documents within three business days. Employers are instructed to enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the additional information field in Section 2. Employers that avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. This exception to the usual I-9 process will remain in effect until May 19^th, or within three business days after the termination of the national emergency, whichever comes first.
  • Direct Deposit of Paychecks: Encourage employees to sign up for direct deposit or pay cards in the event you are unable to deliver live paychecks in person or if mail is disrupted.
  • Concerns About Employees’ Safety and Wellness while WFH: Encourage managers to conduct wellness checks on employees who are working from home. Certainly, check on employees COVID-19 related wellbeing. Further, not every home is a safe haven and some of your employees may have the additional stressors, including but not limited to finances, domestic violence, mental health, or addictions. Encourage your managers and HR to share resources for employees, including your employee assistance plan (EAP) and community resources like United Way’s 211, which is designed to connect people to needed social services, confidentially and free of charge. Individuals can call 2-1-1 or 877-947-2211 for help through United Way. If you need assistance finding resources, let us know and we can try to help.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for new blogs  or subscribe to our mailing list for important legal updates and HR best practices. If you have any questions regarding our quick tips, the attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Wisconsin Issues Emergency Order #12: Safer at Home

Effective 3/25/2020 at 8am

The Evers Administration signs Emergency Order (EO) #12, Safer at Home. A summary of the EO follows:

  • Directs people to stay safe at home, residence, or place of shelter, leaving only for “Essential Activities” (Section 11), “Essential Governmental Functions” (Section 12), to operate “Essential Businesses and Operations” (Section 13), to perform non-essential “Minimum Basic Operations” (Section 14), conduct “Essential Travel” (Section 15), and “Special Situations” (Section 8, 9, and 10).
  • “Essential Activities” (Section 11) include tending to their health and safety, obtaining necessary supplies for self and family, outdoor activity, performing work at Essential Businesses of Operations, carrying out Minimum Basic Operations (Section 14), and take care of others. At all times, people must comply with social distancing.
  • Defines Special Situations for Healthcare and Public Health Operations (Section 8), Human Service Operations (Section 9), and Essential Infrastructure (Section 10)
  • Defines Essential Businesses and Operations (see detailed definitions in section 13):
    • CISA agencies and businesses
    • Stores that sell groceries and/or medicine
    • Food and beverage production, transport and agriculture
    • Restaurants for carry out or delivery service only
    • Bars for carry out service only
    • Childcare settings are subject to Emergency Order #6, and now must prioritize care for children of employees in two specifically defined categories
    • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
    • Weddings, funeral, and religious entities and such gatherings are limited to fewer than 10 people
    • Funeral establishments and such gatherings are limited to fewer than 10 people
    • Media
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
    • Financial institutions and services
    • Hardware and supplies stores
    • Critical trades, including Building and Construction Tradespeople “who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, and Essential Businesses and Operations”
    • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services
    • Laundry services
    • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home
    • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions with the support or supplies to operate
    • Private, public and commercial transportation and logistics providers
    • Home-based care and services
    • Professional services, to the extent possible to work remotely
    • Manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain companies
    • Critical labor union functions
    • Hotels and motels
    • Higher educational institutions to facilitate distance learning
    • WEDC designated businesses
  • Directs all non-essential businesses and operations to close their physical workplaces and work remotely.

See the full Emergency Order here: https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/COVID19/EMO12-SaferAtHome.pdf. Please contact us if you have questions about the status of your organization under this Emergency Order.

If you have employees in other states, please consult this helpful guide which provides updated information on which states have stay at home orders: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/us/coronavirus-which-states-stay-at-home-order-trnd/index.html.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for blogs and emails from your Lake Effect team for important legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

COVID-19 and the EEOC – Understand the New Landscape

By now, you are probably aware of the public health guidelines designed to help communities and employers navigate the changing landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, recent guidance from the EEOC also addresses some of the issues that employers could face in the coming days.

Consider the following questions, and the answers provided by the EEOC’s recent guidance:

  • One of your employees calls in sick, how much information can you request of the employee?
    • In order to protect the rest of your workforce, employers may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Due to the sensitivity of this information, confidentiality is imperative.
  • Can an employer take the body temperature of its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
    • Measuring an employee’s body temperature would typically be considered a prohibited medical examination. However, in an effort to contain further transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the EEOC has directed that employers may measure employees’ body temperatures. If you conduct this practice, make sure you do so consistently across your workforce.
  • Can an employer require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of the COVID-19 virus?
    • Yes, authorities have concluded that employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should leave the workplace.
  • When an employee returns to work, can the employer require a doctor’s note certifying the employee is fit for duty?
    • Yes, based on the severity of the COVID-19 virus, such inquiries are permitted because they are not related to a disability. However, employees may experience difficulties obtaining physical notes from doctors or other health care professionals, so new approaches should be considered, such as emails, forms or stamps of certification from local clinics, or virtual health visits.
  • If an employer is hiring new employees, can they screen applicants for symptoms of COVID-19?
    • Yes, once an offer has been made, an employer may screen applicants for COVID-19 symptoms as long as the screening is performed consistently on all candidates who apply for the same job.
  • Can an employer measure an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical exam?
    • Yes, medical exams are permitted after an offer of employment has been made. However, employers should be aware that COVID-19 symptoms vary widely from person to person.
  • Can an employer delay the start date and/or withdraw a job offer of an applicant who has the COVID-19 virus or symptoms of the virus?
    • Yes, CDC guidance states that individuals who have tested positive or have symptoms of the COVID-19 virus should not be in the workplace. Therefore, the employer can delay or withdraw the job offer.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the COVID-19 updates daily. Keep watching for blogs and emails from your Lake Effect team for important legal updates and HR best practices. If you have any questions regarding preparing for or responding to COVID-19 in your workplace, the attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act – Effective April 1, 2020

UPDATE:
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) stated an effective date of “not later than 15 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.” The Act was enacted on March 18, 2020. The Department of Labor has directed that the Act will take effect on April 1, 2020, as stated on the employee poster released by the Department of Labor on March 25, 2020.


On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (“FFCRA”). Two major provisions of the FFCRA address paid leaves designed to assist American workers and families facing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, the leave provisions cover employers with fewer than 500 employees. However, the Secretary of Labor is authorized to issue regulations exempting employers with fewer than 50 employees if the law’s requirements will jeopardize the ongoing viability of a business.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires covered employers to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for full and part-time employees to deal with their own or a child’s COVID-19 illness or quarantine, or to care for a child whose school or daycare provider is closed due to COVID-19.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of partially paid emergency family leave to an employee whose minor child’s school or daycare is closed or unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employers will receive quarterly payroll tax credits for amounts paid to their employees under these leave provisions, but those credits are capped per employee at specified levels.

A more comprehensive summary of the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” can be found here.

This appears to be the first step in a Congressional effort to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress is currently working on a more comprehensive economic package to put money directly in the hands of Americans. We at Lake Effect will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. Keep watching for new blogs  or subscribe to our mailing list for important legal updates and HR best practices. If you have any questions regarding our quick tips, the attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Legal Tips for Managing Hourly, Non-Exempt Employees Working Remotely

As employers are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, many are mandating or allowing employees to work from home (WFH). It is crucial that employers take steps to prevent their non-exempt employees from working off the clock or working overtime without approval or being compensated. Below are some legal tips for employers as you navigate what might be unchartered waters for managing non-exempt staff.

Non-exempt employees WFH must still be paid at least minimum wage and compensated appropriately for all hours worked, including overtime. All of the federal, state, and local laws still apply!

Employers need to provide their employees with a reliable system to accurately track and submit their actual hours worked. Your remote non-exempt employees must be “clocking in” and “clocking out” during the work day. Keep in mind that federal and state laws requiring meal and rest breaks still apply to employees WFH. In Wisconsin, any break less than 30 minutes must be paid. This is a great time to review your policies and share them with your employees as a reminder.

Make sure your non-exempt employees WFH have a clear understanding of their scheduled work hours or the number of hours they are expected to work during a day, and that they must not work outside those hours unless requested to do so or get approval to do so.

Remind non-exempt employees that checking, reading, and responding to work-related emails or texts is “work” and must be recorded as time on the clock! Better to err on the side of paying people even for de minimus time. Now is not the time to unnecessarily reduce employee’s time or pay.

Make sure your managers are aware of their team members’ regularly scheduled work hours or the number of hours they are expected to work, and reinforce the expectation that non-exempt team members are not working outside those hours. If employees do work outside of their normally scheduled hours, they must track those hours and communicate that to their manager. The key is that employees are generally available during core hours of operation.

Review your process for submitting, reviewing, and approving requests for overtime to make sure it will work effectively with a remote workforce.

Under federal and Wisconsin law, employers are only required to pay non-exempt workers for their actual time worked. Employers may reduce non-exempt employees’ regularly scheduled hours due to closures, decreased demand, etc. However, if you have employees outside of Wisconsin, be aware that some states and cities require employers to pay workers for a certain number of hours if they have started their day or their scheduled workweek.

Employees cannot “volunteer” their services to their employer, even if an employee asks to do so! Federal, state, and local laws require employers to compensate non-exempt employees for all time worked and any time an employer suffered or permit an employee to work, whether with or without your approval.

Generally, employers must pay for the expenses non-exempt employees incur to work remotely—such as buying a laptop or a different smart phone plan—if requiring the employee to pay for it would result in the employee’s wages falling below the required minimum wage. However, some states outside of Wisconsin require employers to pay for employees’ business related expenses incurred when working remotely. Best practice is to ask employees what they may need and provide any paper, ink, files, etc that they may need, or permit them to expense any incurred costs.

For HR tips, see our blog on sustaining your culture with a remote workforce.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to employee classifications, remote working options, or general Fair Labor Standards Act matters. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

WFH: Is it as Good as You Imagined?

The day has finally arrived, you are working from home full-time! Are you out of your pajamas yet? Have you at least brushed your teeth, eaten breakfast, fed the cat? You may respond by saying you don’t have any video calls, so it doesn’t matter if you have combed hair or fresh breath, and the kitchen is within arm’s reach so it doesn’t matter if you eat regular meals or have now moved onto snacking throughout the day and sharing your food with the cat. Well, for your own well-being, go take a shower, feed the cat, and then come back to reading this article…
…don’t you feel better and ready for the day?

Working from home sounds great, but it takes discipline and practice for the transition to be successful. Below are a few tips from the Lake Effect team on working remotely.

  • Set Up A Workspace. If you don’t have a designated home office, create a separate place that is considered your “workplace” with minimal disruptions, even if it is temporary and used for other things later in the day. If the space is used for other things or even visible later in the day, try to pack up or tidy the area to transition back to home life. Jenn likes to be extra tidy and hides her phone charger in a secret hiding place, so her son doesn’t “mistakenly” think it’s his!To minimize distractions from family members, consider creating and communicating your schedule or times that you will be available to them. Leann and her husband tag team parenting and working from home. When one is WFH, the other is the main parent contact for the kids.

    If you don’t have the background noise and miss the noise of an office, try finding music that you can work to. Hannah finds it easier to focus to upbeat instrumental hip hop playlist when working from home.

  • Create A Routine. Start your day as if you were commuting to work – pick up the house, prep healthy snacks for your workday, shower and eat breakfast away from your workspace. Make a realistic schedule for your day so when you are ready to begin the day you have a plan – those distractions will be minimized if you have a plan. Be compassionate with yourself if at first those distractions win and you don’t stick to your schedule. Sometimes, the list looks more manageable the night before or early in the morning than when the day actually rolls out.Remember to step away from work during the day to stretch, get some fresh air and to give your eyes a break from the computer screen. When Tricia works from home, she tends to create a list and tackles at least a certain number of tasks or works for a certain amount of time and then will move around the house to switch laundry, eat lunch or empty the dishwasher.

    Without a commute, you may have an additional hour in your day. How can you use this time to create a healthy habit? Can you convert the “drying rack” back to a treadmill and start walking 30 minutes every day, read business related books, or add a morning yoga/meditation routine? Jane and Sheila exercise with their kids and dogs to burn some energy and take a break from emails and virtual classes. This may also be a great way to end your day and flip the switch from work to home.

  • Communicate Your Schedule/Availability to Your Coworkers. Working with and being available to your team is still essential when working remotely. If you are using tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack to collaborate, make sure you are logged in and available to your coworkers while you are working. When the Lake Effect team sees each other online in the morning, we send a quick ‘good morning’ message to each other just like if we were arriving in the office. Of course, as Peggy will tell you, our texts start much earlier. If you aren’t proficient in using these tools, believe us, it gets easier each time!If you have “left the office” for the day, honor your time away from work. When work is just a few steps away, it is easy to take a minute, which can turn into an hour, to respond to an email. Balancing time with yourself, your family and friends is essential during this time.
  • Pick Up the Phone or Initiate a Video Chat with Your Coworkers. Texting and email are efficient ways to communicate a direct message but calling or initiating a video chat with your coworker may be a more effective approach to discuss and solve more complicated issues. It also provides an opportunity for a social interaction, all while practicing social distancing, and your coworker may even have a Netflix or book recommendation for you! At Lake Effect, we have an ongoing list of book, movie and TV show recommendations in Teams.
  • Put Down the Cookies and Get Moving. You know this has happened already, especially if you are working close to the kitchen! By prepping your snacks and meals at the beginning of the week or day, just as you would if you went to the office, the cookies and chips will be less tempting – okay, probably not less tempting but you have set yourself up for successful, healthy habits! Also take time to work out and decompress each day. If the sun is shining, go soak it up!!!

We are all wired differently when it comes to our preferred work styles and what works for us when working remotely. Knowing how you work best can help in your success to work remotely or in the office. If you have taken your Everything DiSC Workplace, pull out your profile or log in to www.myeverythingdisc.com and review your Motivators/Stressors. For those of you who need a refresher or may not be familiar with DiSC (a personal assessment tool to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication), here is one motivator of each style: (D) multi-tasking, (i) teamwork, (S) steady pace, (C) clear guidelines. Using these motivators as an example, a person with a preferred style of i may want to consider scheduling time throughout the day to work with other team members. As we are all navigating our new WFH situation, make sure you are asking your coworkers and your supervisor for what you need to be successful in the workplace.

Stay well, be kind, and grant each other grace. If you see a coworker struggling with working from home, reach out and share your best practices.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to engaging your remote team or learning more about DiSC. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Sustain Your Culture with a Remote Workforce

Just last week the majority of your staff worked on-site and now your entire team is working remotely, potentially with a whole family, including pets, in their home offices! You’ve tested out the technology and applied the wage and hour laws, but how do you continue engaging your team and sustaining your workplace culture?

Engaging Your Team.

  • Set Clear Expectations. Communicate with your team members if you expect them to be available and on-line during specific hours, accessible on certain technology platforms, and meeting certain deadlines – just as if they were working in the office.
  • Provide the Necessary Tools and Resources. Arrange for your team members to have access to the technology, files, and office supplies they need to perform their jobs. Offer flexibility for childcare, taking care of ill family members, taking care of themselves, or basic physical and mental wellness during this time of social distancing.
  • Communicate Related Policies and Any Other Temporary Policy Changes. Remind employees that policies, such as attendance, request for time off and leaves of absence, still apply and some, like anti-harassment/discrimination and use of technology, also pertain to email, chat, text, video, social media, etc.
  • Continue Coaching & Development Conversations. Continue regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings, encourage on-line learning, and be accessible to your team. If working remotely is new to your team members, ask them if they need help navigating the new work situation.

Sustaining Your Workplace Culture.

  • Continue Regularly Scheduled Workplace Gatherings. If you normally have daily stand-up meetings, weekly staff meetings, etc., continue to hold them using technology.
  • Consider a Daily Message From Leadership. During any time of change, regular communication is important. Consider a daily video call, email or chat post from a leadership team member to communicate most recent changes, status of company, etc.
  • Consider Daily Department Meetings. If your team is used to being together each day, consider implementing a daily department conference call so the team can connect, communicate deadlines, and collaborate.
  • Live Your Values. Continue to support your values by implementing new practices aligned with your mission, vision and values.
  • Celebrate and Have Fun. We are all navigating our current situation together and learning as we do. It is stressful and uncertain. Have fun, laugh, connect and celebrate as often as you can. If you celebrate milestones (birthdays and anniversaries) in the office, continue the tradition virtually. Now may be a great time for your Engagement/Wellness Committee to create some fun virtual activities!
  • Trust. You hired your team members because you believed they could perform their job. Allow them to do what they excel in, support them during this change and see how your team can become stronger yet during this time of uncertainty.
  • Stay well, be kind, and grant each other grace. When we get to the other side of COVID-19, we may have more best practices to implement in our daily work lives.

Keep watching for blogs from your Lake Effect team for important legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to engaging your remote team. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Have an Informed and Measured Response to COVID-19

Clients and partners:

On behalf of your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law, we hope that your team continues to be safe and healthy amidst the threat of COVID-19. We want to share with you our recommendations for having an informed and measured response to COVID-19 as employers and co-workers.

Communicate: Throughout the next few weeks and months, it will be critical that leadership provides ongoing communication to employees and key stakeholders. Ensure that all communication about the topic is both empathetic and accurate. Use CDC COVID-19 resources.

This includes maintaining a focus on engaging and boosting morale of in-person and remote employees in this time of crisis and stress. Coach your supervisory staff in how best to manage and engage remote and/or socially distanced employees. Conduct regular well-being checks on employees. Have frequent online 1:1 check-ins, plus online group meetings. Retain your workplace culture traditions virtually, such as video conferenced brown bag lunches and happy hours.

Educate: Educate your employees to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and encourage sick employees to stay home until they are symptom-free. Use CDC educational posters.

Preserve Privacy: Remember to ensure the privacy of affected employees’ health information. Quell the rumor mill as much as possible.

Clean: Coordinate with your cleaning company and your own employees to implement  CDC recommended enhanced cleaning and safety precautions throughout your worksiteSee CDC recommended enhanced cleaning and safety precautions.

Protect: To protect he health and wellbeing of your employees and members of the larger community, consider the following:

  • Review your sick and leave of absence policies
  • Decide if you will temporarily revise or suspend normal policies and compensate employees who are affected by COVID-19 (themselves or family members) without using PTO, sick, FMLA or personal leave time. Consider that: 
    • You may need to temporarily stop requiring doctor’s notes due to inability to get into clinics
    • Unlike many viruses, the manifestation of COVID-19 illness may meet FMLA tests for a “serious health condition”
  • Use discretion when asking about employee’s health conditions or where employees have traveled– there is a risk that questions like these can be discriminatory or perceived as discriminatory
  • Consider enhanced cross-training of employees so that other employees can step in to perform job duties for employees who might be off work due to illness/quarantine (their own or a family member’s)
  • Determine which job positions can properly telecommute and which cannot
  • Implement social distancing of employees throughout the worksite, workday, and workweek
  • Update or verify that your computer systems enable employees telecommuting. Verify employees have appropriate internet access and technology knowledge to work remotely . Stress test your technology in advance. 
  • Keep up to date on travel restrictions and review the necessity for travel outside the office
  • Consider rescheduling social activities and large group meetings
  • Convert group meetings to video, rather than in person, format
  • Limit non-essential visitors to the worksite
  • Require telecommuting employee to keep all work on a network or shared drives

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to managing the threat of COVID-19 in your workplace. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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