Leave for Employees to Donate Bone Marrow or an Organ

Wisconsin employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide up to six weeks of leave for employees who choose to donate their bone marrow or an organ under the Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Leave Act. The law counts employees nationwide, meaning the leave requirement covers, for example, employers with one employee in Wisconsin and 49 employees in another state. However, only the employee working in Wisconsin is eligible for the leave. Wisconsin employees are eligible for the leave after they have worked for the employer for 52 consecutive weeks and at least 1000 hours over that 52-week period. Employees are not entitled to pay during the leave but no changes may be made to an employee’s insurance or other benefits. Employees who use the leave are generally entitled to their position when they return to work.

While the six-week leave requirement only applies to Wisconsin employers with 50 or more employees, all employers with 25 or more employees must post a notice stating the employer’s policy on bone marrow and organ donation leave. This means that employers with 25-49 employees must post their policy on bone marrow and organ donor leave, even if the policy states that no leave is provided or that employees should reach out to HR to discuss their leave options. Employers with 50 or more employees must also post the Department of Workforce Development’s poster.

The notice and poster must be posted with other employment law posters, such as an intranet site or a bulletin board in a break room. We also recommend employers include their bone marrow and organ donation leave policy in their employee handbook.

Organizations with employees outside of Wisconsin should also note that each state has its own mandatory leave laws, many of which apply to all employees working – remotely or at an employer worksite – in that state.

Amended Dane County Public Health Emergency Order #14

Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) issued an Amended Emergency Order #14 on March 18, 2021. It is effective immediately.

The Amended Emergency Order adds a new section on fully vaccinated individuals. The order defines “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after the second dose from a 2-dose vaccine, e.g. Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s vaccine, or two weeks after the first dose of a single-dose vaccine, e.g. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to maintain six-feet physical distancing or wear a face covering when in an enclosed space:

  • with other fully vaccinated individuals.
  • with individuals from a single household who are not fully vaccinated and are not at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness as defined by the CDC.

All other requirements from previous PHMDC emergency orders remain in place. This means that fully vaccinated persons must still wear masks in the workplace, when around unvaccinated persons. You can find Lake Effect’s summaries of the previous orders here.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about how local and state public health orders apply to employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

American Rescue Plan Act Extends and Expands Voluntary Employer-Provided FFCRA Leaves

Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), employers who opt to continue paid leaves originally required under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) can provide a greater amount of paid leave for a broader range of reasons and still receive tax credits to cover 100% of costs related to those leaves.

FFCRA originally required employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with 2 weeks of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and up to 12 weeks Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFML) (if employees satisfied one of the reasons set forth under FFCRA. For a complete review of FFCRA leaves and requirements, see Lake Effect's prior blogs on this topic. These mandatory leaves expired December 31, 2020. The stimulus bill passed on December 22, 2020, permitted employers to voluntarily allow employees to use any remaining EPSL or EFML by March 31, 2021 and still receive the related tax credits.

The ARPA further extends and expands original FFCRA leave allowances and related employer tax credit provisions as follows:

  • Time period extended: Covered employers can continue to provide employees with EPSL and EFML through September 30, 2021 and receive tax credits to cover 100% of costs associated with such leaves. Covered employers can decide to offer both EPSL and EFML, only one of them, or neither.
  • Additional 10 days of EPSL: Covered employers may provide employees with an additional 10 days of EPSL between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021 and receive tax credits to cover 100% of related costs.
  • New reasons for EPSL: In addition to the previous qualifying reasons set forth in FFCRA, employers may provide employees EPSL for time spent awaiting COVID-19 test results, obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, or recovering from “any injury, disability, illness or condition related to such” vaccine. Pay for these new leave reasons will be at 100% (up to a max of $511/day or $5,110 for 10 days).
  • Additional 12 weeks of EFML: Covered employers may provide employees with an additional 12 weeks of EFML (all at 2/3 pay, up to a maximum of $12,000) between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. Note this is an increase from 10 to 12 weeks of paid leave, and from $10,000 to $12,000 in maximum pay per employee.
  • New reasons for EFML: Employers may provide employees EFML for all the qualifying reasons permitted for use of EPSL, including time spent awaiting COVID-19 test results, obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, or recovering from the effects of such vaccine.
  • New non-discrimination requirement: Employers will not receive tax credits for costs associated with voluntary EPSL or EFML if it discriminates in favor of highly compensated employees, full-time employees, or longer-tenured employees in providing leaves.

We continue to monitor developments and guidance relating to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021  and other Biden Administration efforts to address the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will provide you with employment-related updates on these topics as they arise.

President Biden Signs COVID-19 Emergency Relief Bill

On March 11, President Biden signed The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 emergency relief bill, into law. This new legislation aims to help individuals, businesses, and organizations across the country offset the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key employer-related provisions of the relief package include:

  • Unemployment benefits:
    • Extends the existing federal supplement of $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for initial claims related to the public health emergency through September 6, 2021 (previously set to expire in mid-March).
    • Waives federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 for households earning under $150,000.
  • Payroll tax credits for FFCRA leaves extended: guarantees that employers who continue to provide paid sick and family leaves in accordance with prior FFCRA requirements will continue to receive payroll tax credits through September 2021. Note that employers are no longer required to provide FFCRA paid leaves, but the continuing tax credits provide an incentive for them to do so.
    • Employers who want to take advantage of these tax credits must follow the FFCRA leave requirements set forth in the original Act. See our prior blogs on this issue and consult with experienced HR and legal advisors to ensure FFCRA compliance and receipt of the tax credits.
  • Pandemic response:
    • Funds tens of billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
    • Increases the size of the public health workforce.
    • Supports vaccine distribution and supply chains.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC):
    • Expands the ERTC for start-up companies and other businesses hit by the pandemic.
    • As modified by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act (the Relief Act), the ERTC provides a tax credit equal to 70% of the “qualified wages” paid to an employee on or after 1/1/21 until 6/30/21 up to $10,000 per calendar quarter.
    • “Eligible employers” include those that (1) were required to fully or partially suspend operations because of COVID; OR (2) experienced at least a 20% decline in gross receipts in any 2020 calendar quarter as compared to the same calendar quarter of 2019.
  • COBRA:
    • Increases the value of the federal COBRA health insurance subsidy from 85% to 100%.
    • This subsidy covers the cost of COBRA for eligible employees to continue their employer-sponsored coverage post-employment, from April 1 through September 2021.
      • This applies to employees who have lost a job or had their hours cut.
      • This does not apply to employees who qualify for new, employer-based health insurance with a new employer or to employees who voluntarily resign from employment.
  • Dependent Care FSA:
    • Permits employees to contribute $10,500 into a dependent care account, instead of the normal $5,000 per family. This may only be done if the employer agrees to modify their dependent care plan. This increase is currently only for 2021.

The following provisions of the relief package are not employment-related, but may be relevant to your employees or community:

  • Stimulus checks:
    • Provides $1,400 in new stimulus checks.
    • Individuals earning up to $75,000 per year and couples earning up to $150,000 per year will receive the full $1,400-per-person benefit, including dependents who may not have been eligible previously.
    • Stimulus payments taper off for individuals earning up to a cap of $80,000 and couples earning up to a cap of $160,000.
  • Child tax credit: Expands program to provide parents with tax credit of $3,000 per year for each child ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for each child under age 6.
    • Low-income households that are currently ineligible or receive only a portion of the credit would now receive the full value of the credit.
    • Starting in July 2021, the federal government will send advance payments of the credit to Americans in “periodic” installments, akin to a guaranteed income for families with children. This would amount to half of the annual credit, with the remainder claimed as part of the parent’s 2021 tax return.
    • This will likely last one year.
  • Earned-income tax credit: Increases the maximum credit amount for childless households to $1,502 ($543 increase). Expands the age range to begin at 19 and eliminates the upper age limit.
  • Aid to state and local governments: Designates $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories.
  • FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program: Provides $510 million for the program to support homeless services providers for overnight shelter, meals, one month’s rent and mortgage assistance and one month’s utility payments.
  • Education related: Makes all coronavirus-related student loan relief tax-free. Allocates $1.25 billion for summer enrichment, $1.25 billion for after-school programs, and $3 billion for education technology.
  • Infrastructure: Adds a $10 billion infrastructure program to help local governments continue crucial capital projects.
  • Transportation: Increases Amtrak relief funding by $200 million.
  • ACA: Expands tax credits and premium subsidies for people who enroll in coverage through the ACA exchanges. Extends certain Medicaid coverage. Provides incentives to states who have not yet expanded their Medicaid programs.
  • Health Care: Provides an additional $8.5 billion for the Provider Relief Program to assist rural health care providers.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all provisions included in the relief law. We encourage you to consult with your business and tax advisors about the entire stimulus package and its impact on your organization and employees.

For additional information and discussion of prior relief packages, please see Lake Effect’s prior blogs on those topics. We will continue to closely monitor all developments in this area and provide you with important updates.

Twelve Months Later: How Has Your Organization Evolved?

The past 12 months have been a time like no other, forcing organizations to pivot quickly to accommodate a new reality. Now is the time to review handbook policies and internal processes that may have been revised on the fly in response to changing circumstances.

You can start by reviewing the ways your organization has changed since the start of the pandemic in terms of policy and process changes:

  • Did employees’ transition to work remotely?
  • Will they continue to do so? Did they start or expand use of personal devices for business purposes?
  • Have schedules or reporting relationships changed to adapt to new circumstances?
  • Have employees performed remote work from other states? (If they intend to remain there, you may need to register for general business, payroll, and/or unemployment tax purposes in that state. You may also need to review your current benefits offerings, as well specific employment laws for that state or local area. See our blog on state employment laws to consider with remote employees.)
  • Has your brand or business model changed in response to the pandemic? Do you need to update position descriptions or organizational charts?

As you identify changes that have occurred and adjustments that will be necessary, review your employee handbook and update relevant policies to reflect your decisions(Note: We do not recommend changing the handbook for policies that are temporary in nature, such as allowing employees to work remotely only until worksites open again. Temporary policies can be freestanding.)

In addition, consider the impact that the past year had on your employees and your organization’s culture:

  • Some employees may have been working onsite throughout the pandemic. Others may be excited to return to the workplaceand still others may be cautious to returnThis can result in actual or potential conflicts between employees who may judge or simply not understand another’s perspective.
  • Some employees may be experiencing mental health issues resulting froisolation or other challenges encountered over the past year, while others are thrilled to be out of the house and back in the office.
  • Some employees may feel the stress of changing family routines and expectations, and they may need additional time to adapt or help family members adapt.
  • Some employees may be grieving the loss of a loved one during the pandemic, while others have experienced minimal personal impact.
  • Some employees may need more time than others to reacclimate to their commute and former schedule at a worksite.

As your employees and you address these difficult issues, you   can reaffirm a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and respect with effective planning, clear communication, flexibility, and empathy.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about how to handle these important workplace transitions and evolution, while maintaining your culture and supporting your mission and vision. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

New Law Limits COVID-19 Civil Liability For Wisconsin Employers

Governor Evers signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 4 into law on February 26, 2021, providing Wisconsin employers with broad protection from civil law claims relating to COVID-19. Effective March 1, 2020, Wisconsin businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations are immune from civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure to COVID-19. The law applies retroactively to all claims arising on or after March 1, 2020, except it will not apply to lawsuits actually filed before March 1, 2020. Furthermore, immunity under the law will not apply to an entity whose actions or omissions involve reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.

2021 Wisconsin Act 4 provides employers substantial protection from civil lawsuits brought by employees, contractors, customers, students, vendors, and family members of these individuals. Despite the new protections, Wisconsin employers should continue to closely monitor and follow guidance from local, state, and federal public health officials on COVID-19 safety and mitigation measures. Failure to do so could constitute evidence of reckless, wanton, or intentional misconduct, which would negate the civil immunity afforded under the Act 4. Such a failure could also trigger claims under OSHA’s general duty clause for failure to provide employees a work environment free from recognized hazards. Employers should also note that employees can continue to seek remedies under applicable workers’ compensation statutes.

Learning To Build A Stronger Teams In A Virtual World

Their positive attitudes carry an edge of lighthearted humor that paints the HR field with a ‘can do’ attitude for tackling challenges and employment law changes.

Andrea Conrad, Numbers 4 Nonprofits Inc

Many of us are starting to think about what our workspaces will look like when we are able to return more consistently or completely to the workplace. These options include returning full time to the office, continuing to work remotely, or a blend of the two.  No matter which option your organization chooses for its new normal, leaders will need to focus time on retaining talent by nurturing workplace culture and offering professional development opportunities to team members.

As you nurture your workplace culture, consider surveying your team members to learn what helped them be successful in their work and connect with their coworkers while working remotely. When considering professional development, evaluate your current practices and how they can be adjusted to fit and support your new work environment. If your team members will be working virtually – fully or partly – consider how you can offer them virtual coaching and professional development. Employees have proven that they can work, grow, and learn successfully in a virtual world.

Life-long learning is important to all of us at Lake Effect, so we have adapted our in-person workshops to engage with a virtual audience. We love training in-person, but we have found that we also connect, engage, and share knowledge as effectively over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. We realize that Zoom fatigue is real, so we have shortened our workshops to 1-2 hour sessions. To continue to support our clients, partners, and their employees, we offer a variety of in-person and virtual workshops in the following areas:

  • Aligning Strategic Plan & HR
  • Coaching
  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Crisis Management
  • Culture Building
  • Employee Development
  • Legal Compliance
  • HR Compliance
  • Management Training
  • Performance Management
  • Respectful Workplace
  • Team Engagement

Dane County Public Health Emergency Order #14

Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has issued a new public health order, Emergency Order #14, effective March 10, 2021. The new order includes significant changes to the indoor and outdoor capacity limits for gatherings, restaurants, taverns, and sporting events. The order also modifies the protective measure policy required for schools. The primary changes are summarized below and are outlined in PHMDC’s summary of Emergency Order #14.

Gatherings

  • As a reminder, gatherings include exercise classes, meetings, conferences, trainings, sporting events, parties, and other planned events.
  • Indoor gatherings with food or drink are permitted with up to 150 individuals. Indoor gatherings without food or drink are permitted with up to 350 individuals.
  • Outdoor gatherings with or without food or drink are permitted with up to 500 individuals.
  • The capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings do not include employees.
  • Individuals must maintain 6 feet physical distancing at indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Sports

  • All sports must follow the gathering limitations outlined above.

Indoor Capacity Limits at Restaurants and Taverns

  • Indoor capacity at restaurants and other dining facilities is increased to 50% of approved seating capacity.
  • Indoor capacity at taverns is increased to 25% of approved seating capacity.
  • Tables and chairs must still be spaced so that 6 feet physical distancing can be maintained between customers who are not members of the same household.

Mandatory School Policies

  • Schools may need to modify their required protective measure policy and procedure. Under the new order, the protective measure policy and procedure must:
    • Ensure employees are provided with and wear face coverings as required under the general face coverings requirements in the emergency order.
    • Ensure employees maintain 6 feet distancing at all times to the extent possible.
    • When 6 feet distancing is not possible for students, ensure that students and employee groupings are as static as possible. Mixing between groups must be restricted as much as possible.
    • Commons areas such as cafeterias, auditoriums, and gyms can be used as classrooms, to provide food, as childcare and youth settings, and for government functions. Student grouping should be in distinct spaces. Student groupings may not mix with other student groupings.
  • Schools must document employee receipt, acknowledgment, or training on any revised protective measure policy.
  • The requirements for the hygiene policy and procedure and the cleaning policy and procedure have not changed.

The other requirements from previous PHMDC emergency orders, including face coverings, remain in place. You can find Lake Effect’s summaries of the previous orders here.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about how local and state public health orders apply to employers. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, 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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