Dane County Public Health Emergency Order #16

Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has issued a new public health order, Emergency Order #16, effective May 5, 2021. The new order includes additional exceptions to the face covering requirements and increases to the capacity limits for indoor gatherings and activities.

Face Coverings

  • Face coverings are not required when playing a wind instrument that has a fabric or other cover, as long as individuals are spaced six feet apart.

Gatherings

  • Indoor gatherings where food or drinks are available are limited to 350 individuals.
  • Indoor gatherings where food or drinks are not available are limited to 500 individuals.
  • These capacity limits do not include employees.
  • Individuals who are not members of the same household still must maintain six feet physical distancing when indoors or outdoors, except when in transit (e.g. walking in a hallway).

Businesses

  • Indoor capacity is increased to 75% of approved capacity levels.
  • This increased capacity applies to all organizations, including retail stores, salons, spas, gyms, fitness centers, and places of amusement and activity.

Stores that Sell Food or Groceries, Restaurants, and Taverns

  • Indoor seating capacity is increased to 75% of approved seating capacity levels.

The other requirements from previous PHMDC emergency orders 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.

CDC Updates Guidance for Vaccinated Persons

Today, April 27, 2021, the CDC issued updated guidance for fully vaccinated persons (2 weeks after last vaccine dose or 2 weeks after the J&J vaccine). Employers should use CDC’s guidance but may require stricter safety precautions for their workplace, if needed. Employers must also follow applicable local and state public health orders.
Per the guidance, fully vaccinated people can now:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if asymptomatic and feasible

Some precautions remain in place. For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in indoor public settings like wearing a well-fitted mask
  • Wear masks that fit snuggly when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear well-fitted masks when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid indoor large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about COVID-related workplace safety. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please watch 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.

IRS Issues Guidance on ARPA Tax Credits and COVID-19 Vaccinations

On April 21, 2021, the IRS and the US Treasury Department published a fact sheet on the tax credits available under American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to employers who provide paid leave to employees who get COVID-19 vaccinations. ARPA extends tax credits previously established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to reimburse employers for the cost of voluntarily providing paid sick and family leave to employees due to COVID-19. For a complete discussion of the ARPA and FFCRA leaves, please see Lake Effect’s prior blog. The new fact sheet confirms the following:

  • Employers eligible for the tax credits are those with fewer than 500 employees, including governmental employers, other than the federal government and federal agencies.
  • Eligible employers may receive tax credits for wages paid for leave taken by employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations or recover from any illness or condition related to such vaccinations.
  • As set forth in Lake Effect’s prior blog on FFCRA tax credits, the credits cover 100% of the costs of qualified sick and family leave wages, the employer’s share of social security and Medicare taxes on those wages, and any qualified health plan expenses allocable to those wages.
  • Eligible employers may claim tax credits for sick and family leave paid to employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021.
  • Employers may use IRS Form 941 to claim the tax credits and can keep the federal employment taxes that they otherwise would have deposited up to the full amount of the credit for which they are eligible. Employers may also request an advance of the credits by filing IRS Form 7200.
  • Self-employed individuals may claim comparable tax credits on their Individual IRS Form 1040.

Employers should work closely with their tax advisors to understand the tax implications of COVID-related paid sick and family leaves, including those covering vaccinations. We are closely monitoring developments relating to COVID-19 and 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.

Dane County Public Health Emergency Order #15

Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has issued a new public health order, Emergency Order #15, effective April 7, 2021. The new order includes significant changes to the face covering requirements, capacity limits for outdoor gatherings, and the requirements applicable to several industries including schools and childcare centers, gyms, and grocery stores. The new order also includes changes to the mandatory policy and procedure requirements for all employers in Dane County. The loosened requirements are a response to the continued decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Dane County. in Dane County.

Face Coverings

  • Face coverings are no longer required outdoors, although PHMDC continues to “strongly recommend” face coverings outdoors when six feet physical distancing is not possible.

Gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings are no longer subject to specific capacity limits.
  • Instead, outdoor gatherings are limited to a capacity that ensures individuals maintain at least six feet physical distancing.

Schools and Childcare

  • PHMDC has removed most of the requirements for schools and childcare centers.
  • PHMDC continues to require schools and organizations providing childcare to develop certain COVID policies. However, the mandatory content of two of the policies has changed.
  • The following policies and procedures are required:
    • A written hygiene policy and procedure.
      • The requirements for this policy have not changed.
    • A written cleaning policy and procedure that includes guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cleaning.
      • This is a change from previous orders that delineated specific items that must be included in the cleaning policy and procedure.
    • A written protective measure policy and procedure that includes ensuring employees are provided with and wear face coverings when required, and ensuring procedures for “distancing for students, children, and employees.”
      • This is a change from previous orders that included, among other things, six feet physical distancing between students.
  • Employers should ensure their policies and procedures are compliant and distribute revised policies to employees. Employers must also document employees’ receipt, acknowledgement, or training on any revised policies.

Sports

  • The only change in the requirements for sports is a minor change to the mandatory written cleaning policy and procedure.
  • The following policies and procedures are required:
    • A written hygiene policy and procedure.
      • The requirements for this policy have not changed.
    • A written cleaning policy and procedure that includes guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cleaning.
      • This is a change from the previous orders that delineated specific items that must be included in the policy.
    • A written protective measure policy and procedure that includes physical distancing requirements.
      • The requirements for this policy have not changed.
  • Employers should ensure their policies and procedures are compliant and distribute revised policies to employees. Employers must also document employees’ receipt, acknowledgement, or training on any revised policies.

Businesses

  • The only change in the requirements for businesses is a minor change to the mandatory written cleaning policy and procedure.
  • The following policies and procedures are required for all businesses:
    • A written hygiene policy and procedure.
      • The requirements for this policy have not changed.
    • A written cleaning policy and procedure that includes guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cleaning.
      • This is a change from the previous orders that delineated specific items that must be included in the policy.
    • A written protective measure policy and procedure that includes physical distancing requirements.
      • The requirements for this policy have not changed.
  • Employers should ensure their policies and procedures are compliant and distribute revised policies to employees. Employers must also document employees’ receipt, acknowledgement, or training on any revised policies.

Stores that Sell Food or Groceries

  • PHMDC has removed the prohibitions on customer self-dispensing of bulk food, customer self-service of unpackaged foods (e.g. salad bars), and food sampling.

Restaurants and Taverns

  • PHMDC has removed the prohibitions on customer self-service of food (e.g. salad bars, buffets) and food sampling.

Gyms and Fitness Centers

  • Gyms and fitness centers are no longer required to provide materials for members to disinfect equipment or to increase their cleaning of equipment, common areas, locker rooms, and restrooms.
  • Saunas and steam rooms may open if their capacity is limited to individuals from the same household.

Places of Amusement and Activity

  • Organizations are no longer required to clean equipment in between each customer’s use.
  • The prohibition on food sampling has been removed.

Fully Vaccinated Individuals

  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to maintain six feet physical distancing or wear a face covering when indoors with:
    • with other fully vaccinated individuals.
    • with individuals from a single household or living unit who are not fully vaccinated but are not at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and who do not live with anyone is not fully vaccinated and at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

The other requirements from previous PHMDC emergency orders 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.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Statewide Mask Mandate

On March 31, 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the most recent statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Evers on February 4, 2021. The first mask order was issued in August 2020 and was extended four times by Evers. In a 4-3 decision, the Court ruled that Evers exceeded his authority by unilaterally issuing multiple emergency orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court held that Evers needed legislative approval to issue more orders after the expiration of the initial 60-day mandate, and it rejected the argument that successive emergencies could be declared based upon the changing nature of the pandemic. The decision also blocks Evers from issuing any new public health emergency orders to mandate face masks without the approval of the state legislature. The Court’s ruling was effective immediately.

The Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect mask mandates implemented by cities, counties, or tribes. Therefore, Dane County residents must continue to follow the mask requirements set forth in Public Health Madison and Dane County Emergency Order 14. For a full discussion of this Order, please see Lake Effect’s prior blog on Emergency Order 14 and amendments to that Order. Mask mandates issued by cities like Milwaukee, Racine, and Beloit also remain in effect. Furthermore, businesses, organizations, and nonprofits can continue to enforce their own mask requirements for employees, customers, visitors, or other members of the public.

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.

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

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

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