Employee Holiday Travel during COVID-19

Traditionally, November and December are months when employees take more time off to travel and/or spend time with family and friends for holidays. This year, employers and employees need to consider the health risks involved in traveling and group gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that employees’ increased exposure to COVID-19 can present risks to co-workers, customers, and the overall reputation of an organization.

We encourage employers to review current policies regarding time off during the holidays to see if they reflect current practices and current COVID risk mitigation measures. As with any issue related to the pandemic, employees and employers should adhere to current guidance provided by the CDC, as well as local and state guidelines in their home area and in any areas they may visit. The CDC website has valuable information related to Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as a page specifically related to Holiday Travel. Although employers cannot dictate whether or not an employee travels during non-work time, employers are well-advised to share this information with employees so they fully appreciate the risks involved with travel and gatherings.

In the event that employees are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19 during the holiday season, employers should consult this helpful resource provided by PHMDC.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about protecting your workforce and complying with state and local public health orders. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, including 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.

Governor Evers Recommends Continued COVID Mitigation Efforts

On November 10, 2020, Governor Evers presented a public address and signed Executive Order #94, strongly advising that all residents and businesses continue following stringent COVID-mitigation efforts. While this order has no enforcement capability, it serves as a reminder to minimize interactions outside of households. For businesses, it provides no new restrictions, but it reiterates the importance of permitting employees to work from home wherever feasible and maintaining preventive measures in the workplace for employees and customers alike.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about protecting your employees and complying with state and local public health orders. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, including 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.

Employees Must Notify Their Employers of Positive COVID-19 Result

According to a November 4, 2020 blog post, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) will no longer notify employers that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 unless the employee works for a school, or a childcare, healthcare, or congregate living facility. Instead, employees are responsible for notifying their employer if they tested positive, and working with their employer to identify other employees, customers, or clients who have been in close contact with the employee who tested positive. This is a significant shift in Dane County’s contact tracing due to the high number of positive tests in the community.

Dane County employers should follow guidance from PHMDC if an employee tests positive. Employers should then, to the best of their ability, notify other employees, customers, or clients who had close contact with the affected employee. As a reminder, see our prior blog for the new “6-15-24-48 analysis” in determining who has had “close contact.”

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about protecting your employees and complying with state and local public health orders. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, including 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.

Close Contact in the Workplace: Think 6-15-24-48

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The CDC has updated its definition of “close contact” and it is now referred to as the “6-15-24-48 analysis.” The updated guidance defines a “close contact” as someone who was:

  • within 6 feet of an infected person
  • for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more
  • over a 24-hour period
  • starting from two days (48 hours) before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

Employers who have employees experiencing COVID-related symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID should ask the employee to identify others with whom they were in close contact as described above. Note, the new definition now includes individuals with whom the employee was in contact for shorter periods of time that add up to 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour period. For example, this would cover contacts lasting five minutes at lunch, five minutes at the end of the workday, and 5 minutes the next morning.

As employers continue to monitor and respond to COVID-related situations in the workplace, they should update internal policies and procedures to match the current CDC guidelines, as well as guidance from their state or local public health departments or health orders.

As a reminder, these are the current CDC-designated symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about employer compliance with state and local public health orders. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, including 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 is in business to maximize each client’s workplace potential with a commitment to kindness, true partnership, and exceptional service.

OSHA Issues Guidance on Reporting Work-Related COVID-19 Hospitalizations and Deaths

On September 30, 2020, OSHA published new guidance on employers’ obligations to report employee in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities resulting from work-related cases of COVID-19.

Employers must report hospitalizations with 24 hours: In order to be reportable, an employee’s in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of exposure to the virus at work. If the hospitalization occurs later, it is not reportable. Furthermore, an employer’s duty to report is triggered when the employer knows both that the employee has been hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was COVID-19 exposure at work within 24 hours prior to hospitalization. Once the employer knows both, it has 24 hours to report the hospitalization.

Employers must report fatalities within 8 hours: In order to be reportable, a fatality caused by COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of exposure to the virus in the workplace. If the death occurs later, it is not reportable. Furthermore, an employer’s duty to report arises when the employer knows both that the employee has died of COVID-19 and that the cause of death was work-related exposure to the virus within the prior 30 days.  Once the employer knows both, it has 8 hours to report the fatality.

Notably, the guidance does not specify how employers should decide whether or not a COVID-19 exposure was work-related for purposes of reporting hospitalizations or fatalities. Therefore, employers are left to follow prior OSHA guidance issued in May 2020 as to “whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case” of COVID-19.

An employer may report a work-related COVID-19 hospitalization or death in any of the following ways:

  • Calling the nearest OSHA office
  • Calling the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); or
  • Reporting online.

OSHA-covered employers must record all work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19.  See Lake Effect’s prior blog on this topic.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about OSHA reporting obligations relating to COVID-19. For a deeper dive into this issue, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253. 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 the latest information.

Lake Effect is committed to helping your organization maximize its workplace potential, ensuring compliance while preserving your unique culture.

Annual Benefit Notice Requirements

As employers prepare for their annual benefit renewal process, they should also note the compliance notices that must be provided to employees. Lake Effect has compiled a list of benefit related notices for employers to review. Some notices should be distributed to new hires during orientation, and some need to be distributed to current employees annually. This is not necessarily comprehensive for all the notices your organization must provide. Please check with your benefits providers, brokers, and advisors to confirm which notices apply to your organization, and when they must be distributed.


Annual Notices or Upon Initial Enrollment in Coverage:


Summary of Benefits and Coverage:  summarizes the key features of your plan or coverage, such as the covered benefits, cost-sharing provisions, and coverage limitations and exceptions.

Medicare Part D – informs your employees whether the prescription drug plan is considered credible or non-credible within your health plan. Check with your broker for more information.

Health Insurance Exchange Notice/ACA Info – provides information to employees regarding other health care options through the Marketplace.

CHIP Notice (Employer’s Children’s Health Insurance Program) – provides potential opportunities for premium assistance in the State in which the employee resides.

Gina Disclosures (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) – prohibits discrimination in health coverage and employment based on genetic information.

MHPAEA Disclosure (Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act) – generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.

Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act Notice – restricts benefits for any hospital length of stay in connection with childbirth for the mother or newborn child to less than 48 hours following a vaginal delivery, or less than 96 hours following a cesarean section.

Special Enrollment Rights Notice – describes the group health plan’s special enrollment rules including the right to enroll within 30 days of the loss of other coverage or in the case of marriage, birth of a child, adoption, etc.

WHCRA Notice (Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act) – insurance plans and companies that cover mastectomy procedures must also cover certain related services, such as surgery and reconstruction, prosthetics, and treatment of physical complications resulting from the mastectomy. A notice of rights under WHCRA must be provided to each participant and beneficiary under the plan when they enroll, and then annually.

CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) – an online disclosure that reports information regarding your plan to the CMS.

Disclosure of Grandfathered Status (only applies if health plan is a grandfathered plan)states that your plan or policy may not include certain consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act that apply to other plans, for example, the requirement for the provision of preventive health services without any cost sharing.

Notice of Privacy Practices – describes how providers may use and share your health information. It must also include your health privacy rights. If you have a self-funded plan, including a Health Reimbursement Arrangement, you may need to provide your plan HIPAA Privacy Notice. Check with your broker to see if this applies to your plan.

Wellness Program Disclosure – requires employers  who offer wellness programs that collect employee health information to provide a notice to employees informing them what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it, and how it will be confidential.


New Hires:


COBRA General Notice – contains important information and instructions regarding health benefits continuation coverage under COBRA. Employers should access the most up to date notice from www.dol.gov.

USERRA Notice (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) – protects military service members and veterans from employment discrimination on the basis of their service and allows them to regain their civilian jobs following a period of uniformed service.

FMLA (for employers with 50+ employees within a 75-mile radius) – requires covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.


Upon Certain Circumstances:


Notice of FMLA Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities – FMLA covered employers must provide this form to qualifying employees with a qualifying need for FMLA leave.

COBRA Notice and Election Form – provides notice of COBRA rights at the end of employment to notify employees of their right to continue coverage or enroll in the Marketplace.

In addition to the above benefit notices, ERISA and retirement plans may also have specific notices that need to be provided to employees throughout the year. Employers should work closely with their plan advisors to ensure compliance with those notices.

Lake Effect is here to assist with your benefit compliance and administration related questions. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

UI Notice Required at Time of Separation of Employment

Beginning November 2, 2020, Wisconsin employers must notify employees at the time of separation from employment of the availability of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Notice of unemployment rights can be given to employees by email, text message, letter, or by providing the DWD printed poster in person or by mail.

The content of the notice should include when and how an employee can file for unemployment, unemployment resources, and UI contact information. The DWD provides suggested language to include in end of employment communications to employees, including the digital poster. We encourage employers to use the suggested language and the customizable digital poster. This poster needs to be posted at all times in your workplace or electronically in the case of remote workers.

Note that providing the notice does not necessarily mean that employees will meet the requirements of the Wisconsin UI eligibility laws and/or receive benefits.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about employee onboarding, offboarding, or compliance with applicable state and federal employment laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updated from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Wisconsin Judge Reinstates Emergency Order Restricting Indoor Gatherings

Update 11/06/2020

The Governor’s Emergency Order #3, which limited indoor gatherings throughout Wisconsin, expired on November 6, 2020. On the same day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a lower court should have issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the Emergency Order.

Update 10/26/2020

The statewide indoor capacity restrictions in Emergency Order #3 are not enforceable, at least for now. On October 23, 2020, a Wisconsin court of appeals reinstated a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the statewide restrictions. The court of appeals decision follows conflicting rulings from two district courts on whether Emergency Order #3 should be enforced pending the outcome of the lawsuits filed against Governor Evers’ administration.

This is a constantly evolving issue. Employers should ensure they are following the current state and local public health restrictions applicable to their organization. Summaries of the public health orders can be found here.


10/20/2020

On October 19, 2020, Barron County Circuit Judge James C. Babler reinstated Emergency Order #3, which limits indoor gatherings throughout Wisconsin to no more than 25% of the total occupancy limit for the room or building. DHS Secretary Andrea Palm’s Emergency Order #3, effective from October 8 until November 6, 2020, exempts schools, polling locations, political rallies, churches, and some businesses, such as grocery stores. On October 14, 2020, a Sawyer County district court had temporarily blocked the Order in response to a lawsuit from state Tavern League members, who argued that Secretary Palm did not have authority to pass the statewide limitations.

Immediately following Judge Babler’s decision to uphold the statewide restrictions, Governor Evers issued a press release stating, “This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings. This crisis is urgent.” See Lake Effect’s prior blog on Emergency Order #3.
As a reminder, employers must comply with any local public health orders such as those in Dane County that impose stricter requirements than those set forth in Emergency Order #3. See Lake Effect’s summary of local health orders.

The Lake Effect team will continue to monitor important COVID-related updates such as these from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Review Employee Voting Rights As Elections Near

As we near the end of October, federal, state, and local elections are right around the corner. It is a good time for employers to review relevant policies and legal obligations towards employees who seek time off to vote or otherwise participate in the election process.

Under Wisconsin law, an employee who is entitled to vote in a public election must be given up to three (3) consecutive hours off work while the polls are open. An employee who plans to take time off to vote must notify their employer before election day, and the employer may designate the time of day for the absence (for example, at the start or end of a shift or work day). An employer need not pay an employee for time off to vote, but it may not penalize the employee in any way for taking that time off. Wis. Stat. §6.76.

An employee who wishes to participate in the election process as a registered poll worker has no similar right to time off work under Wisconsin law. However, employers may permit employees to take available paid or unpaid time off, such as vacation, paid time off, or community service time, for that purpose. Employers should take steps to ensure consistent treatment of all employees who request time off for election-related reasons.

In addition, employers should review any applicable collective bargaining agreements, handbooks, and internal policies that may provide greater rights than those set forth in Wisconsin’s voting rights statute.

Finally, employers should keep in mind that other states may impose different or additional requirements with regards to employee voting. A number of states, such as Illinois, require employers to provide paid time off for employees to vote. Other states have more stringent notice provisions. For example, New York requires employers to post a notice within 10 days of each election informing employees of their rights regarding voting time.

If you have questions about election-related issues as they impact your workforce inside or outside of Wisconsin, the team at Lake Effect HR & Law is happy to assist. Lake Effect continues to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

WI Emergency Order #3 – Statewide Limits on Indoor Public Gatherings

Indoor public gatherings are limited statewide starting on October 8, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. and ending on November 6, 2020 under Emergency Order #3. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued the order on October 6, 2020.

Emergency Order #3 restricts “public gatherings” to 25% or less of the established indoor capacity limit of a building or room. This applies to any business that is open to the public, including restaurants, retail stores, and office lobbies. If the building or room has no capacity limit (e.g., a home), public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people. The order defines a “public gathering” as an “indoor event, convening, or collection of individuals, whether planned or spontaneous, that is open to the public and brings together people who are not part of the same household in a single room.”

The order places no restrictions on outdoor gatherings, such as outdoor seating areas at a restaurant or bar; on indoor spaces that are not open to the public, such as a manufacturing plant or an office building; or on invitation-only indoor gatherings.

Employers in counties or cities with their own local public health orders and guidance (such as Dane, Milwaukee, Outagamie, and Winnebago Counties) will need to determine the restrictions applicable to their organization. DHS’s Frequently Asked Questions clarifies that Emergency Order #3 supersedes the requirements in local orders that are less restrictive. Conversely, requirements in local orders that are more restrictive will continue to be enforced. For example, a restaurant in Dane County will be required to comply with the applicable restrictions in Dane County’s PHMDC Emergency Order #9 (see Lake Effect’s blogs on the PHMDC orders) and the 25% indoor capacity restriction in the new statewide Emergency Order #3.

Exempt from the order are:

  • Most childcare settings
  • Placements for children in out-of-home care, such as foster and group homes
  • 4K-12 schools
  • Institutions of higher education
  • Health care and public health operations
  • Human services operations
  • Public infrastructure operations
  • State and local government operations
  • Churches and other places of religious worship
  • Political rallies, demonstrations, and other speech protected by the First Amendment
  • State and federal facilities

The Lake Effect team will continue to monitor important COVID-related updates such as these from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching for blogs and emails from us for important legal updates and HR best practices. 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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