DOL Withdraws Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status under FLSA

On May 5, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a new final rule withdrawing the “Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” final rule (Independent Contractor Rule) that had been published on January 7, 2021, to take effect on March 8, 2021. Of note, the DOL is not issuing new federal guidance on independent contractor status with this new rule. The DOL indicated that the January 2021 rule “is inconsistent with the FLSA’s text and purpose, and would have a confusing and disruptive effect on workers and businesses alike. . . .” The new Rule will be published on May 6, 2021.

Employers should keep in mind that many states, including Wisconsin, have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status. These state laws can vary widely from state-to-state, and even within a state, depending upon the issue being addressed (i.e., unemployment eligibility, wage and hour, tax liability). Lake Effect continues to monitor federal and state laws and guidance relating to independent contractor status, and we will keep you apprised of developments in this area.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about independent contractors, FLSA, and labor laws. 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.

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.

Major Provisions of Final Tip Pool Rule Become Effective April 30, 2021

Three main provisions of the US Department of Labor’s final tip pool rule take effect April 30, 2021. Other parts of the rule are delayed and could be further revised by the Biden Administration. For a complete discussion of the final rule, issued on December 22, 2020, please see Lake Effect’s prior blog on this topic.

The following provisions of the final tip pool rule take effect April 30, 2021:

  • Employers, managers, and supervisors are prohibited from sharing or keeping any portion of tips received by employees; this prohibition applies regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit and regardless of the type of tip pool implemented.
  • Employers who do not take a tip credit have two options for tip pooling. Employers may create a “traditional tip pool” and/or a “nontraditional tip pool,” which includes employees who do not regularly receive tips, such as cooks and dishwashers. Employers who take a tip credit can only create a traditional tip pool.
  • An employer who takes a tip credit or creates either type of tip pool must identify on its payroll records each employee who receives tips and maintain records of the weekly or monthly amount of tips reported by each employee.

The effective date of the remaining provisions of the final tip pool rule has been delayed until December 31, 2021. Those delayed provisions address:

  • The assessment of civil monetary penalties against employers who “willfully” or otherwise violate the FLSA’s prohibition against keeping employee tips.
  • The application of the FLSA tip credit to tipped employees who perform tipped and non-tipped duties. The effective date of these provisions is delayed until December 31, 2021.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state wage and hour laws that impact employers across all industries.  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.

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.

Call to Action: New COBRA Notices Due Soon

On April 12, 2021, Lake Effect HR & Law posted a blog notifying our readers about new COBRA provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). We encourage employers who are federal or state COBRA covered employers to take prompt action, as deadlines for notices are upon us.

  • Starting April 1, 2021, employers are required to send a new ARPA COBRA summary fact sheet and new required COBRA notice to covered employees and their dependents who have had qualifying events.
  • By May 31, 2021, employers are required to send a new ARPA COBRA summary fact sheet and new extended COBRA election notice to covered employees and their dependents who had certain qualifying events between October 1, 2019 and April 1, 2021.

Please see our prior blog for live links to the required ARPA COBRA summary fact sheet and new COBRA notices. As always, if you need assistance or advice on administering these new COBRA notices, please reach out to the HR professionals and attorneys at Lake Effect HR & Law. Please know that employers and plans may be subject to an excise tax under the IRS Code for failing to satisfy the new COBRA requirements. The tax may be as much as $100 per qualified beneficiary.

We continue to monitor developments and guidance relating to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and other legislative 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.

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.

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.

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

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