The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that it is finalizing new recommendations for shortening the 14-day quarantine period currently recommended for persons potentially exposed to COVID-19. While details on the new recommendations have not been announced, comments by various CDC officials indicate that the quarantine period could be reduced to
After the fastest reported increase in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic- with new infections doubling in the past 10 days-California Governor Newsom “sound[ed] the alarm,” announcing on November 16 that 40 counties are moving in the wrong direction under the state’s reopening plan. Twenty-eight counties moved into the state’s most restrictive purple tier under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, signifying that the coronavirus is “widespread.” Now, 41 of the state’s 58 counties are purple, a stark contrast from only 13 purple tier counties last week.
Several Bay Area and Southern California counties are affected:
- Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Napa and Solano counties are reverting to the purple tier, while San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties are stepping back into the second-most restrictive red tier (indicating “substantial” virus spread).
- Orange and Ventura counties-which improved to red in September and October, respectively-are retreating to purple, joining Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Bernardino counties in the purple tier.
California employers and employees are already feeling the effects. Purple status severely limits indoor activity, including:
- Restricting capacity at retail establishments and malls (open indoors at 25% capacity);
- Moving fitness centers, family entertainment, and movie theaters to outdoor only;
- Limiting restaurants and wineries to limited outdoor-only service;
- Closing bars and breweries;
- Requiring schools to remain online only; and
- Requiring non-essential offices to work remotely.
With 94% of the state’s population now in the purple tier, talk of curfews, and restrictions being one step away from the stay-at-home orders that swept the US in March, the scaled back reopening undoubtedly will have devastating economic impacts on businesses and their employees.
As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve 2020, sweeping amendments to California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA) will take effect. Both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the current version of CFRA entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family or medical leave during a 12-month period. This statutory leave right provides employees with time off from work for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child, to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition, or when the employee cannot work because of a serious health condition.
Effective January 1, 2021, however, not only will the CFRA apply to more employers (covering employers with as few as five instead of the current 50 employees), but CFRA’s expanded definition of “family members” also will authorize certain employees to take a total of 24 weeks of family and medical leave, effectively doubling the currently available 12 weeks of leave available, in each 12-month period.
We highlight the key changes to the CFRA and employer considerations below.
We are excited to invite you to our virtual Annual California Employer Update on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, from 1:00 – 2:15 PM PT.
“Quick Hits: California’s Top 10 & What You Need To Know In 2021” is designed to ensure that in-house counsel are up to speed on what changed in 2020 and prepared…
Last week Governor Newsom signed three important bills into law:
- SB 1159: Expands Presumption of Workers’ Compensation Liability for COVID-19 Illness Claims
SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation by creating a rebuttable presumption of compensable injury for front line workers — health care workers, firefighters and peace officers. The presumption, while rebuttable, makes…
California’s latest move on the COVID-19 front is an attempt to fill the gap left by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) – and requires larger employers to act immediately. The FFCRA – which mandates paid sick and FMLA leave for designated COVID-19 reasons – does not apply to employers with 500 or more employees. The FFCRA also allows employers of certain health care workers and emergency responders to exclude those employees from its coverage.
On September 10, 2020, Governor Newsom closed these FFCRA loopholes for California-based employees by signing A.B. 1867 into law. The new statute takes effect immediately, and by September 20, 2020, requires employers to provide up to 80 hours of “COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave” to the following “covered workers”:
- California-based employees of larger employers (500 or more employees in the U.S.);
- Specified “food sector workers” (A.B. 1867 effectively codifies Governor’s Newsom’s existing Executive Order already granting paid COVID-19 paid sick leave to these workers); and
- Health care workers and emergency responders who were excluded from FFCRA by their employers.
A.B. 1867 does two other things:
- It requires employers to allow employees who work in food facilities, as defined in Section 113789 of the Health and Safety Code, to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed, and
- It creates a new mediation pilot program under which small employers (5 to 19 employees) may request mediation through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within 30 days of receiving a right to sue notice for alleged violations of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), the state law equivalent of the FMLA.
Interestingly, nothing in A.B. 1867 expressly limits the new COVID-19 sick leave benefit to California-based employees, but California’s ability to regulate employment relationships generally stops at its borders.
A.B. 1867’s requirements are detailed below.
On September 3, 2020, the DOL sent a revised proposed rule regarding paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to the Office of Management and Budget for its review, according to an OMB posting. Though the OMB posting does not disclose the proposed rule’s contents, it is widely believed that the…
The latest wrinkle for employers managing employees in the time of COVID-19 relates to employee travel. Many employers are coming to us asking how to navigate the patchwork of US state and local quarantine restrictions and / or recommendations for persons who travel to hotspots and then have to quarantine when they return home.
Questions abound, including whether employers can just test employees for COVID-19 to avoid a 14-day quarantine period, and whether employers have to pay employees to follow a quarantine order when their employees voluntarily travel to a hotspot location. We provide background and answer those questions below.
Many schools across the US are not welcoming students back for full-time in-person learning in the fall. On August 5, 2020, after Chicago Public Schools announced it would begin the academic year remotely in September, New York City became the last remaining major school system in the country to even try to offer in-person classes this fall. Proposed plans for schools that aren’t fully reopening range from full remote learning to hybrid models, where students are in school only half a day or several days a week coupled with a remote learning component from home. Either way, employers are likely to find themselves inundated with requests from parents of school-age children for continued work from home arrangements or other work-schedule flexibility. In our Q&A below, we have highlighted issues employers may want to keep in mind as employees with school-age children try to navigate a school year with its own “novel” aspects.
1. Are employers legally obligated to provide any sort of leave for employees who have to stay home with their children if schools don’t fully reopen?
It depends. If the employer is a “covered employer” under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees may be eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA. The FFCRA was enacted to provide employees with COVID-19 related paid leave. Covered employers under the FFCRA (generally, private sector employers who have fewer than 500 employees at the time the leave request is made) are required to provide eligible employees with partially paid child care leave for certain COVID-19-related reasons, including if the child’s school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Does virtual learning count as a “closed or unavailable” school for purposes of the FFCRA? Though the DOL guidance and FFCRA regulations have not spoken directly on this topic, the DOL’s early Q&A guidance on the FFCRA indicates that a school is “closed” for purposes of EPSLA or EFMLEA leave when the “physical location where [the] child received instruction or care is now closed.” The focus on “physical location” signals that if the school building is closed to students and students are required to learn remotely, the school is “closed” for purposes of the FFCRA.
The FFCRA imposes two federal leave obligations on employers – the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).
- Under the EPSLA:
- An eligible employee may take up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work or telework for reasons including to care for a child whose school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. Pay is capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
- Under the EFMLEA:
- An eligible employee may take up to twelve weeks of “expanded” FMLA leave when unable to work or telework due to a need for leave to care for a child whose school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
- The first two weeks of EFMLEA leave are unpaid. An eligible employee may use paid sick leave under the EPSLA or other accrued paid leave under the employer’s leave policies to receive pay for those two weeks.
- An eligible employee may take up to an additional 10 weeks of paid EFMLEA leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, based on the number of hours the employee would be normally scheduled to work those days. Pay is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.
In addition, state and local leave laws may apply, many of which either provide additional leave or state that providing care for a child whose school is closed or unavailable for COVID-19 reasons is a protected reason for an employee to take leave.
On July 20, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor (DOL) published additional COVID-19 guidance in the form of a Q&A addressing Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) issues arising when employers and employees return to work.
A few days before, on July 17, the DOL published streamlined optional-use forms for employer and employee notification and certification obligations under the FMLA and separately asked the public to comment on the FMLA and its regulations in a Request for Information (RFI). The additional guidance and forms should help employers navigate FMLA leave and employee wage and hour issues during COVID-19. And employers now have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the FMLA and its implementing regulations with the DOL. We provide more insight into the DOL’s recent activity below.