Due to the pandemic, employees in the US are working from home in unprecedented numbers. Some, particularly in tech, may be working from home through the end of the year, or even permanently! While working from home raises a myriad of issues (e.g., data privacy and security, health and safety, employee engagement, and more), this post focuses on expense reimbursements related to telecommuting. The trickiest areas are cell phones and internet given that employees are now working from home because they cannot go into the office, as opposed to perhaps at their convenience.

Reimbursement Obligations

There is no federal requirement to reimburse employees for business-related expenses. However, several states (including California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana and New York) have legislation requiring reimbursement for necessary businesses expenses. For example, California Labor Code Section 2802(a) requires an employer to “indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer….” Failing to reimburse employees can lead to class or collective actions and quickly become incredibly burdensome for employers. Under California law, an employer that does not reimburse employees risks a lawsuit where the damages will include not just the unreimbursed expenses but the attorney’s fees incurred by the employee seeking reimbursement. The employee can also ask the Labor Commissioner to cite the employer or anyone acting on the employer’s behalf under Labor Code Section 2802(d). Where the practice is widespread (or just alleged to be) the claims can be brought on a class-wide basis.


Continue Reading Reimbursement Refresher: Cell Phone and Internet Expenses Related to Telecommuting in the US

California residents have some relief from shelter in place orders that took effect mid-March, with the state and several counties relaxing certain restrictions in early May. Despite those welcome changes, employers have much to track as they reopen businesses throughout California. A patchwork of state and local public health orders and guidelines confronts employers as

On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, creating a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness arises out of employment for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. This is not the first order of its kind; other states including Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, and Wisconsin, have imposed similar rebuttable presumptions. However, most of these jurisdictions have limited the rebuttable presumption to first responders. California’s order doesn’t.

At the federal level, House Democrats are looking to follow suit, proposing a similar presumption for certain federal workers under the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (the “HEROES Act”). If enacted as proposed, the HEROES Act would create a presumption that certain federal employees who contract COVID-19 did so in the course and scope of their employment if the employees have a risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work and on-the-job contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers. A similar presumption would apply to certain maritime workers.  The House passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199 on May 15, 2020, but tremendous opposition is expected when the bill reaches the Republican dominated Senate.

Is California’s order likely to stick?

It’s difficult to tell. California business owners are unhappy with the likely significant increase in workers’ compensation liabilities and the inequity of shifting the cost of employees’ COVID-19 illnesses to employers. Challenges to the California order would not be surprising.


Continue Reading Are You Sure You Contracted COVID-19 at Work? California Thinks So

We are pleased to share our Shelter-in-Place / Reopening Tracker.

This document identifies the relevant state-wide shelter-in-place orders and their related expiration dates as well as the state-wide reopening plans, and whether local (county/municipal) orders also apply, in each of the 50 United States.

Please check back for updates throughout the pandemic.

On April 29, public health officials in six Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara) and the city of Berkeley released new health orders extending mandates to shelter in place through May 31, while relaxing restrictions around some outdoor businesses and recreation activities. The new Orders will take effect May 4, the day existing shelter-in-place mandates would have expired. (We previously discussed the local Orders here and here.)

Continue Reading Bay Area’s Shelter-In-Place Orders Modified and Extended to May 31

On April 16, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-51-20 (“Order”) requiring employers in the food sector to:

  • Provide employees with paid sick leave due to COVID-19, and
  • Permit employees working in a food facility to wash their hands at least once every 30 minutes.

The type of workers included ranges from farmworkers to those in the retail food supply chain, including pick-up, delivery, supply, packaging, retail, or preparation. Eligible workers thus include grocery workers, restaurant or fast food workers, workers at warehouses where food is stored, and workers who pick-up or deliver any food items.


Continue Reading New California Paid Sick Leave For Food Sector Workers

With signs that the virus is peaking in the US, and with some state Shelter-in-Place Orders scheduled to be lifted in the coming weeks, employers are turning their attention to planning for how best to bring employees back to work.

As with the initial outbreak, US employers can look to other corners of the world

Are They Right For You?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global economy, United States employers are continuing to examine ways to reduce costs while at the same time both limiting the financial impact on employees and preserving their ability to ramp back up when circumstances allow. State short time compensation programs, also known as work share programs, provide one avenue for cost savings that may be appropriate for some employers.

Where available, these programs provide pro-rated unemployment compensation benefits to groups of workers whose hours are reduced by their employer on a temporary basis in lieu of layoffs. In addition, the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) provides a federally-funded $600 per week unemployment compensation supplement to those who participate in such programs through July 31, 2020.

This Alert provides additional details about state short time compensation programs and answers frequently asked questions about the pros and cons of participation.

Where are short time compensation programs available?

Currently, the following 27 jurisdictions have short time compensation programs in place: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The CARES Act provided federal funding for other states to enact short time compensation programs, so additional states may do so in the near term.


Continue Reading Short Time Compensation (Work Share) Programs

In the wake of the global pandemic, many companies need to take quick action to reduce costs. This 40 minute webinar, co-hosted by the ACC Southern California Chapter, outlines the various cost-cutting strategies available to employers in the US, and walk participants through the major considerations necessary to minimize legal risk. Our speakers discuss how

We recently covered the new paid sick and family leave requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) here. The FFCRA marks the first time Congress required federal paid leave for private sector workers. That is not the case at the state and municipal level, where for years, employers have had to navigate