On July 2, 2020, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) supplemented its prior COVID-19 guidance (Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and Guidance on Returning to Work) with additional FAQ guidance covering topics such as best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection in the workplace, workplace testing, and worker training. Though the guidance is not a standard or regulation itself (and therefore creates no new legal obligations for employers), it provides practical answers to actual inquiries OSHA received from the public regarding COVID-19 and workplace safety, and refers to pertinent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and applicable OSHA standards for employers to consider.

OSHA grouped the FAQs by topic for easy navigation. Several of the key FAQs for employers are summarized below.

General Information

What precautions can employers in non-healthcare workplaces take to protect workers from COVID-19?

Employers should assess worker exposure to hazards and risks and implement infection prevention measures to reasonably address them consistent with OSHA Standards. Such measures could include:

  • Promoting frequent and thorough handwashing or sanitizing with at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer;
  • Encouraging workers to stay at home if sick;
  • Encouraging use of cloth face coverings;
  • Training employees on proper respiratory etiquette, social distancing, and other steps they can take to protect themselves;
  • Considering using stanchions, temporary barriers, shields, and spacing out workstations to help keep workers and others at the worksite at least 6 feet away from each other;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, workstations, restroom stalls) as much as possible, but at least daily.

Employers subject to OSHA’s PPE standard must also provide and require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed, and must conduct job hazard assessments to determine the appropriate type and level of PPE required.

The US Department of Labor and US Department of Health and Human Services’ Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and OSHA’s Prevent Worker Exposure to COVID-19 alert provide more information on steps all employers can take to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Learn more about preventing the spread of COVID-19 from OSHA and CDC.

Cleaning and Disinfection

How should I clean and disinfect my workplace?

Employers should review the CDC’s updated information about cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes.


Continue Reading OSHA Publishes New FAQ Guidance on COVID-19 in Response to Public Inquiry

Employers in the US are more than a little fearful of COVID-19 related class and collective action lawsuits coming their way, and with good reason. Since shelter-in-place orders were imposed in March, US employers have faced class action lawsuits for a variety of COVID-19 related reasons, including the alleged failure to implement proper workplace safety measures or provide appropriate paid sick leave. To keep workers safe from contracting the virus at work, many employers have allowed employees to continue to work from home indefinitely, which likely decreases the odds that an employer will be sued in class action litigation for failing to provide appropriate PPE in the workplace. However, managing employees working from home can create other issues worthy of class-action litigation, including reimbursing those employees for work-related expenses.

What can employers do to ensure they meet reimbursement requirements to steer clear of expense reimbursement class action lawsuits in the US? Go through the four considerations, below.

  1. Know the rules that apply in your jurisdiction

Several jurisdictions have specific rules regarding employee expense reimbursements, so you’ll need to check your local law. In California, an employer must reimburse an employee for all “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence or discharge of his or her duties.” Cal. Lab. Code § 2802. Similarly, Illinois requires reimbursement of all “necessary expenditures or losses” an employee incurs within the scope of employment that are “directly related to services performed for the employer,” unless the employer has a written reimbursement expense policy and the employee fails to comply with that policy. 820 ILCS 115/9.5. And in the District of Columbia, employers must pay the cost of purchasing and maintaining any tools that the employer requires to perform the employer’s business. D.C. Mun. Reg. tit. 7, § 910.1. If you have operations in several jurisdictions, make sure that you know and follow each applicable jurisdiction’s rules.

In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) may apply. Though the FLSA does not require employers to reimburse their employees, under the FLSA “kickback” rule, employees cannot be required to directly pay business-related expenses or reimburse their employer for such expenses if doing so would cause the employee’s wage rate to fall below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation thresholds. See 29 C.F.R. § 531.35. Remote workers typically earn well-above the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), so employers don’t need to be as concerned about business expenses causing those employees’ wages to dip below the federal minimum wage. However, employers should be on the lookout for these situations, which require more attention:

  • Where employees are subject to overtime for working more than 40 hours in a workweek;
  • Where a particular pay threshold (whether under federal or state law) must be met for the employee to meet an exemption from overtime (in which case the employee will become nonexempt and must be paid overtime for any work over 40 hours in a workweek); or
  • Where state or local minimum wages are higher (such as Chicago’s $14 per hour or California’s $12 per hour), making it more likely that an employee’s payment of business-related expenses would cause their wages to dip below the minimum wage.

A violation of the FLSA occurs in any workweek in which the cost of the business-related expenses borne by the employee cuts into the minimum or overtime wages required to be paid to the employee. Therefore, employers can more easily run afoul of the FLSA in these scenarios, especially if the business-related expenses paid in any given workweek happen to be hefty.


Continue Reading Want to Avoid Employee Reimbursement Class Actions for Remote Work? Take These Four Steps

As we approach our 20th video chat in this series, we hope you have found these quick and bite-sized video chats with our employment partners helpful and informative. These Q&A-styled sessions offer targeted insights into the most timely and critical issues that US employers are facing as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Combined with our

In the wake of the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, government investigations into perceived preferential treatment of foreign workers by U.S. employers is expected.

At-risk companies include those in industries that typically employ a higher number of foreign workers under H-1B, H-2A and H-2B visas, from technology and consulting to hospitality and food

On June 5, 2020, President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act into law. The Flexibility Act amends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in several important ways, including by giving borrowers more time to spend loan funds and still obtain forgiveness, increasing the amount of non-payroll costs that may be forgiven, and creating two new “safe harbors” that allow borrowers to achieve full forgiveness despite reductions in employee headcount or wages.

Congress enacted the PPP provisions largely to allow small businesses to meet their payroll obligations and avoid layoffs during the pandemic. To encourage businesses to keep their workforces and payrolls intact, the CARES Act provides that employers who do not reduce headcount or wages and salaries during certain measurement periods may qualify for forgiveness of their PPP balances. However, under the CARES Act as originally enacted, forgiveness is reduced or eliminated if employers lay off workers or reduce their wages.

One of the new “safe harbors” allows employers who have been unable to operate at the same level of business activity as a result of compliance with COVID-19 related federal safety guidelines and closure orders to obtain full forgiveness even though they have reduced employee headcount. But if employers can fit within the Flexibility Act’s new safe harbor, is it really “safe” for them to do so? We offer insight below.
Continue Reading Is it Safe to Rely on the PPP Flexibility Act Safe Harbor for Reduced Activity Levels?

On June 23, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to approve “right to reemployment” legislation that requires large employers to first offer laid-off workers their old jobs back before offering employment to new applicants (“Ordinance”). It will become effective immediately upon Mayor London Breed’s signature and will expire upon the 61st day following enactment unless extended.

Advocates of the Ordinance argued the requirement is necessary to ensure employers don’t use the pandemic as an opportunity to simply replace old workers with new employees who are younger and less expensive. Organizations lobbying against the Ordinance argued that it is overly burdensome; violates core constitutional principles; runs counter to several federal and state laws; and is extremely vulnerable to abuse. Similar legislation has surfaced in Los Angeles County as well. More on that to come.

Covered Employers

“Covered employers” are defined as for-profit and non-profit employers that directly or indirectly own or operate a business in the City or County of San Francisco and employ, or have employed, 100 or more employees on or after February 25, 2020.


Continue Reading San Francisco Provides Temporary Right to Reemployment Following Layoff Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

We hope you have found our video chat series helpful and informative. We are continuing this series of quick and bite-sized video chats, where our employment partners team up with practitioners in various areas of law to discuss the most pressing issues for employers navigating the return to work. Each 15-minute Q&A session offers targeted

Yesterday evening, the President signed a Proclamation expanding the restrictions outlined in the April 22 Proclamation in an effort to protect the U.S. workforce amidst the economic downturn related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Proclamation suspends the entry of any individual pursuant to H-1B, H-2B, L, and J nonimmigrant status, and their dependents (H-4, L-2, and J-2), until December 31, 2020. The Proclamation applies to individuals who are currently outside of the United States and are not in possession of a nonimmigrant visa or other official travel document valid as of June 24, 2020. In addition, the Proclamation extends the restrictions on the issuance of immigrant visas outlined in the April 22, 2020 Proclamation through December 31, 2020. This Proclamation contains a range of exceptions, which are detailed below.

The Proclamation is separate from Embassy and Consulate closures and COVID-19 related restrictions on travel to the US from certain countries, which continue to remain in effect. Yet, those measures must be read in conjunction the latest Proclamation. The June 22 announcement imposes further restrictions on the movement of foreign national employees into the United States that likely has a wider impact on US employers than the April 22 Proclamation.


Continue Reading Latest COVID-19 Related Presidential Proclamation on US Immigration Expands Restrictions and Impacts Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants Abroad

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to re-examine their work from home or remote work policies. There is no one size fits all plan. Many companies have moved rapidly to a remote workforce during the pandemic, often with employees relocating to (or been stranded in) locations outside of their normal worksites. For some, remote work