On August 8, 2020, a New York federal district judge struck down a significant portion of the DOL’s “joint employer” rule, meaning certain employers may be more likely to be deemed “joint employers” and exposed to liability for employee wage and hour violations under the FLSA. The “joint employer” final rule, which was issued by the DOL in January 2020, imposed a four-factor test for deciding whether employers in “vertical” employment relationships (i.e., when workers for a staffing company or other intermediary are contracted to another entity) are joint employers under the FLSA.

Continue Reading Are You A Joint Employer Now? Part of DOL’s “Joint Employer” Final Rule Struck Down

With special thanks to Amy Greer and Jennifer Klass for contributing to this post.

COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic in the US on March 13, 2020. Yet, even now, as we are over six months in to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in the US, employers still continue to face challenges when navigating the sometimes daily changes in health and safety orders, updates from federal agencies, court decisions, and the proliferation of lawsuits. One of the key decision points for many employers is when to reopen, what should drive that decision, the legal risk of “getting it wrong” and how to mitigate that risk. Unlike retailers and restaurants, companies in the financial industry have largely avoided shutting down operations. However, that does not mean they have fully reopened. Where does the financial industry stand in its reopening? What should financial services companies be concerned about in terms of COVID-19 related guidance and recommendations, legal claims by employees, and how can companies mitigate these claims? What are specific COVID-19 related compliance issues unique to investment advisors and broker-dealers? We share our insights below.


Continue Reading For Financial Industry Employers During the Pandemic, “Risk” Takes on a Different Meaning

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

Employers must pay for all hours they know or “have reason to believe” employees worked. But can employers simply rely on teleworking employees to report all of their hours worked, or must they instead investigate whether their employees have accurately reported their work time? With the huge increase in teleworking since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this question should be top-of-mind for employers.

On August 24, 2020, the US Department of Labor issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-5 (FAB) to clarify an employer’s obligations in determining whether teleworking employees have accurately reported their work time. In short, the employer is not required to comb through every cell phone or computer login record to look for unreported work time that the employer neither knew of nor had reason to believe had been worked. As long as the employer provides employees with reasonable time-reporting procedures and does not otherwise impede or discourage reporting, its failure to compensate employees for unreported and unknown hours of work is not an FLSA violation. The FAB and some key takeaways for employers are summarized below.


Continue Reading A “Reason to Believe”: DOL Says the Obligation to Determine Remote Employees’ Hours of Work is “Not Boundless”

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.


Continue Reading Navigating Employee Travel in a Maze of State and Local Quarantine Orders and Travel Advisories

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.


Continue Reading Back to School or Back to Home? Handling Leave Requests from Employees with School-Age Children

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.


Continue Reading New Q&As, New Streamlined Forms, and an RFI: the Department of Labor Publishes More COVID-19 Guidance and Seeks Public Comment on the FMLA

With a surge in COVID-19 cases in parts of the US (and some states taking or considering taking a step backwards into a prior reopening phase), employers are trying to figure out the best ways to keep the virus from spreading in their reopened worksites. We have answered some frequently asked questions below to help employers implement or modify their screening protocol to make it the best fit for their physical workspace, their budget, and their workforce.

1.  Can I check my employees’ temperatures before they enter the  workplace? If my employees have a fever, can I send them home (or tell them not to come to work)?

Yes, employers can check their employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. In fact, some states and localities require employers to do daily or weekly checks, so check your local requirements.

A temperature check is a medical examination under the ADA, and in ordinary times, employers generally cannot require employees to submit to a temperature check. However, given COVID-19’s rise to the level of pandemic, and the CDC and state and local health authorities’ acknowledgment of the community spread of COVID-19 and issuance of precautions, EEOC guidance allows employers to check employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. Temperature checks are only permitted while the virus is severe, so as the level of community spread diminishes in your locality make sure that temperature checks are still permitted before you administer them.

In addition, employers can send employees home (or tell them not to come to work) if they have a fever or any of the other symptoms of COVID-19. See EEOC guidance and CDC guidance, “Separate Sick Employees.” The CDC defines a fever as 100.4 F or 38 C or above. States may have different guidance regarding what qualifies as a “fever,” with some states defining a “fever” as a flat 100 F, and employers can set lower temperature thresholds if they prefer.


Continue Reading Employee Testing for COVID-19: What Works Now for Your Worksite?

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