Coronavirus Resources for Employers
This page compiles a number of resources that are useful for employers as we make adjust practices, set policy, and take action to protect our employees and provide safe workplaces.
WCI Coronavirus Letter from Fredrick Reese - March 18, 2020
COVID-19 Legal Update 3/23/2020
This video features employment attorney Sabrina Presnell Rockoff of McGuire Wood & Bissette law firm. Sabrina explains the changes to FMLA as a result of the HR6201 signed into law. Keep in mind that in this season of rapid change, these employment regulations are evolving as well and are subject to change. Length 23:41
Additional updates are under development, and will be posted here when available.
US Stimulus Package
On March 26, the US Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) and sent it to the House of Representatives. The US House approved the bill with a voice vote on March 27, and President Trump signed it into law.
CARES Act Summary - from WCI's HR Answers Now 3/27/2020
The CARES Act - the Congressional details
The CARES Act - full text of the law as PDF
SBA Disaster Loans - submission assistance information
SBA Bridge Loans - pilot program guide for download
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus while at the same time reimbursing businesses.
Questions & Answers about FFCRA - DOL Guidance
Employee Paid Leave Rights - DOL Guidance
Employer Paid Leave Requirements - DOL Guidance
POSTER: Employee Rights under FFCRA - printable PDF
Questions & Answers about FFCRA poster - DOL Guidance
Temporary Non-Enforcement Period for FFCRA - DOL Bulletin
Full Text of FFCRA Law - online PDF from the US Congress
Federal Compliance Guidance
FFCRA Paid Leave & Tax Credits - DOL Guidance
FLSA new Wage & Hour Opinion Letters - new DOL Guidance 3/26/2020
FLSA questions & answers related to COVID-19 - DOL Guidance
FMLA questions & answers related to COVID-19 - DOL Guidance
ADA questions & answers related to COVID-19 - EEOC Guidance
HIPAA Privacy and Novel Coronavirus - HHS Guidance
North Carolina Resources
WCI Guidance for NC Unemployment Benefits - 3/31/2020 updated document
Stay At Home Order - Governor Cooper's 3/27/2020 executive order (full text)
NC Employment Security COVID-19 Information - DES webpage for unemployment benefits
Filing for Unemployment - tip sheet from NCDES
NC Dept of Health & Human Services - coronavirus webpage
Summary of FFCRA - Rights & Responsibilities - 3/25/2020
Buncombe County's Stay Home - Stay Safe Order - 3/25/2020
FAQs for COVID-19 (updated 3/25/2020)
May an employer require an employee to use any available PTO or vacation/sick leave for their absences associated with COVID-19?
Yes, until the Families First Coronovirus Response Act (FFCRA) goes into effect on April 1. (Please see other information regarding eligibility and employer requirements in the FFCRA section above). Until then, employers may require employees to use any available PTO or vacation/sick leave for their absences associated with COVID-19. Commonly, employers have policies in place that state employees must use all available paid time off before utilizing unpaid time off.
What can employers do if an employee is out of paid-time-off and is absent from work due to COVID-19 related symptoms?
This answer depends on whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. For non-exempt employees, employers must compensate employees for all hours worked. If a non-exempt employee is home from work but working remotely, then the employee must be compensated for all hours worked. However, if a non-exempt employee is absent from work and does not perform any services, the employee does not need to be paid for that time.
Exempt employees, on the other hand, should receive their full salary during any week where work is performed, with some exceptions. For instance, if an employer has a bona fide sick leave or PTO policy in place and an exempt employee either is not eligible for sick leave/PTO or has exhausted their sick/PTO hours, then employers can deduct only for full day absences assuming the employee performs no work during that day.
How do we address employee concerns about co-workers who appear sick and/or who may be from areas with known coronavirus cases?
Employers should be prepared to respond to employees who express reservations about working with employees or others who have returned from international travel or who are otherwise suspected of being infected with coronavirus. While some employee worries will be reasonably based on, and consistent with, guidance from medical authorities, other concerns may be driven by unfounded fear or speculation. Employers must be careful not to feed into unsubstantiated employee concerns and to avoid engaging in discrimination — including discrimination against individuals who are disabled or perceived as disabled because they are exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus, or individuals belonging to protected classes associated with a virus that appears to have originated in Asia.
Can an employee refuse to come to work due to their concerns over COVID-19?
In most circumstances, no. Under OSHA rules, an employee can refuse to come to work if they believe they are in imminent danger, which is defined as threat of death or serious physical harm. The employee would need to show that there is a high risk of death or serious physical harm in their immediate future if they were to come to work as opposed to a generalized fear. This is a high burden for employees to meet, especially if employers are following the workplace recommendations provided by the CDC and OSHA. However, if an employee is refusing to come to work, it may be worth seeking legal guidance.
What are your obligations if an employee has contracted or been directly exposed to COVID-19?
If you have an employee who has contracted COVID-19, that employee should be sent home immediately. It is also advised to seek information about who they may have come into close contact with through their work. Employers should share non-identifying information with other employees who work at the same location, as they are at increased health risk. Any employee that has come into close contact with the infected employee should also be sent home for 14 days. For specific guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 positive employees, please reach out to your local health department for reporting requirements.
Do employers have to pay employees if the company shuts down for a specified time due to COVID‑19?
Again, this answer depends on whether employees are exempt or non-exempt. If an employer shuts down their offices and/or facilities, non-exempt employees do not need to be paid when work is not being performed. However, for exempt employees, the general rule is that exempt employees need to be paid for all weeks in which some work is performed. Therefore, if offices and/or facilities are shut down for partial weeks, exempt employees receive their full salary. However, if offices and/or facilities are shut down for a full week, employers are not required to pay exempt employees for weeks where no work is performed.
How will businesses pay for the FFCRA legislation?
The bill provides tax credits for businesses that provide benefits for companies and self-employed individuals who are affected by the coronavirus. It can cover up to 100 percent of qualified paid sick leave, for employers, and a 67 percent refundable tax credit for self-employed people caring for a child or family member. For self-employed, the benefits are capped at either $200 per day or the average daily income rate, whichever is smaller. These things, obviously, will help many employees and small- business owners and the self-employed. However, it won't cover all costs 100 percent.