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HR Update: Legislative Update

By March 25, 2020 No Comments

Legislative Update

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act The Senate has come to an agreement on the proposed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Senate is expected to vote today on the bill. It will then go to the House for vote, and finally to the President’s desk for signature. The bill includes relief for small businesses, including forgivable bridge loans and additional funding for grants and technical assistance. The House’s proposed Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act bill will likely not move forward if the CARES bill passes. You can monitor the status of, and find a copy of, the bill here.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) The Department of Labor released guidance yesterday on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which requires qualifying employers to offer eligible employees paid sick leave and/or emergency family medical leave. 

Importantly, the DOL has announced a change in that the FFCRA will be effective April 1, 2020, not April 2, 2020. We recommend all qualified employers comply as of April 1, 2020.

 The DOL also released the FFCRA poster for employers to give to their employees. You can find a copy of the poster here. The DOL also posted FAQs for where and how to display the poster here. Generally, the FFCRA provides that covered employers must provide to all employees: 

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because
    • the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or
    • experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of
    • a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or
    • care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or
    • the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:
Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. Fewer than 50 Employee Exemption:

  • Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

I-9 Update 

For employers and workplaces that are operating remotely due to COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is temporarily suspending the physical requirements provision of the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9.  In these cases only, the Employer may:

  • Inspect and verify the employee’s documents via video link, fax or email, etc.
  • Obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within 3 business days for purposes of completing Section 2.
  • Employers must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee.

Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification, must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers will have to then take the following steps:

  • Employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in Section 2 once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume.
  • Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate. 

These loosened restrictions do not apply if there are any employees physically present at the worksite. The only exception would be if a newly hired employee or existing employees are subject to a COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown order, and in those cases would be reviewed case-by-case by the DHS.

These provisions may be implemented by employers from either March 20, 2020 – May 19, 2020 OR within three (3) business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first. More information can be found here.

Unemployment Update

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has released a new FAQ for individuals seeking benefits due to COVID-19. A copy of the FAQ can be found here. The DEO has also expanded its call center hours to accommodate the surge in unemployment claims. Many other states have also released COVID-19-specific unemployment FAQs. The federal government is providing additional unemployment funding to states pursuant to the FFCRA. The federal government will also be expanding unemployment benefits if the CARES Act becomes law.

Other Florida Resources

Florida business owners can find the most up to date executive orders by going to https://www.flgov.com/covid-19/. As a reminder, impacted small businesses in Florida can apply here for bridge loans.

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