U.S. employers are now in the thick of bringing employees back to physical offices, facilities and plants. Some of the myriad issues they must address are pure HR: how to deal with employee fears, for example, or how to figure out if an employee who is immunocompromised is entitled to telework as a form of disability accommodation. Some of the issues, however, are far more basic but at the least as important: how do we ensure physical safety? Happily, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”)—initially criticized for failing to provide definitive guidance on maintaining a safe workplace in a COVID world—has issued guidance on the use of “face coverings” (yes, masks) in the workplace.  This post summarizes the key takeaways from OSHA’s guidance.

Continue Reading OSHA Issues Guidance Regarding Face Coverings In The Workplace

On June 3, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Notice 2020-24 providing temporary relief from the physical presence requirement for participant elections that are required to be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public, including spousal consents.  The relief covers the period from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 (the “Relief Period”).  While specifically intended to facilitate the payment of coronavirus-related distributions and plan loans under the CARES Act, as described in our Advisory of April 3, 2020, Notice 2020-24 applies to any participant election that requires the signature of an individual to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary.

Continue Reading IRS Issues Temporary Relief from Physical Presence Requirement for Spousal Consents Under Retirement Plans

Today the EEOC updated its Technical Assistance Questions and Answers (Q&A), “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”

Among the updates, the EEOC  provides Q&A guidance regarding: requests for accommodation (Q&A D.13, G.7); pandemic-related harassment in the context of telework (Q&A E.4); return to work guidance (Q&A G.6, G.7); and other questions related to age discrimination (Q&A H.1), pregnancy discrimination (Q&A J.1), and sex discrimination involving employees with caretaking or family responsibilities (Q&A I.1).

The EEOC also touches on an issue that all employers will undoubtedly face as employees return to work, namely, whether an accommodation is required for an employee who is not disabled, but whose family member may be at high risk for contracting COVID-19 due to an underlying condition. The EEOC’s June 11 Q&A D.13 states:


Continue Reading EEOC Updates COVID-19 Technical Assistance Publication with Q&A

The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has issued new guidance which will dictate how employers can resume business and safely start the “return to work” process. The overall focus of the guidance, which purports to “change the way people work,” is that employers should implement systems and procedures that can prevent and reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

First, it must be understood that the guidance is not law, and thus employers are not mandated to do anything the CDC recommends.  CDC guidance, however, may well become a rallying cry for employees who want job accommodations and greater leeway in the workplace including the flexibility to work from home or the use of revised work schedules.  Employers will have to balance those requests with the needs of their business.


Continue Reading CDC Guidance: How Do You Comply and Keep Your Business Functioning?

On May 20, 2020, Chicago’s COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) came into effect.  The Ordinance bars employers from terminating or demoting employees who take time off for reasons related to COVID-19, including taking time off to care for a family member with COVID-19.  Noncompliance with the Ordinance can be costly, including private litigation and enforcement action by the city.  Employees can win up to three times the wages lost due to their termination plus actual damages and attorney fees.  In an enforcement action, Chicago could impose fines of $1,000 per day per violation.  The Ordinance provides employers with an affirmative defense if it relied upon a reasonable interpretation of the public health order at issue and, upon learning of the Ordinance violation, cured the violation within 30 days.

Continue Reading Chicago Approves Landmark COVID-19 Anti-Retaliation Ordinance

As Illinois (with the exception of Chicago) reopens today, Illinois employers should be aware of Governor Pritzker’s released Phase 3 Guidelines for Reopening Business and Returning People to Work Safely.  The guidelines are designed to help businesses and employers to implement safety measures and bring some employees back to work.  The guidelines are organized by industry and include toolkits with signage, training checklists, and other resources to ensure business and activities are conducted in accordance with the latest public health recommendations.  The guidelines are further broken down into “minimum guidelines” and “encouraged best practices.”  The following minimum guidelines are uniform across all industries:

  • All employees who can work from home should condition to do so;
  • Employees should wear cloth face coverings over their nose and mouth when within 6 feet over others;
  • Social distance of at least 6 feet should be maintained between non-household individuals unless participating in activities permitted under Phase III guidelines;
  • Employers should provide hand washing capability or sanitizer to employees and customers (if applicable);
  • Frequent hand washing by employees, and an adequate supply of soap/paper towels and/or disinfectant/hand sanitizer should be available.


Continue Reading Illinois Entering Phase 3 Of Return To Work

First Up: DOL Expands Overtime Exemption for Commission-based Retail and Service Workers

We all know that retail has been hit hard by the pandemic. When retail employees paid on a commission basis do go back to work, fewer of them will qualify for overtime, thanks to a Department of Labor (DOL) rule promulgated on Monday, May 18, 2020. While this sounds like a bad deal for employees, there’s a silver lining: the DOL issued another rule just today that will make compensating employees for staggered shifts and fluctuating workweeks easier—practices that are likely going to be critical components of a safe COVID-19 return-to-work plan in retail.

Monday’s final rule withdraws 60-year-old interpretive rules that limited employers’ ability to invoke Section 7(i) of the FLSA, which exempts certain commission-based employees in “retail or service establishments” from overtime eligibility. To qualify for the exemption, a business needs to show: (i) it is a retail or service establishment, as defined by the regulations; (ii) the employee’s regular rate of pay exceeds one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage for every hour worked in a workweek in which overtime hours are worked; and (iii) more than half the employee’s total earnings in a representative period must consist of commissions.


Continue Reading DOL Adopts Two Significant Changes to “Modernize” Overtime

Employers, as you plan for a safe return to work, there are several critical protocols and practices to consider. Below you will find a Return to Work (RTW) Checklist, created by the Kelley Drye Labor and Employment team, to help you navigate getting back to work effectively. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Barbara Hoey and Mark Konkel.

Continue Reading Employer’s Return to Work Checklist: Practices and Policies

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recently issued guidance relaxing several cafeteria plan rules to help employees deal with unanticipated COVID-19 expenses. Employers that sponsor cafeteria plans will need to decide whether to amend their plans to adopt these optional rule changes. We have summarized the rule changes below, including some important employer considerations.

Note that the IRS also issued recent guidance clarifying the retroactive application of CARES Act relief for high deductible health plans and extending the period in which premium expenses may be reimbursed. These changes will be addressed in a separate post.


Continue Reading IRS Issues Cafeteria Plan Relief, Providing Employers Significant Discretion

The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult for employers to predict the long-term impact of the pandemic on their businesses. In response, many employers are looking for ways to preserve cash reserves by reducing or deferring benefit and compensation costs, without taking the more drastic step of permanently reducing their workforces. We have summarized below some of the near term cash preservation measures that employers might consider with respect to their benefit and compensation arrangements.

Continue Reading COVID-19: Employee Benefit Measures for Preserving Cash and Saving Jobs