During the spread of this pandemic, we sit in the midst of a moving landscape for employers and employees – no one knows the full scope of what will occur in the coming days, weeks, and months, nor knows how the law will change to meet the rising workplace challenges presented by COVID-19. As a result, the attorneys at Sears & Associates, P.C. encourage all to stay informed, daily, about changes in Colorado and Federal laws that interpret workplace matters in the light of COVID-19, such as leave for illness, unemployment benefits, and remote workforces.
A sound federal resource to review is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) homepage, https://www.eeoc.gov/, especially the newest links in the “What You Should Know” section, directly under the EEOC heading banner.
FEDERAL RESOURCES, LAWS, AND REGULATIONS RELATING TO COVID-19
CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) was passed on March 27, 2020, and will send up to $1200 to many Americans and will provide an additional $600 per week over and above what individuals may receive in unemployment benefits. The Act also provides small business loans and tax relief to businesses. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6819239-FINAL-FINAL-CARES-ACT.html Seven main groups will see the bulk of the benefits: individuals, small businesses, big corporations, hospitals, and public health, state and local government and education.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides expanded leave protections for employees who are sick, subject to quarantine or have children whose schools or daycare have been closed. It also applies to more employers than does standard FMLA. Generally, employers with less than 500 employees are covered. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be entitled to exemptions from the childcare obligations in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.
The U.S. Dept of Labor’s poster provides a good overview of the Act,
https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf. Employers are obligated to post notice of the Act.
US DOL’s Fact Sheet for Employers, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave
US DOL’s Fact Sheet for Employees, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
Employer Tax Credits – Employers may be entitled to an immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against federal payroll taxes for payments to employees made pursuant to the Act. For more information, go to:
The U.S. Dept. of Labor is to enact implementing regulations for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which should be available at www.dol.gov.
Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 workweeks of leave to qualified employees of covered employers. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/general-guidance
The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act may apply to employees with disabilities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), https://www.eeoc.gov/, offers regularly updated advice to assist employers and employees navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html. Employees who pose a “direct threat” may be excluded from the workplace. A determination that an employee represents a direct threat, however, must be made on an individualized assessment. The EEOC has issued guidance that a significant risk of substantial harm would be posed by having someone with COVID-19, or symptoms of it, present in the workplace at the current time. https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html
The Center for Disease Control offers recommendations, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=
COLORADO EMPLOYMENT ORDERS AND LAWS RELATING TO COVID-19
Orders by Colorado Governor Jared Polis https://covid19.colorado.gov/public-health-executive-orders-explained. While there are many orders, the following are key to employment issues:
Ordering Colorado Employers to Reduce In-Person Workforce by 50%, issued March 22, 2020 –click here.
Stay at Home Order, issued March 25, 2020 and effective through April 11, 2020 – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1O1EDCY6-A6QBKxzDImCSF8bBBdOOI3Km/view
Extended Stay at Home Order, issued April 6, 2020, Governor Jared Polis extended Colorado’s state-wide Stay at Home Order until April 26, 2020 – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UHbu2_DTdTvSlPcpsd_vDLtnaslmISuo/view.
Amended Public Health Order – Authorized Business, issued March 25, 2020 provides, among other things, clarification on what are considered “Critical Business” and how they may operate pursuant to the Stay at Home Order – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IzfYUaxEf-UFSVAzkY_b9Cf1OMPOdlxH/view
It is suggested that Critical Businesses issue letters for employees to carry as they travel to and from work.
Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay, covered employers shall provide up to 4 days of paid sick leave for an employee: 1) who has flu-like symptoms; and 2) is being tested for COVID-19. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/colorado-health-emergency-leave-pay-%E2%80%9Ccolorado-help%E2%80%9D-rules. This is superseded by Families First Coronavirus Response Act, effective April 1, see federal legislation section above.
Colorado Unemployment Benefits Website https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment or https://covid19.colorado.gov/.
Last names beginning with a letter from A to M are directed to file claims on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday, or after 12 noon on Saturday.
Last names beginning with a letter from N to Z are directed to file claims on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, or before 12 noon on Saturday.
Colorado work-sharing program, instead of being laid off, an employee may keep working with reduced hours (>10% but no more than 40%) and receive unemployment benefits. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/layoffassistance . It is necessary for employers to register for the work sharing program in advance of a layoff. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/UITL-78_RequestForApprovalOfWork-SharePlan.pdf
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment webpage, https://www.colorado.gov/cdle.
As we all read and think about these ideas as Coloradoans, again, keep in mind that the health and safety landscape is shifting, almost daily. And no one can accurately or adequately predict, at this point, all of the legal matters that may (or may not) arise for workplaces as the world processes this rapidly-spreading pandemic.
Sears & Associates, P.C. attorneys and staff sincerely wish the best of health to you and yours during this time of coronavirus fear and worry. Take good care.