RECAP: DuPage County Business Forum

Preparing your business for a post-pandemic world

On Wednesday, May 13th, Choose DuPage hosted the DuPage County Business Forum, a virtual event designed to help the business community deal with the impact of COVID-19. Nearly 200 small business owners and managers joined to hear about preparing their businesses for a post-pandemic world. 

The program kicked off with a welcome from DuPage County Board Chairman, Dan Cronin. The Chairman announced that DuPage County in conjunction with Choose DuPage is launching Reinvest DuPage, a small business relief program that will provide grants to sustain small businesses and independent contractors impacted by COVID-19.

Greg Bedalov, President & CEO of Choose DuPage followed with an economic outlook. Bedalov presented Choose DuPage’s Q1 Economic Indicators Report, which can be found here. He then expanded on Chairman Cronin’s announcement of Reinvest DuPage, providing the details of the program and encouraging attendees to join Choose DuPage for a webinar on Friday, May 15 at 11:00 AM CST to learn more, including how to apply (click here to register). More details about the program can be found here

Creating & Maintaining Company Culture in a Virtual Environment

Melissa Dimitri and Angela Jhanji of Grant Thornton gave a presentation on creating and maintaining company culture in a virtual environment. Their presentation touched on ways employers can show more empathy in order to keep employees engaged and help manage stress. They shared that leveraging authentic engagement can also lead to business efficiencies, and how employers should be prepared to accept the ‘new’ in the ‘new normal’. 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE PRESENTATION.

Understanding the CARES Act & How to Begin Easing into the New Normal of Business

Bert Neuhring and Susannah Heitger of Crowe LLP gave a presentation on the CARES Act and PPP guidance, compliance, and easing into the unknown new normal. It included a series of recommendations for paycheck protection program recipients, such as building a case today around the necessity of the loan if you are requesting forgiveness. They also touched on compliance and reporting for the CARES Act, offering recommendations such as reading and understanding documents, determining if certifications are necessary, documenting decisions and activities, track and account for transactions, and document all costs for the forgiveness. 

The presentation also discussed how to write your own playbook when easing into the unknown new normal, along with a number of resources to help businesses.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE PRESENTATION.

For more information on the DuPage County Business Forum, please contact info@choosedupage.com

Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act

From the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship

The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain non- profits and other employers. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that will soon be available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.

To keep up to date on when these programs become available, please stay in contact with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) District Office, which you can locate here.

For more information and to download the Guide, click here.

Table of Contents

  • Paycheck Protection Program Loans
  • Small Business Debt Relief Program
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants
  • Small Business Counseling
  • Small Business Contracting
  • Small Business Tax Provisions

Struggling to get started? The following questions might help point you in the right direction. Do you need:

  • Capital to cover the cost of retaining employees? Then the Paycheck Protection Program might be right for you.
  • A quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now? You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant.
  • To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help.
  • Just some quality, free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time? The resource partners might be your best bet.

State Treasurer to Make Low-Interest Bridge Loans for Businesses Available as Soon as This Week

Illinois small businesses can tap into $250 million in low-interest bridge loans as soon as this week to help push through the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said today.

The state treasurer’s office will make $250 million available to Illinois banks and credit unions that wish to participate. The financial institutions will determine who is eligible for the loans.

“We can move faster than the federal government and its partners because we are not slowed by the partisanship that overshadows such efforts,” Frerichs said. “Part of ensuring the health and well-being of our residents includes making sure small-business owners stay solvent so their workers can be paid.”

Kraig Lounsberry, president of the Community Bankers Association, encourages its members to participate in this loan program. “Partnering with the state treasurer’s office will give community banks a powerful new tool to quickly protect small businesses suffering during this crisis,” Lounsberry said.

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office can move faster than others because facilitating low-interest loans is one of its core functions. These linked-deposit loans have been a staple for decades. The most widely known linked deposit is Ag Invest, which helps farmers with annual and long‑term loans to be used for operating costs, equipment purchases, livestock purchases, and construction-related expenses. Established in 1983, Ag Invest has provided more than $4 billion in loans.

Other linked-deposit models include efforts to assist workers impacted by a government shutdown; faith‑based organizations seeking facility improvements; and the legal cannabis industry.

“As someone who used to be in the restaurant business, these bridge loans truly are needed and will make a difference,” said Illinois Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield. “Small business is the backbone of our economy, and now, more than ever, these businesses need to know state government is here to support them and their employees.”

“In Illinois, we can move more quickly than others because the treasurer’s office already has the authority to create these loan programs. These loans can help businesses stay solvent today, when they need the help,” said Illinois Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign.

For more about the Illinois Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program, visit bit.ly/SmallBizRelief.

About the Illinois Treasurer

As Illinois State Treasurer, Frerichs is the state’s Chief Investment and Banking Officer and actively manages approximately $31 billion. The portfolio includes $13 billion in state funds, $12 billion in college and retirement savings plans and $6 billion on behalf of local and state governments. The investment approach is cautious to ensure the preservation of capital and returns $42 to the state for every $1 spent in operations. Frerichs’ office protects consumers by safeguarding more than $3 billion in unclaimed property, encouraging savings plans for college or trade school, increasing financial education, assisting people with disabilities save without losing government benefits, and removing barriers to a secure retirement. The Treasurer’s Office predates Illinois incorporation in 1818. Voters in 1848 chose to make it an elected office.

Breaking Down the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Written By: Mark McAndrew, Rathje Woodward LLC

On March 11th, H.R. 6201 was introduced in the House, and yesterday, it was passed by the Senate and President Trump has signed it. Although a more thorough analysis of the 110 page bill is warranted, the following are my initial takes on the bill.

Food and Nutrition Service

Includes funding to ensure the domestic nutrition assistance programs have adequate resources to help those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Emergency Paid Sick Days Program

Includes $5 million for the Department of Labor to administer the emergency paid sick days program. Senior Nutrition Program – Includes $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.

Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act Section 101.

Short Title. The short title for the bill is the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act or the MEALS Act. Section 102. Waiver Exception for School Closures Due to COVID-19. Provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the COVID-19 emergency, which will eliminate paperwork for states and help more schools quickly adopt and utilize flexibilities. Title II – COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act Section 201. Short Title. The short title for the bill is the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act. 3 Section 202. National School Lunch Program Requirement Waivers Addressing COVID19. Allows all child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate (i.e. they can serve outside the school or in individual settings) and waive all meal pattern requirements if there is a disruption to the food supply as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Title III – SNAP COVID-19 Response Waivers Section 301. SNAP Flexibility for Low-Income Jobless Workers. Suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP during this crisis. Section 302. Additional SNAP Flexibilities in a Public Health Emergency. Allows states to request special waivers from the Secretary to provide temporary, emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing SNAP households up to the maximum monthly allotment, as well as give the Secretary broad discretion to provide much more flexibility for States in managing SNAP caseloads. Additionally, this language requires the Secretary to make State requests for waivers and the USDA response, as well as any USDA guidance on State flexibilities, publicly available.

Emergency Paid Leave Benefits.

This section creates a new federal emergency paid leave benefit program. Eligible workers will receive a benefit for a month (up to three months) in which they must take 14 or more days of leave from their work due to the qualifying COVID-19-related reasons. Days when an individual receives pay from their employer (regular wages, sick pay, or other paid time off) or unemployment compensation do not count as leave days for purposes of this benefit. The program will be administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Specifications include the following: 5 • Benefit amount: Two-thirds of the individual’s average monthly earnings (based on the most recent year of wages or self-employment income for which records are readily available), up to a cap of $4,000.• Program and benefit period: The benefits will be available for leave that occurs from January 19, 2020 (the date of the first U.S. COVID-19 diagnosis) through one year after the bill’s enactment.• Retroactive benefits: Benefits can be paid retroactively, and applications can be filed up to 6 months after enactment.• Application: Applications will be taken online, by phone, or by mail. Individuals will not visit SSA field offices to apply. Payments will in most cases be issued electronically.• Program integrity: Applicants must attest that they meet the criteria for eligibility and existing penalties for fraud or misrepresentation with regard to Social Security benefits are applied to the federal emergency paid leave benefits program.

Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care Act

The emergency paid sick days legislation:

  • Requires all employers to allow employees to gradually accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis;
  • Requires all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis;
  • Ensures paid sick leave covers days when your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when your employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency;
  • Reimburses small businesses—defined as businesses with 50 or fewer employees—for the costs of providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave used by employees during a public health emergency;
  • Enables construction employees to receive sick pay based on hours they work for multiple contractors; and
  • Makes the bill effective immediately so that employees in areas covered under a qualifying Public Health Emergency, upon the date of enactment, can take 14 days of paid sick leave in order to address COVID-19.
Coverage of Testing for COVID-19.

This section requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center and emergency room visits in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the consumer.

Section 102.

Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Program For Certain Visits Relating To Testing For COVID-19. This section requires Medicare Part B to cover beneficiary cost-sharing for provider visits during which a COVID-19 diagnostic test is administered or ordered. Medicare Part B currently covers the COVID-19 diagnostic test with no beneficiary cost-sharing. 

Section 103.

Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Advantage Program for Certain Visits Relating to Testing for COVID-19. This section requires Medicare Advantage to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the associated cost of the visit in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the beneficiary.

Section 104.

Coverage at No Cost Sharing of COVID-19 Testing Under Medicaid and CHIP. This section requires Medicaid to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider visit in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the beneficiary. It would also provide states with the option to extend Medicaid eligibility to uninsured populations for the purposes of COVID-19 diagnostic testing. State expenditures for medical and administrative costs would be matched by the federal government at 100 percent.

Section 105.

Laboratory Reimbursement for Diagnostic Testing for COVID-19 in Uninsured Individuals. This section requires the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided to individuals without insurance.

Section 106.

Treatment of Personal Respiratory Protective Devices as Covered Countermeasures. This section requires certain personal respiratory protective devices to be treated as covered countermeasures under the PREP Act Declaration for the purposes of emergency use during the COVID-19 outbreak and ending October 1, 2024.

Section 107.

Application with Respect to TRICARE, Coverage for Veterans, and Coverage for Federal Civilians. This section ensures that individuals enrolled in TRICARE, covered veterans, and federal workers have coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost sharing.

Section 108.

Coverage of Testing for COVID-19 At No Cost Sharing for Indians Receiving Contract Health Services. This section ensures that American Indians and Alaskan Natives do not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, including those referred for care away from an Indian Health Service or tribal health care facility.

Section 109.

Emergency FMAP Increase. This section provides a temporary increase to states’ federal medical assistance percentage for the duration of the public health emergency for COVID-19. It requires states to maintain eligibility standards that are no less restrictive than the date of enactment.

Rathje Woodward LLC

Rathje Woodward advises clients on a broad range of employment and labor matters, including compliance, policies and procedures, internal investigations, administrative proceedings, collective bargaining negotiations and disputes, union avoidance policies and litigation defense.

If you have questions about how these new laws may impact your business, contact them.

For more information regarding Rathje Woodward’s employment practice and its attorneys, please visit www.rathjewoodward.com.

Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Written by: Emily Shupe, Rathje Woodward LLC

On March 18, 2020, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the President is expected to sign the bill shortly.  The Act includes several provisions regarding emergency paid sick leave and paid family leave in the event of school closures due to COVID-19.  Specifically, the Act requires employers with up to 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and paid family leave and provides a refundable payroll tax credit to employers.

In general, employers must offer 10 days of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons, although existing leave policies may count towards the 10 days.  If the sick leave is for an employee who is seek or seeking a diagnosis, the benefit must replace all of the employee’s wages, up to a maximum of $511 per day.  If the employee is caring for a qualifying ill individual, the benefit must replace at least two-thirds of the employee’s wages, up to a maximum benefit of $200 per day.

In addition, employers must offer 12 weeks of paid leave for employees: (1) who have been employed for at least thirty days; (2) who have a qualifying minor child; and (3) are experiencing closures of the child’s school or place of care.  While the first 10 days are unpaid, the employee may use the 10 days of paid sick leave.  The benefit must replace at least two-thirds of the employee’s wages, up to a maximum benefit of $200 per day.

There are tax credits that will offset 100% of the employer’s costs for providing this leave, and credits to offset the employer contributions for health insurance premiums during the leave period. In addition, employers with less than 50 employees may be eligible for exemptions based on a demonstration of hardship.

Rathje Woodward LLC

Rathje Woodward advises clients on a broad range of employment and labor matters, including compliance, policies and procedures, internal investigations, administrative proceedings, collective bargaining negotiations and disputes, union avoidance policies and litigation defense.  If you have questions about how these new laws may impact your business, contact Emily A. ShupeRaymond J. SanguinettiMark J. McAndrew, or John R. Zemenak at 630-668-8500. Their online contact form may be found here.

For more information regarding Rathje Woodward’s employment practice and its attorneys, please visit www.rathjewoodward.com.

A Message to Our Community

From Greg Bedalov, President & CEO, Choose DuPage

As the businesses and residents of DuPage County prepare to face uncertain times, I’m reminded of how and why Choose DuPage was formed in the first place. It was 2005, and the local economy was shifting rapidly. The public and private-sector leaders of DuPage knew they needed a long-term action plan. So they made a commitment, and for the good of their neighbors and the prosperity of local commerce, Choose DuPage was formed. In the last 15 years, working closely with the business community, elected officials and residents, we have reaped the benefits of that decision-strengthening our economic resolve.

And now, in the face of uncertainty like we have never seen before, we are again seeing a commitment—from both businesses and residents. A commitment to supporting local businesses and the industries impacted most. A commitment to ensuring residents are safe, and have access to things they need. A commitment to do what we can to help. Now more than ever, I’m proud to live and work in such a great community. At Choose DuPage, we will continue to do our part —for the future of our economy, the prosperity of our people and the legacy of our County.

Join us on social media, where I encourage you to share information about what is happening in your business or community, and how people can help. At Choose DuPage, we often speak of the DuPage Difference — now let’s demonstrate it.



DUPAGE RECURSOS EMPRESARIALES RELACIONADOS CON COVID-19

Choose DuPage se compromete a ayudar y conectar a las empresas en el condado de DuPage con los recursos que necesitan durante este tiempo. A continuación se muestra una lista de los recursos empresariales y de la industria relacionados con COVID-19.

Para obtener más información, preguntas o si su empresa necesita asistencia y no está seguro de dónde acudir, comuníquese con Greg Bedalov en gbedalov@choosedupage.com o con Lisa Miceli en lmiceli@choosedupage.com.

También puede unirse a nosotros en las redes sociales, donde estamos compartiendo información sobre lo que las empresas y los residentes en el condado de DuPage están haciendo para ayudar, y demostrar el #DuPageDifference.

Las empresas que pueden proporcionar respiradores, ventiladores y equipos de protección personal u otros dispositivos médicos deben comunicarse con el Condado de DuPage en oem@dupageco.org o hacer clic aquí para obtener más información.

Choose DuPage 

Los miembros de la Junta de Choose DuPage han ofrecido su experiencia para ayudar a las empresas del condado de DuPage en las próximas semanas. Si desea conectarse con un experto en los siguientes campos, comuníquese con Lisa Miceli, lmiceli@choosedupage.com.

  • Bancario
  • Educación
  • Seguro
  • Legal
  • Márketing

Vea nuestro mensaje a la comunidad del Presidente y CEO de Choose DuPage, Greg Bedalov.

Departamento de Salud del Condado de DuPage

El Departamento de Salud del Condado de DuPage ha reunido información para empresas en COVID-19, incluyendo orientación, pautas para instalaciones de alimentos, muestreo de agua, orientación de los CDC, educación, divulgación y más. Haga clic aquí para más detalles.

Estado de Illinois

  • Información y recursos del estado de Illinois COVID-19: Haga clic aquí
  • Línea directa DE Illinois COVID-19 (800) 889-3931
  • Lista de negocios esenciales: Haga clic aquí
  • Departamento de Recursos del Contribuyente de Ingresos de Illinois (Empresarios): Haga clic aquí
  • Información del Departamento de Seguridad del Empleo de Illinois (IDES, por sus seres) para empleadores: Haga clic aquí
  • Información sobre el cuidado infantil de emergencia de Illinois para trabajadores esenciales: Haga clic aquí
  • El anuncio del Tesorero del Estado de hacer que los préstamos puente a bajo interés estén disponibles para las empresas tan pronto como esta semana (3/23/20), haga clic aquí. Para futuras actualizaciones, haga clic aquí.
  • Programa de Becas de Emergencia de Hospitalidad: Haga clic aquí
  • Fondo de Préstamos de Emergencia para Pequeñas Empresas de Illinois: DCEO y el Departamento de Regulación Financiera y Profesional de Illinois (IDFPR) están estableciendo el Fondo de Préstamos de Emergencia para Pequeñas Empresas de Illinois para ofrecer a las pequeñas empresas ubicadas fuera de la Ciudad de Chicago menos de 50 trabajadores y menos de 3 millones de dólares en ingresos en 2019, préstamos a bajo interés de hasta $50,000. Haga clic aquí para obtener más información.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Para obtener orientación para pequeñas empresas y recursos de préstamos, haga clic aquí.

Préstamo por Desastre de Lesiones Económicas de Illinois

La Administración de Pequeñas Empresas de los Estados Unidos está ofreciendo a las empresas de Illinois préstamos federales por desastre de bajo interés para capital de trabajo a pequeñas empresas que sufren lesiones económicas sustanciales como resultado del Coronavirus (COVID-19). Para obtener más información, visite su sitio web o revise los siguientes recursos.

  • Comience su solicitud de préstamo por desastre ahora: Haga clic aquí
  • Asistencia para préstamos por desastre: Haga clic aquí o haga clic aquí
  • Manténgase al día: Haga clic aquí
  • Para preguntas frecuentes: Haga clic aquí
  • Regístrese para seminarios web sobre los Préstamos para Desastres por Lesiones Económicas haciendo clic aquí. Las capacitaciones cubrirán la elegibilidad del programa, el uso de ingresos, términos, requisitos de presentación y recursos adicionales para pequeñas empresas. 

Información de contacto para el U.S. Small Business Administration

El personal local está a su disposición y está listo para ayudar. Para comunicarse con el Distrito o la Sucursal, comuníquese con:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

El IRS ha establecido una sección especial enfocada en pasos para ayudar a los contribuyentes, empresas y otras personas afectadas por el coronavirus. Esta página se actualizará a medida que haya nueva información disponible, haga clic aquí para ver.

Fecha Límite de Impuestos Cambiada

Los plazos para presentar y pagar impuestos federales sobre la renta se extienden hasta el 15 de julio de 2020.

workNet DuPage Career Center

El workNet DuPage Career Center tiene fondos disponibles para cubrir el costo de reentrenamiento de su personal para que sus trabajos puedan ser reutilizados y los desbaños puedan ser evitados.Para obtener información sobre estas subvenciones, póngase en contacto con Ron Schlager (630) 955-2037, rschlager@worknetdupage.org.

Si tiene que despedir al personal, hay recursos disponibles de forma gratuita para esas personas (incluyendo hasta $10,000/persona de asistencia de financiamiento para la capacitación laboral necesaria). Los trabajadores afectados deben visita www.worknetdupage.org acceder a los servicios.

Pace

Pace ofrece viajes gratuitos en todos los servicios de autobús de ruta fija y On Demand de Pace a todo el personal médico( incluidos médicos, enfermeras, EMT y paramédicos) durante la duración de la orden de “quedarse en casa” del estado. Para viajar gratis, el personal médico debe presentar una identificación de trabajo que muestre que está empleado en un hospital, consultorio médico, centro médico o departamento de bomberos local. 

Para obtener la información más reciente sobre la respuesta de Pace a la pandemia COVID-19: Haga clic aquí

Utilidades 

Recursos de la Industria

Atención Sanitaria

Fabricación

Venta al por Menor

Hospitalidad

  • Hospitality Emergency Grant Program: Para ayudar a las empresas de hostelería a llegar a fin de mes en medio de la pandemia COVID-19, el Departamento de Comercio y Oportunidad Económica de Illinois está lanzando el Programa de Subvenciones de Emergencia de Hospitalidad con $14 millones provenientes de fondos originalmente presupuestados para el trabajo formación, promoción del turismo y otros fines. Los fondos de subvenciones están disponibles para apoyar el capital de trabajo como la nómina y el alquiler, así como la capacitación laboral, el reciclaje y la tecnología para apoyar los cambios en las operaciones, como el aumento de la recogida y la entrega. Los bares y restaurantes que generaron entre $500 mil y $1 millones en ingresos en 2019 son elegibles para hasta $25,000, y los bares y restaurantes que generaron menos de $500 mil en ingresos en 2019 son elegibles para hasta $10,000. Los hoteles que generaron menos de $8 millones en ingresos en 2019 son elegibles para hasta $50,000.

Recursos Adicionales para Pequeñas Empresas

Otros Recursos Importantes

Esta página se actualizará a lo largo de las próximas semanas. Vuelva a consultar para obtener más información sobre los recursos empresariales de DuPage relacionados con COVID-19.

COVID-19: Considerations for Employers

Written By: Emily Shupe, Rathje Woodward LLC

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) was just recently declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Employers may encounter a variety of employment-related legal issues in planning for or responding to these circumstances. The potential issues employers face include promoting healthy and safe habits in the workplace, high rates of employee absenteeism, a need to conduct off-site business, and general business disruption.

Some of the guidance available to assist employers in their response to COVID-19 includes the following resources from the U.S. Department of Labor:

Here is a brief summary of some issues employers should consider in their planning and response efforts:

Mandatory Infectious Disease Reporting

Under Illinois law, certain individuals are mandatory reporters of infectious disease. Employees of schools, universities and child care facilities, health care providers, veterinarians, dentists, food service management personnel, and correctional facility personnel are just a few examples of those who must immediately report certain infectious diseases, including coronavirus, to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Employers that fall within the scope of the law should ensure that employees are aware of their obligations. Click here for more information.

FMLA & Other Leave Policies

Employees may be eligible for FMLA or other leave benefits for their own illness or to care for sick family members. Employers must decide whether to permit extended leaves under existing or special leave policies beyond FMLA or state law requirements, and how to treat absent employees not eligible for FMLA or state leave. Employers may consider requiring employees to stay at home, mandating the use of paid leave (e.g., vacation and PTO) at company- determined times, not compensating employees at all while on leave, and other leave-related policies raising a host of legal and business issues. Pay issues for both exempt and non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act are also triggered by employee absences initiated by the employee or the employer.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

OSHA’s “General Duty” clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Moreover, OSHA provides that employees may refuse to come to work if they reasonably believe that there is an imminent threat of death or serious physical harm.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and State Privacy Laws

Employers attempting to gather information about the spread of coronavirus or other diseases among employees should be mindful of applicable privacy laws. HIPAA prohibits health plans from disclosure of employee health information, but may permit uses or disclosures of protected health information that are necessary for public health reasons. The ADA’s privacy provisions grant protection to all employees with respect to employer medical tests and inquiries and the dissemination of employee medical information. Many states also have medical privacy rules regarding the disclosure or use of employee health information. For more information regarding employer and employee rights and obligations under the ADA during a pandemic, click here.

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

Employers with unionized employees may be restricted by collective bargaining agreements in their ability to change policies in response to a pandemic or other business disruption. Refusal to work because of unsafe work conditions may be considered protected concerted activity should employers take action against such employees.

Telecommuting

Permitting or expanding the use of telecommuting in the event of a pandemic or other emergency raises various issues. For example, telecommuting may increase the risks of disclosure of trade secrets and other confidential business information. Employers may also want to review policies and practices regarding work at home to ensure compliance with state and federal overtime laws for non-exempt workers to whom telecommuting is made available.

What Should Employers Do

Employers should actively monitor developing events and take measures as circumstances warrant. There are several good resources available on the Internet related to pandemic preparedness and coronavirus in general:

Employers should avoid overreacting or acting rashly without fully considering the consequences. Doing so may expose employers to unnecessary litigation risk and cause undue alarm among workers. For example, where a pandemic is associated with specific countries, employees should be cautious to avoid potential claims of disparate treatment and harassment based on race or national origin as symptomatic employees are told to remain away from work or subjected to medical monitoring or inquiries.

Nevertheless, employers may want to consider the following steps to help prepare their organizations for the spread of coronavirus:

  • Keeping abreast of government advice (i.e., WHO, CDC, etc.) and communicating this to employees.
  • Reviewing your organization’s emergency contingency/disaster recovery plans to ensure continuity of business in the event of mass closures, travel restrictions, and quarantine situations.
  • Updating contact details of employees and circulating emergency contact details for key employees.
  • Carrying out a risk assessment to ensure good hygiene practices in the workplace, identify potential improvements, and train employees on best practices.
  • Modifications to travel practices including restrictions on non-essential travel, requiring employees to report all international travel, and mandating use of leave for a period of time for employees who have recently travelled internationally.
  • Temporary expansion of employee sick leave, leave of absence, telecommuting, and remote-working programs (i.e., reducing the incentive of sick employees to come to work for fear of losing pay).