March 19, 2020
Reliable Resources for Employers Managing the Impact of COVID-19
By Kathleen R. O'Toole
and Thomas J. Gallitano
As the COVID-19 pandemic response continues to have a major impact on individuals and businesses on a global scale, we are working to stay abreast of the latest updates for our clients. This post compiles some useful resources for businesses from federal and Massachusetts governments and agencies:
Guidance on Employee Layoffs and Furloughs
- FAQ’s from the Department of Labor (DOL) about wage and hour issues related to teleworking, business closures, and staffing shortages
- FAQ’s from the DOL about the applicability of the Family and Medical Leave Act under various circumstances
- Up-to-date information about Unemployment Insurance and workplace shutdowns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
We have received a number of questions from businesses that are being forced to make quick and difficult decisions about the continuance of their business operations over the coming weeks. These decisions involve the potential reduction of employee hours, placing employees on leaves/furloughs, or laying off employees altogether. In turn, the federal and state governments are reacting to these sudden needs and are preparing to loosen requirements for individuals to receive unemployment insurance.
The most recent information we have from the Commonwealth is that the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance are filing emergency regulations that allow employees impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment benefits if the workplace is shut down and expects to reopen. This applies to all employees (full and part time) who are impacted by such shutdowns.
The following conditions apply to temporary shutdowns:
- Workers must remain in contact with their employers during the shutdown.
- Workers must be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do.
- An employer may request to extend the period of the covered shutdown to 8 weeks, and workers will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
- If necessary, the Department of Unemployment Assistance may extend these timeframes for workers and employers.
Pending federal legislation also proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits, and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.
However, no new regulations or legislation have officially been passed. We are tracking relevant changes in state and federal law in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and will update you accordingly.
In the meantime, we urge you to be thoughtful about any layoff or furlough decisions. Care must be taken to ensure compliance with all wage and hour laws, employee benefit plans and related laws, anti-discrimination laws, and other employment-related regulations. Of course, we are happy to consult with you and strategize about these issues.
Stay Tuned For More Legislative Updates
This morning, the president signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a relief package that mandates paid sick leave and expands the Family and Medical Leave Act for certain employees. We are reviewing the details of that Act, and will send a further update about the implications for businesses and employees.
We wish you well as you navigate these unchartered waters. We are all in this together, and we urge you to reach out to us to discuss any and all legal concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.