CORONAVIRUS IN THE WORKPLACE
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) general information
- Resources for Businesses and Employers
- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
- Informational flier for workplaces, schools, homes and commercial establishments (PDF)
- General pandemic information
- Continuity Planning Checklist (PDF)
- Ready Business Continuity Planning Suite
June 17 - Newly released Loan Forgiveness Application Forms
Treasury has just released the Loan Forgiveness Application Form EZ (3 pages): https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-Forgiveness-Application-3508EZ.pdf as well as the Loan Forgiveness Application Form EZ Instructions (4 pages): https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-Loan-Forgiveness-Application-Form-EZ-Instructions.pdf.
Borrowers can use the PPP forms if they meet one of three requirements found in the instruction’s opening checklist.
The general Loan Forgiveness Application has been reduced to five pages: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/3245-0407-SBA-Form-3508-PPP-Forgiveness-Application.pdf and the instructions can be found here: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-Loan-Forgiveness-Application-Instructions.pdf
Treasury has also released the Interim Final Rule on Revisions to the Third and Six Interim Final Rules: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-IFR--Revisions-to-the-Third-and-Sixth-Interim-Final-Rules.pdf
As always, all PPP information can be found at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/assistance-for-small-businesses
May 13 - Review the latest information from the SBA about the Paycheck Protection Program and repayment requirements.
Safety First, Benefits, Work Hours
Risk and Reward
RESOURCES FOR SOLO & SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONERS
April 12 - Free resources including sample forms (good reason waiver, continuance), checklists (state specific rules regarding electronic signatures, notarizations) and articles from Thomson Reuters. Scroll down the page to the US resources.
April 12 - Tips for Marketing Your Practice Right Now from the ABA Journal a Recession era article from Harvard Business Review makes the case for marketing in a downturn.
April 12 - US Department of the Treasury Assistance for Small Businesses
April 12 - Financial Resource Guide for COVID-19
April 10 - Leading Your Firm During an Economic Slowdown
April 10 - DICTA Article about the Payment Protection Plan
April 1 - Tax Legislation Summary from Bible Harris Smith Individual Provisions Business Provisions
March 30 - Understanding SBA's Loan Requirements from Baker Donelson
According to Market Watch on March 27, the Senate’s plan currently supports American small businesses in the following ways, according to policy experts:
- A $350 billion forgivable loan program designed to ensure that small businesses do not lay off employees
- A 50% refundable payroll tax credit on worker wages will further incentivize businesses, including ones with fewer than 500 employees, to retain workers
- Looser net operating loss-reduction rules that will allow businesses to offset more
- A delay in employer-side payroll taxes for Social Security until 2021 and 2022
- Sole proprietors and other self-employed workers could be eligible for the expanded unemployment-insurance benefits the bill provides
- A portion of the $425 billion in funds appropriated for the Federal Reserve’s credit facilities will target small businesses
Discounts available to lawyers - read more from LawSites
Law practice management software company CLIO as announced $1 million relief fund for lawyers and legal organizations impacted by COVID-19. The disaster relief fund will help with financial aid for Clio licenses, financial support for law firms and organizations that need help moving to the cloud and educational resources and consulting expertise for firms. Learn more.
Small Business Loans - The U.S. Small Business Administration has a site for information for small businesses to apply for loans. The US Government has recently made a special, low-interest SBA loan available to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Our friends at Spotlight Branding has made a quick tutorial video for how to apply. Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may apply for up to $2 million in federal assistance to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue.
Below are helpful links regarding loan parameters and the application process.
- SBA Disaster Assistance Application
- SBA Disaster Assistance Application Guide
- Knoxville Chamber COVID-19 Employer Resource Guide
Learn about how the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act will impact you and your employees.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Your Business Should Do Right Now
The law firm of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowicz invite KBA members to participate in a complimentary webinar to learn about how you can safeguard your law firm and businesses you counsel from the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including:
• COVID-19 medical facts, including risks, prevention, treatment and exposure
• Employer perspective about the rights of employers and employees and business travel issues
• Planning for a remote workforce: cybersecurity control considerations
• Supply chain and other business transactions
• Impact on mergers and acquisitions and financial disclosures for public companies
• Potential insurance claims, including business interruption
Resources for Employers
- National Law Review Coronavirus and COVID-19 Updates for Employers
- JD Supra Coronavirus: An Employer's Action Guide
- Littler Coronavirus (COVID-19) Employer FAQs
Below are a few FAQs curated from the above resources.
Can an employer restrict travel to all locations under a CDC travel advisory?
An employer may restrict business travel. Employers should continue to consult the CDC’s website: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel” for up-to-date travel notices concerning risk. The CDC advises that employers restrict all nonessential travel to areas with a Warning Level 3, and to exercise caution regarding travel to Warning Level 2 areas. Level 3 countries include China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Japan is a level 2 country.
Can I restrict my employees from traveling on Spring Break?
No, employers may not restrict personal travel. But employers can ask where the employee has traveled, and if the employee has traveled to an area designed Level 3 by the CDC, you may ask the employee to self-isolate upon return.
Can I require employees to stay home if they are sick?
Yes. The challenge arises regarding whether the employee will be paid during that time, and whether that time off is attributed to vacation or other type of paid time off. Each employer will have to find the right answer for itself. The CDC advises that you can require an employee to be fever-and-symptom-free for 24 hours. Consider a temporary suspension on your illness policy; yes, there may be an employee who will abuse this but a generous policy can potentially stop a serious outbreak within your company.
Can I require employees to wash their hands?
Yes, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers have the obligation to provide a reasonably safe workplace. So, you should be encouraging employees to take such measures.
Can I ask employees to disclose if they have a compromised immune system or chronic health condition?
No. An inquiry asking an employee to disclose a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition is disability-related because the response is likely to disclose the existence of a disability. The ADA does not permit such an inquiry in the absence of objective evidence that pandemic symptoms will cause a direct threat. Such evidence is completely absent before a pandemic occurs.
What can I do if I suspect an employee has COVID-19?
You may ask if the employee has symptoms such as fever or a dry cough. You can also direct employees who have virus-like symptoms or who are at high risk for infection (they live in a house where someone else has in infection) to go home.
If the situation in the United States worsens, do some rules change with a pandemic?
Perhaps. The EEOC has advised, for example, that taking the temperature of all employees may violate the ADA under some circumstances, but has indicated that the rules may change during a pandemic such that the illness may pose a “direct threat” to others. However, the CDC has yet to rule COVID-19 an official pandemic in the United States.
Are You Prepared for a Possible Pandemic in the Legal Community?
Resources for Lawyers and Law Firms from the ABA
According to the American Bar Association’s guidance in Surviving a Disaster: A Lawyer’s Guide to Disaster Planning, preparedness for a viral outbreak bears many of the recommendations for withstanding fire, hurricanes, or flooding. The ABA offers a preparedness checklist for law firms and solo practitioners that includes:
- Have a list of important emergency numbers quickly accessible in printed and electronic format.
- Be able to access critical client records remotely.
- Prioritized your firm’s functions by criticality.
- Have a “go kit” of technology, files, and other necessities if you need to work from home.
The ABA Journal has reported that law firms across the country were taking precautionary measures for a pandemic. The Journal reported that some firms had begun canceling retreats, meetings with foreign partners, and overseas travel. Some firms have asked staff to self-quarantine at home after returning from high-risk countries. Meanwhile, the federal judiciary is preparing for an outbreak too, Bloomberg Law reports. The plan calls for increased teleworking and teleconferencing as the situation worsens.
As the situation continues to evolve, law firms, solo practitioners, and organizations can monitor the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. State Department websites for updates and advice on protecting their staff. The CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers is particularly useful.
According to WHO, COVID-19 spreads much like the flu. Transmission typically occurs when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales, sending droplets onto telephones, desks, and door handles. The virus can also transmit person to person a meter apart from of each other. Most people infected with the virus experience mild symptoms and soon recover; however, WHO says, the risk of serious illness rises with age. People over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than younger ones, and those with weakened immune systems and illnesses such as diabetes and heart or lung disease are at greater risk of serious illness. In consideration of COVID-19, WHO recommends employers stick to tips, including:
- Ensure the workplace is clean and hygienic with surfaces regularly wiped down with disinfectant.
- Promote hand-washing at the office with posters and other communication. And make sure visiting clients have places wash their hands with soap and water.
- Advise employees and clients to consult the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices before going abroad.
- Brief staff and clients if COVID-19 starts spreading locally.
- Direct anyone in the office with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (99 degrees F or more) to stay home, and make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave.
Employment attorneys for the blog Law and the Workplace write that as employers start to consider enacting employee travel restrictions and quarantine protocols for staff traveling from affected areas, employers should consult with counsel, as certain considerations including anti-discrimination, wage and hour, and leave policies could be a factor. The blog thoroughly outlines those factors in its Feb. 29 post, “Coronavirus and the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know.”
OSHA’s “General Duty Clause,” 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1, requires employers to provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause the death or serious physical harm to employees.” Therefore, it is the responsibility of employers to protect employees from a pandemic virus.
Employers can fever screen and take action against an employee after the return from an affected area, according to Law and the Workplace, the blog states. Laws prohibiting disability discrimination (ADA, etc.) do not apply if the employer acts reasonably to prevent the possibility that an employee might become ill and disabled in the future (and infect co-workers). An employer can inquire about disabilities or require medical testing if: a) the exam is job-related per business necessity; or b) the employee reasonably poses a direct threat to health or safety.
As businesses in many industries prepare for the possibility of an outbreak, attorneys also should use necessary precautions when working with clients who may not be aware of safeguards and workplace laws. Now and always, thank you for following healthy and safe practices.