March 2020 Human Resources Peer Networking

Human Resources Peer Networking

  • What are other companies using for COVID-19 employee screening?
    • Adam Primm of Benesch recommends you issue a company-wide statement about staying home if you are experiencing symptoms. Employees don’t need a Doctor’s note necessarily, so use your best judgment. Using thermometers can be tricky, they might not be available and could also have HIPPA violations associated with testing in public.
    • One company is asking employees to stay home long enough so that they are fever-free for 24 hours. Their healthcare plan also offers virtual/facetime office hours so they can talk to a doctor virtually.
    • Another company put a 72 hour for fever-free without medication policy in place yesterday. Currently, they are asking employees to take their temperature at home and gave thermometers to those that didn’t have one. The shift supervisor is documenting if they have a fever or other symptoms.
  • If you send someone home with a symptom of coronavirus, how do you handle the lost wages?
    • One company says if someone has come in contact with someone infected, we are asking them to stay home and add PTO to their balance and pay them for the days they are gone. The employee needs to be outside of the plant for 7 days. If they return, they must be symptom-free.
    • Adam – Benesch – If it’s an hourly employee, you can stop paying hourly wages, but salary is different, so pay them until the end of the week. With the new Families First Act signed last week, employees are eligible for 80 hours of paid sick leave if they are sent home due to one of the effects of COVID-19. There is a refundable tax credit that is still getting worked out right now. There are new regulations coming out shortly, you can check the Benesch website for some updates. These regulations may depend on the state’s decision. Some states are expanding unemployment.
    • One company mentioned that for the time they are quarantined, they are paid 60% of their wage, and the short-term disability plan will cover them if they are actually sick.  We have a 14-day waiting period for STD, and we cover until insurance picks up if need be.
  • If an employee or family member has symptoms, and they stay home they are still getting paid? And if so, who is paying them?
    • If they are off, they would qualify for unemployment, could be depending on the state, or could fall under FFA if you or a family member is experiencing COVID symptoms and employer tells them to stay home.
  • Does the Families First Act only apply to employees sent home after April 2nd or can it be used retroactively for right now?
    • Small to midsize companies can start now and still obtain the tax credit.
  • If an employee is sent home because there is no work for them to do and not because of COVID-19 exactly, do they still get the benefits of the Act?
    • This is a grey area. Benesch’s understanding is that there are specific triggers for an employee to receive benefits under that act. They are:
  1. Employee is subject to quarantine/isolation due to the COVID-19 virus
  2. Employee has been advised to self-quarantine by a medical professional
  3. Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  4. Caring for an individual under the COVID-19 quarantine
  5. Child is unable to go to school or daycare
  6. A substantially similar condition
    • If you shut down for a lack of work, the employees qualify for unemployment and don’t need to qualify for the Families First Act. It becomes a business decision whether you want the employees to receive unemployment or if you want to pay them and receive the tax credit later through the FFA.
  • Does that refund cover the payroll tax portion only or does it cover the hourly rate?
    • Press Release from Friday states that the act is designed to immediately and fully reimburse them dollar-for-dollar for the cost of providing coronavirus related leave. Credit for FFA is 100% of paid sick leave wages, not just payroll tax.
  • If an employee or family member has symptoms, and they stay home they are still getting paid? And if so who is paying them?
    • If they are sent home from lack of work, they would qualify for unemployment. If they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 but may not actually have it, but are sent home regardless, that could fall under the FFA.
  • Does sick leave apply to exempt and non-exempt employees?
    • Benesch believes it applies to everyone.
  • If we hire contract employees from other mfg. facility, do we also have to pay them if we must shut down?
    • An employee must be your employee for 30 days from what I understand. If they come from a staffing company, they will likely be on the hook to provide these benefits. Reach out to your State’s Department of Labor if you have specific questions.
  • How are the companies with over 500 employees navigate this new law, and how HeadCount is affected if reduced hours changes how to count the number of employees?
    • One company says that because of their size, they do not qualify for the credit. They are now allowing them their vacation time that is accrued.
    • Adam - Benesch – It would make you subject to FFA once you are below 500. Consider, if you are dropping hours or number of employees by 50% or more, you could be running into WARN issues and could potentially require 60-day notice. It might be better to cut down to 60%. If employee levels are dropped to 80% of the workload, that wouldn’t trigger employment loss in WARN’s case. Only when you cut hours by 50% or more does it count as an “employment loss”.
  • Are employers with less than 50 employees exempt?
    • Adam – Benesch - Not yet. The belief is that the DOL will issue a regulation for employers less than 50, but it hasn’t happened yet. We believe this is coming but it isn’t official yet.
  • If an employee sends themselves home out of fear without having any symptoms, do they qualify for the FFA?
    • No because they would not meet any of the criteria for the FFA mentioned above. (The 6 triggers)
    • Pregnant employees that do not want to come in probably wouldn’t qualify for FFA or STD. The doctor wouldn’t give any kind of note for her to go out on STD.
    • Employees that are of a high-risk group (elderly, asthma, etc.) that stay home won’t qualify for FFA.
  • For those who have employees who are nervous about coming in, what policies are people using to address these?
    • One company posted all signs about being safe/healthy. They have also put different cleaning measures in place to show they are trying to keep the facility safe. They are also posting messages on video board and having the senior management make videos for staff.
    • Another company had an existing work from home policy that was expanded and is letting people do this if they want to. Some positions are required to be here.
    • A third company has encouraged anyone who had concerns to come to see a specific manager, so they are all getting the same message.
    • Another company has had a meeting almost every day to make sure they are proactive and to answer questions.
    • A fifth company allows for those who are fearful of coming in to take PTO or voluntarily be laid off to collect unemployment if they want.
    • Several companies have tried to quell fears by explaining how vital their positions are, whether it be through videos, meetings, or announcements from the CEO.
  • How are you handling employees whose family member tested positive or has been exposed? How are people clearing those who might have been exposed but are awaiting tests, etc?
    • One company recommends a doctor’s note that would clear them to come to work. Don’t risk the rest of the workers.
    • Another company would require either 14 days or a doctors note. The doctor can fax the note over to the company.
  • Do we have the right to get a letter from the family member who tested positive?
    • Under normal medical leave, it depends on the state law. With family members, you might run into HIPPA law. A lot of employers are taking a hands off approach right now.
  • With these stay at home orders, if our city issues a stay at home are they required even if our city is not?
    • Adam – Benesch – Which businesses are considered essential or not depends on what state you are in. Most orders are broad. Depending on what you are providing, you could be exempted. If stay at home gets released, review it. As far as a note for your employees to show that they are essential, it is not required by any state yet. If it puts them at ease, you can do a 1-2 paragraph from Ops manager, CEO etc. “We have determined that we are essential and will remain operational, etc. You are permitted to come to work. Etc.” (Make it short).
    • Ashley – MAPP – On CA regional call last week, several of them printed out a letter that they gave to their staff that was signed by the CEO. Some also had laminated cards made in house that have the same info and have HR contact info. This made employees feel better.
    • One company in CA has had some employees pulled over by law enforcement and asked why they are driving. Letters seem to be the best way to avoid any trouble if you get pulled over.
  • What are you doing for workers that are not adhering to social distancing? How do we implement this successfully?
    • One company says it requires a lot of teaching, training, and coaching. Tell them every day. If we need to, we will enforce disciplinary action. Remind them every day over and over, and every day will get better.
    • Another company says to continue coaching, and if someone is getting in your space, coach them to say that they need to practice social distancing and please respect my need to conform to the rules.
    • A third company is doing the same thing. We are reminding in every staff meeting and speaking up if they need to. If they have trouble, send them to talk to a supervisor or HR.
    • A different company had a meeting to let everyone know about their smoking area, which is their biggest problem. They could potentially stagger breaks so they wouldn’t be out there all at once.
    • Westec created a new lunchroom so they could split up groups more and increase the distance between them. I am out there to remind them to wash hands and use hand sanitizer.
    • Ashley – MAPP –  heard a company removed chairs so they can’t sit together and also stagger breaks.
  • How do you handle the FFA if the employee is out of PTO?
    • The employee can choose to take FFA over PTO. You will get the credit if it falls in one of the FFA buckets. The recommendation would be to start tracking it now in a separate bucket for the FFA so you can get the credit later when it is made available.
    • The DoL said the act can take effect now before the April 2nd date.
  • If a company is closed due to executive order, is it considered unemployment?
    • One company was advised to lay off all employees so they could take unemployment. The government order would fall under the FFA conditions, but it really depends on how you go about it internally.

To listen to the full conversation, click here.