New COVID-19 Employment Law Developments: What Employers Should Know

Employers have been forced to quickly adapt to the changes in the legal landscape triggered by the COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) outbreak.  In many cases, employers have been forced to make significant decisions without a full understanding of the legislation and programs that have been enacted in response to coronavirus.  Accordingly, it is crucial to follow up on the ongoing legal developments in this area.  The following is a digest of important developments and helpful resources:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) became effective April 1, 2020 and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final regulations and guidance on April 3, 2020.  The FFCRA is a two-pronged law that provides (1) paid sick leave for six categories of those affected by coronavirus and (2) emergency family medical leave for those whose child’s school or child care provider is unavailable due to coronavirus.  Employers are eligible for tax credits for all qualifying wages under the FFCRA.  The DOL’s poster entitled Employee Right Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act must be posted (in the workplace or on an internal website) or emailed to employees (especially those working from home).  For complete details on the FFCRA, click here to see the temporary regulations issued by the DOL.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  The CARES Act significantly enhances unemployment benefits for eligible employees.  In particular, eligible employees can receive (1) an additional weekly payment of $600 for up to four months until July 31, 2020 and (2) thirteen additional weeks of unemployment benefits (for a total of 39 weeks) for a loss of work related to coronavirus.

Connecticut Department of Labor Guidance for Workers and Employers

Since the effects of coronavirus reached Connecticut, questions concerning unemployment benefits have risen to the forefront for employers and workers alike. The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) continues to do an outstanding job of providing updated guidance in connection with its unemployment insurance program as well as paid sick leave, family and medical leave and wage and hour issues.  The CTDOL’s Frequently asked questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) for workers and employers (last updated on April 13) is an invaluable resource to employers and workers alike, covering many of the questions that arise in the current coronavirus climate.  This information is frequently updated by the CTDOL.

Unemployment Experience Rating

Unemployment claims by workers typically lead to increased premiums for employers.  However, per Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7W issued on April 9, 2020, Connecticut employers will not be charged an increased “experience rating” in connection with unemployment claims caused by coronavirus.

Changes to Connecticut Pink Slips

The economic effects of coronavirus have required many employers to make decisions regarding whether to furlough (temporarily layoff) or layoff (dismiss long-term or permanently) employees.  For purposes of unemployment compensation, that has been a distinction without difference, as the CTDOL Separation Packet (pink slip) previously provided employers with only three reasons for the separation: “Lack of Work,” “Voluntary Leaving” or “Discharge/Suspension.”  However, the CTDOL recently revised its Separation Packet  to include “Leave of Absence” as a reason for separation hence providing an appropriate basis for employees who are on furlough.  For more information, please contact Daniel B. Fitzgerald (dfitzgerald@brodywilk.com) or another BW attorney.

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