Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part seven of this series addresses several provisions of U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan, Jr.’s July 1, 2020, ninth supplemental executive order extending the state of emergency due to COVID-19 that he initially declared on March 13, 2020.
On July 2, 2020, the health officer for the County of Santa Clara, California, issued a new health order titled “Establishing Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The order goes into effect on July 13, 2020.
In light of the Home Office now making regular policy announcements and issuing revised guidance, here are the main immigration law issues that employers may want to keep in mind in order to consider the implications of COVID-19 on their organisations.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently posted a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on its website to provide additional information on Revenue Procedure 2020-20. The IRS published this revenue procedure on May 11, 2020, to provide relief for certain nonresident aliens stranded in the United States due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. The new FAQs provide relief for certain nonresident aliens who may be forced to remain in the United States longer than anticipated because of a medical condition. As indicated in our prior article on Revenue Procedure 2020-20, an extended stay could adversely affect a nonresident alien’s classification for federal income tax purposes.
On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced plans to update its online study policies for F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant students for the fall 2020 semester. According to the proposed policies, SEVP intends to prohibit F-1 and M-1 students from taking a fully online course load while in the United States during the fall 2020 semester.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), Senate Bill 20-205, which will immediately make all Colorado employers, excluding the federal government, subject to the provisions of the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The Colorado General Assembly recently passed legislation intended to protect employees and certain independent contractors from discrimination and/or retaliation if they raise health and safety concerns related to a public health emergency. House Bill (HB) 20-1415, which Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign, appears to be in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, although it will ultimately apply to health and safety concerns unrelated to COVID-19.
Employers have more clarity on COVID-19 testing coverage requirements—including new details on at-home tests, return-to-work testing, and out-of-network pricing—under new guidance that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury jointly prepared.
COVID-19 has had significant implications on how employers engage a workforce—particularly with respect to U.S. immigration. The employment changes caused by the pandemic, combined with President Donald Trump’s recent proclamation prohibiting certain H1-B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 visa beneficiaries from entering the United States, may forever change how U.S. employers engage non-U.S. nationals. In particular, without the opportunity to resume or start the employment of foreign nationals in the United States, employers are forced to consider remote cross-border engagements, including hiring foreign nationals in their home countries or, in cases where individuals are stranded away from home due to COVID-19-related restrictions, in other countries. The European Union’s recent announcement easing entry restrictions on some countries—but not the United States—signals that this phenomenon is relevant elsewhere as well.
On July 3, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance entitled “SARS-CoV-2 Testing Strategy: Considerations for Non-Healthcare Workplaces.” The new guidance recommends incorporating COVID-19 testing in five scenarios: (1) testing individuals with COVID-19-related symptoms; (2) testing asymptomatic individuals with a recent known or suspected exposure in order to control transmission; (3) testing asymptomatic individuals without a recent known or suspected exposure for early identification in special settings; (4) testing to determine when an individual may discontinue home isolation; and (5) testing for public health surveillance.
On July 2, 2020, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., issued an emergency travel order (Public Health Order No. 2020-10) in an effort “to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
It should come as no surprise that the masking debate continues to heat up. In the past week, news outlets and social media platforms have been abuzz about face mask exemption cards.
On June 23, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance. The ordinance requires certain San Francisco employers to offer reemployment to covered employees who were subjected to qualifying layoffs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Mexico has instituted a weekly traffic-light monitoring system with four criteria that states must meet before proceeding to the next phase of the country’s reopening plan. Below is a map for the week of June 28, 2020, indicating the COVID-19 risk level in Mexico’s 32 states.
On June 26, 2020, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issued Emergency Order 2020-09 suspending the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at all businesses that “derive more than 50 [percent] of gross revenue from such sales.” The DBPR issued the order due in part to a spike in the number of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020, especially among younger people who may have been visiting bars, pubs, and nightclubs where alcohol is served and such establishments failing to comply with orders on occupancy restrictions.
On June 16, 2020, several employees at a McDonald’s franchise in Oakland, California filed a lawsuit against their employer, in a matter entitled Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s (No. RG20064825, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda). The lawsuit consists of five plaintiffs, three of whom are employees who allege that they became sick with COVID-19 while working at the restaurant and “unknowingly” spread the disease to family and other members in their communities.
On June 24, 2020, in response to the ongoing risk posed by a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in some states, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order (EO) 205 directing the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to issue a travel advisory for all persons entering New York from states with significant rates of transmission of COVID-19. The travel advisory became effective at 12:01 a.m. on June 25, 2020.
On 26 June 2020, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) updated its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Treasury Direction to take account of the flexible furlough scheme.
Employers in the United States that sponsor foreign nationals for work visas may already be familiar with the various barriers their employees are facing when entering the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 19, 2020, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a COVID-19 Paid Supplemental Sick Leave Ordinance. This ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, follows similar measures enacted by Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to increase, particularly in the Tampa Bay area. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties have enacted ordinances requiring face coverings in most indoor settings where social distancing (of at least six feet between persons) cannot be maintained.
Idaho is offering cash bonuses to employees who return to work as the state lifts COVID-19–related restrictions and businesses reopen. In an effort to incentivize employees who are now earning more money due to the additional benefits provided through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, Idaho has implemented a Return to Work Bonuses program.
On June 26, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order No. GA-28, immediately scaling back the reopening of Texas due to substantial increases in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to cause widespread challenges for employers and their employees. Accordingly, employers have implemented a number of policies and programs to assist employees and others impacted by COVID-19.
As Texas has gradually reopened, the number of COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalizations has dramatically increased. In response to local conditions, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently issued Executive Order NW-10, under which all businesses operating in the county must adopt a health and safety policy that requires both employees and customers to wear face coverings.
On June 23, 2020, the Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury (commonly known by its Spanish-language name, Departamento de Hacienda de Puerto Rico, or Hacienda) issued Circular Letter of Internal Revenue No. 20-29 (CL 20-29), which extends the due date from June 30, 2020, to December 31, 2020, for the completion of coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) from retirement plans qualified in Puerto Rico.
In preparing global strategies for monitoring employee health, employers with international workforces may want to be aware that occupational medicine plays a key role for employers in many countries outside the United States—whether in the hiring and termination process, in developing and implementing health and safety plans, or in evaluating work-related illnesses and injuries.
The California Department of Public Health’s newly issued “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings” replaces a patchwork of county and municipal standards with a statewide standard mandating face coverings in businesses and other public places.