CDC Issues Guidance for Universities and Colleges on Safely Opening Campuses

On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education, outlining recommendations and guidance on ways universities and colleges can safely open while helping to protect their students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members. The CDC cautions that “[t]he more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”

California Governor Extends Wage Claim and Cal/OSHA Deadlines

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on daily life, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-63-20 on May 7, 2020, extending certain statutory and regulatory deadlines for individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies in California. In addition to other temporary changes, EO N-63-20 extends the time for employees to file certain claims for unpaid wages with the state labor commissioner, the time for the state to issue certain workplace safety citations under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the time for employers to appeal such citations.

District of Columbia Enters Phase One of ‘Reopen D.C.’ Plan: What Businesses Need to Know

On May 27, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Mayor’s Order No. 2020-067, implementing phase one of a three-stage reopening plan in the District of Columbia. Beginning on May 29, 2020, D.C. residents and visitors will no longer be required to stay at home and certain businesses will be permitted to resume normal operations, so long as they comply with applicable health and safety guidelines.

Ontario Government Passes New Regulation on COVID-19 Layoffs

According to Statistics Canada, two in five employers in Canada have reduced hours or laid off one or more employees since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. One of the risks associated with those difficult decisions is a constructive dismissal claim that would trigger statutory notice and severance requirements under provincial employment standard legislation and under the common law. Ontario’s government has now taken a major step to prevent claims under its Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) resulting from COVID-19.

Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Expands the List of Covered Services

On May 26, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation expanding the list of “Covered Services” permitted to reopen in Texas. The proclamation is consistent with Executive Order GA-23, which “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

IRS Provides Relief for Nonresident Aliens Affected by COVID-19 Travel Disruptions

Because of travel restrictions, such as canceled flights and stay-at-home orders, the COVID-19 pandemic may have significantly limited a nonresident alien’s ability to leave the United States, regardless of whether the individual contracted the COVID-19 virus. An unexpected extended stay in the United States, however, could affect an individual’s tax residency classification or eligibility for certain tax treaty benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released Revenue Procedure 2020-20 to address the potential tax consequences for eligible individuals impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

OSHA Issues Updated COVID-19 Guidance for Construction Industry Employers

On May 27, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance for employers performing construction work of all types. The agency’s guidance is not a standard or regulation, so it is not legally binding. Nonetheless, construction industry employers may want to consider OSHA’s recommendations when developing and updating their workplace safety and health plans, for two reasons. First, the guidance indicates which measures OSHA might allege are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause, just as it has done with heat stress, workplace violence, and other hazards for which it has no specific standard. Second, the document may indicate what employees may expect their employers to do as more people get back to work.

Mental Health in the UK Workplace During the Coronavirus Pandemic

On 18 May 2020, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, the UK government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published “Coronavirus and mental health at work,” a guide to how individuals can look after their mental health and how employers can “support employees’ health, safety, and well-being” while managing workplace mental health issues. The overriding message from the guidance is that good communication is key during this challenging time. The guidance also emphasises that employers should be aware of the signs of mental health concerns in the workplace and encourage openness between colleagues to support those who may be suffering.

Can Employees Refuse to Return to Work Because of COVID-19?

Parts of the country have begun the process of returning to work, in places where COVID-19 infection rates have flattened or shown a decline. But the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 remains, and some employers may be faced with parts of their workforces refusing to return to work or to perform certain assignments, citing the health risk. What are employers’ options with respect to such employees? There are both legal and practical considerations.

CDC Issues Compilation of Guidance to Assist Reopening Initiatives

On May 17, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 60-page document entitled CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again. In the document, the CDC (1) explains and expands upon the gating criteria articulated in President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines; (2) outlines the CDC’s various COVID-19 activities and initiatives, including monitoring the continued progression of COVID-19, support of increased contact tracing capacity, and other activities; and (3) provides testing guidance.

“Alaska’s Plan Forward”—The State Moves to Phase III in COVID-19 Reopening

With only 404 total positive test results, 44 hospitalizations, and 10 deaths statewide during the pandemic as of May 22, 2020, Alaska took a big step forward in reopening its economy and lifting restrictions on social interaction. Accordingly, during a recent press conference, Governor Mike Dunleavy announced that phase III of the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan would begin on May 22.

Minnesota Governor Slows the Planned Reopening of Bars, Restaurants, and Places of Public Accommodation

In his Emergency Executive Order 20-56 issued on May 13, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signaled plans for a broad reopening of Minnesota businesses. Governor Walz expanded on earlier Executive Orders 20-40 and 20-48 (which reopened some non-critical businesses) by allowing additional non-critical businesses (such as malls and retail stores) to open on May 18, 2020, provided that these businesses have a “preparedness plan” in place.

Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Issues Phase II Executive Order

On May 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 as part of his three-phase plan to reopen the economy in Texas. The three-phase plan is outlined in a report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Executive Order GA-23 is Phase II of the plan and follows Executive Order GA-18 (issued April 27, 2020) and Executive Order GA-21 (issued May 5, 2020). Executive Order GA-23 “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC.”

OSHA, Industrial Commission of Arizona Issue Guidance on Recording COVID-19 Cases and Potential Workers’ Compensation Liability

Only one day before Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order was set to expire, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-33. Governor Ducey announced the modified extension of the stay-at-home order at a press conference on the afternoon of April 29, 2020. Consistent with the previous order, Arizonans must continue limiting their time away from their homes, except for participating in “Essential Activities,” employment in “Essential Functions,” and utilizing services or products of “Essential Businesses.”

Massachusetts Adopts Four-Phase Approach to Reopening

On May 18, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced details of the Baker-Polito administration’s four-phase approach to reopening Massachusetts and released guidelines and requirements for businesses resuming operations. The process will be data-driven and fluid with the expectation that there will be at least three weeks before the start of each phase.

OSHA Revises Its Recordkeeping Guidance for COVID-19 Work-Related Cases

On May 19, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, providing additional information on what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. Previous guidance, which OSHA issued on April 10, 2020, eliminated most employers’ (all industries except healthcare, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions) obligation to analyze whether a COVID-19 case is work-related if certain conditions are met.

Texas Workforce Commission Provides Form for Employers to Report Employee Reemployment Offer Refusals

On April 30, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) issued guidance identifying the circumstances in which an employee may remain eligible for the receipt of unemployment benefits despite the employee’s refusal of an offer to return to work. These circumstances included, for example, an individual being considered high risk due to his or her age (65 or older) or being diagnosed with COVID-19 and not having recovered.

Cal/OSHA’s New COVID-19 Office Workspace Guidance Offers Cleaning and Distancing Protocols

On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Office Workspaces, which provides detailed guidance for operating in office workspaces to “support a safe, clean environment for employees” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 & Cyber Security: Protecting Trade Secrets and Confidential Information During the Telework Boom

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some parts of the country are now in the third month of a lockdown. As a result of the lockdown, a large portion of U.S. businesses quickly transitioned their workforces to telework in the opening weeks of the pandemic. This abrupt shift to work-from-home disrupted many employers’ well-established protocols and practices for protecting confidential information and trade secrets, exposing this sensitive information to a heightened risk of theft.