COVID-19 / Coronavirus Update

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WHD Announces Job Openings to Assist with Federal Requirements

July 7, 2020


The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced that they would be hiring 55 additional investigators and eight technicians to support their efforts to ensure that employers meet their federal compliance requirements. These recruits will join 92 investigators recently hired or awaiting placement and 28 technicians that WHD hired at the beginning of 2020.

Last year, WHD conducted a record-setting 3,700 public events to educate employers and workers about their workplace responsibilities and rights. Also, the division collected a record-setting $322 million in wages owed to employees.

WHD Administrator Cheryl Stanton noted that “in addition to enforcing long-standing protections, they now are enforcing the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave protections in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

Those hired as investigators are responsible for conducting investigations to establish employers’ compliance with pertinent federal labor laws, while the technicians will provide front-line support for these efforts. Technicians also handle the receipt and evaluation of incoming complaints and ensure compliance information for employees, employers, and other stakeholders.

OSHA Issues Guidance for Reopening Non-Essential Businesses

July 7, 2020


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued recent guidance to help employers and workers in safely returning to work and reopening businesses regarded by local authorities as “non-essential businesses” during the evolving coronavirus pandemic. Employers are encouraged to use this guidance to develop policies and procedures to ensure their employees’ safety and health.

The guidance supplements previous information released from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ and the White House and focuses on general principles for updating restrictions initially put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

OSHA points out that while state and local governments lift shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, Non-essential businesses should reopen and continue to follow to public health requirements and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

The guidance notes that through each phase of the reopening process, employers should continue to develop policies and procedures for social distancing, basic hygiene, identification and isolation of sick employees, and employee training. Additionally, employers are encouraged to consider ways to use workplace flexibilities, such as remote work and alternative business operations, to provide goods and services to customers.

OSHA recommends that employers continually monitor federal, state, and local government guidelines for updated information about ongoing community transmission and mitigation measures, as well as for emerging guidance on disinfection and other best practices for employee protection.

For guidance, details visit https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4045.pdf

WHD Cancels In-Person Prevailing Wage Seminars in 2020

July 7, 2020


The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced they would not be hosting in-person Prevailing Wage (PW) seminars for the rest of 2020. The cancelation of in-person workshops is due to safety and health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the WHD plans to offer virtual PW seminars that will provide training and outreach on topics such as the Service Contract Act, the Davis-Bacon Act, Executive Orders 13658 and 13706, wage determinations, and conformances, and compliance assistance and enforcement processes.

Additional updates on virtual seminar dates and registration will be coming soon. For more information and compliance assistance resources on prevailing wages, please visit the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts webpage.

OSHA Issues Memorandum to Further Address COVID-19 Crisis

July 7, 2020


On May 19th, 2020, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published both the Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19 as well as the Updated Interim Enforcement Plan. These memoranda demonstrate that OSHA is applying its enforcement efforts to assure employers and workers during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases provides interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for the recording of occupational illnesses, specifically cases of COVID-19. Because of the challenge with determining work-relatedness, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion to assess employers’ efforts in making work-related determinations.

The Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan stipulates guidance and instructions to Area Offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. These updates are to take effect on May 26th, rescinding previous memorandums and are intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the updated plan, “where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased,” OSHA will prioritize inspections per its pre-COVID-19 policy, returning to the status quo. In geographic regions where community spread has elevated or resurged, OSHA will “continue prioritizing COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection.” Other than the “geographic area” framework, the enforcement plan outlined in the April 10th guidance largely remains intact.

For more details visit  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/revised-enforcement-guidance-recording-cases-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19  and  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/updated-interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

WHD Southeast Region to Offer FFCRA Webinars This Week

July 7, 2020


The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will be offering webinars during the week of May 18th for businesses and state and local governments in the WHD’s Southeast Region aimed at helping to educate them on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

These webinars will cover the FFCRA requirements, including information on eligibility, qualifying reasons, coverage, duration of leave, and calculation of pay. The webinars offered are:

•    Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for Employers Registration

•    Friday, May 22, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for State and Local Governments Registration

Though the webinars are free, space is limited and requires pre-registration. Those interested in the webinars are asked to pre-register online before the events. Once registered, attendees will receive a confirmation email with additional login information.

For information about the webinars: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20200515

Federal COVID-19 Response Bill “3.5”; Additional Funding To Key Areas

July 7, 2020


On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus “Phase 3.5” relief bill that designates additional funds to the small business rescue program known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The relief bill does not add new programs, nor does it impose any new obligations on employers; instead, it solely provides additional funding for the federal COVID-19 response to support small businesses, hospitals and to help enhance COVID-19 testing.

The relief bill includes:

  • $320 billion in additional funds for the PPP, a loan program designed to help small businesses with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Initially, lawmakers had allocated $349 billion to the PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but the program was exhausted three weeks later. Of the new funding, $60 billion would be set aside for smaller lending institutions with the intent of reaching underbanked businesses.
  • $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants, plus $50 billion more for loans.
  • $50 billion for SBA’s Disaster Loans Program Account
  • $75 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to support health care providers and local hospitals by providing reimbursements for COVID-19 related expenses, public health services, and lost revenue for uninsured Americans infected by COVID-19.
  • $25 billion for COVID-19 testing, including $1 billion for testing costs for individuals without health insurance, $1 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and $11 billion for states and municipalities.

Virginia Adopts New Prevailing Wage Requirement

July 7, 2020


Virginia’s General Assembly passed, and Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation that would require prevailing wages on public works projects procured by state agencies.

The new prevailing wage requirement applies to contractors and subcontractors on all state public works contracts with a value greater than $250,000. The wages and benefits required by the new law will be based on the prevailing wage and benefits set by the U.S. Department of Labor under the federal Davis-Bacon Act. In addition to a new prevailing wage requirement, other labor laws to protect against worker misclassification, workplace discrimination, and wage theft were adopted.

The new law will take effect on May 1, 2021. Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry will be developing rules and regulations to implement this new requirement.

DOD Issues Class Deviation to Alleviate Impact of COVID-19 on Contractors

July 7, 2020


The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that the Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) office issued a class deviation to allow payments to contractors who cannot work due to COVID-19. The class deviation guidance seeks to provide relief to the contracting community who may be affected by COVID -19.

The DPC office issued the class deviation to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) entitled, “CARES Act Section 3610 Implementation.” The deviation addresses section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allowing agencies to reimburse contractors for payment to employees who otherwise are prohibited from working due to facility closures or other restrictions caused by COVID-19.

Also, to recognize the importance of supporting affected contractors, the deviation guidance offers a framework for contracting officers to assess any claimed allowable costs associated with the declared public health emergency.

More information is available at https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pacc/cc/COVID-19.html

WHD Provides Additional Guidance On Expanded Coronavirus Paid Family Leave

July 7, 2020


Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued additional guidance to employers and workers about relief and protections offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which took effect on April 1, 2020. This new guidance provides detailed information on common issues that employers and workers face when responding to COVID-19 and its impact on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The WHD has included a comprehensive webinar explaining which employers are covered by the new law, which workers are eligible, and what protections and benefits the law provides. They have also added to the Questions and Answers section of their website, which addresses the frequently asked questions received to date. To view the webinar and other guidance materials, visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

Additionally, a growing list of compliance assistance materials has been updated and published on the WHD website, including a Fact Sheet for Employees and a Fact Sheet for Employers, available in both English and Spanish, Questions and Answers about posting requirements, and a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy.

For Fact Sheets, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave and https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave.

Coronavirus Relief Bill Passes

July 7, 2020


Congress passed, and President Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The relief package builds on initial emergency response funding and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides paid family leave benefits, free coronavirus testing, enhanced Unemployment Insurance, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states.

The most recently adopted $2 trillion package touches the most impacted parts of the economy by providing targeted assistance to the most affected workers, industries, and communities.

The package includes

  • One-time direct payments to households of up to $1,200
  • A four-month unemployment extension for laid-off workers, which will also include the self-employed
  • $150 billion for the health care system
  • $350 billion loan program for small businesses

Members of Congress are already discussing the need for a fourth relief bill to help rebuild. These discussions may address infrastructure spending.