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In Part Seven of our Roadmap Series, we take a closer look at the impact of COVID-19 on employee mental and physical well-being, and what employers can do to assist their workforce.
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A Refresher on California Reimbursement Requirements in a COVID-19 World

May 8, 2020 | Blog | By Micha Mitch Danzig, Nicole Rivers

Imagine that after weeks of working remotely due to COVID-19, you return to your office only to discover a stack of papers on your desk in a folder titled “requests for reimbursement.”  You peer through the contents and find cell phone bills, a receipt for a $750 printer, a bank statement with the account fees highlighted, a clothing store shipping invoice with $49.95 of expedited shipping, a receipt for a 50” television, and a screenshot of mobile payment service request with an electric plug emoji from a username you have never seen before.  Why are these documents on your desk and what do you have to do as an employer?

California Labor Code § 2802 (“Section 2802”) requires employers to reimburse California employees for “all necessary business expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.”   Its purpose is to prevent employers from passing their operating expenses to their employees.  However, Section 2802 only requires reimbursement for “necessary” and “reasonable” costs incurred by the employee as a condition of continued employment.  Previously, many employers allowed remote working as a convenience for their employees.  Because working remotely was not required, many employers could decline “work from home” reimbursements because the employee’s expenses were voluntary (i.e. the employee chose to work remotely).  However, COVID-19 and the resulting shelter-in-place orders have redefined the working landscape, requiring many employees to work remotely to keep businesses afloat. 
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Part Six of the COVID-19 Roadmap Series: Reporting to Work

May 7, 2020 | Blog | By Andrew Bernstein, Brie Kluytenaar

As we continue to plan and prepare for the reopening of businesses, Part Six of our Roadmap series examines the when, what, where, and how of returning to work. Given the many considerations this process entails, we encourage employers to begin engaging with these issues now and to consult with counsel so that plans are in place and the groundwork is laid for the eventual reopening of the workplace, whenever that may be.
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Part Five of the COVID-19 Roadmap Series: Ensuring a Safe Workplace - COVID-19 Screening and Testing

May 6, 2020 | Blog | By Nicole Rivers, Michael Arnold, Karen Lovitch, Hope Foster, Cynthia Larose

In Part 5 of our Roadmap Series, we take a closer look at COVID-19 screening and testing, including best practices and legal implications, as potential tools to maintain a safe workplace.
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Given the challenges presented by COVID-19, many businesses must consider large-scale, transformational changes to their operations. As social distancing continues and safety concerns pervade the public consciousness, adjustments to the physical workspace and business travel practices will be necessary to reflect these new considerations. In Part 4 of our COVID-19 Roadmap Series, we outline important planning steps and concerns employers need to consider relating to physical workspaces and business travel.
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On March 25, 2020, New Jersey expanded the scope of leave available to employees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation, S2304, affects New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law, Family Leave Act, and Temporary Disability Benefits Law, altering them to increase coverage in public health emergency situations. Importantly, these alterations are permanent and apply to situations beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey employers should become familiar with the newly expanded leave laws and make it a priority to adjust their employee leave policies accordingly. This post highlight S2304’s most significant changes.
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In Part 3 of our Roadmap Series, we outline important guidance, procedures, and concerns employers need to consider to successfully and safely bring back employees to their worksite. As authorities begin reopening economies and traditional workplaces once again open for business, employers are facing difficult challenges regarding reorganizing and protecting their places of business. However, the exact measures appropriate and effective for each workspace will depend heavily on the outcome of a worksite risk assessment.
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On April 29th, in connection with the National Emergency declaration related to COVID-19, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service (the “Agencies”) jointly issued a final emergency regulation which aims to minimize the loss of employee benefits due to certain ERISA and Internal Revenue Code-related compliance failures. Specifically, the final regulation provides relief for HIPAA special enrollment rights, COBRA elections and notices, and ACA-mandated internal and external review timeframes. According to the final regulation, plans must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the National Emergency, or such other date announced by the Agencies in a future notice. This period is referred to as the “Outbreak Period.”
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FINRA Fines Broker-Dealer for Sharing Customer Data with Third-Party Vendor

April 30, 2020 | Blog | By Pete Michaels, David L. Ward

Kestra Investment Services LLC (“Kestra”) was fined $125,000 by FINRA for sharing personal customer data with a third-party vendor.
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Updated: COBRA Coverage – FAQ for the COVID-19 Economy

April 29, 2020 | Blog | By Patricia Moran

Given the possible health impacts of COVID-19, maintaining access to health care and insurance coverage is front of the mind for just about everyone. Continuation coverage under COBRA offers employees a route to continue job-based coverage in the event of job loss or reduction of hours.
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The Impact of the CARES Act on 401(k) and Other Defined Contribution Plans

April 28, 2020 | Blog | By Alden Bianchi, Patricia Moran

In a previous post, we covered the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) on employee welfare benefit plans, programs, and arrangements. This post explains how this new law affects tax-qualified 401(k) and other defined contribution plans.
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Part Two of the COVID-19 Roadmap Series: Creating a COVID-19 Operations Infrastructure

April 27, 2020 | Blog | By Katharine Beattie, Emma Follansbee

With the reopening of the economy on the horizon, employers are looking ahead to welcoming employees back to the traditional workplace. Business operations will look vastly different during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part 2 of our Roadmap Series, we outline important operational planning steps and actions employers can take now to successfully and safely bring employees back to the workplace. Future posts in this series will address many of these issues more in-depth, so be sure to stay tuned.
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On April 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.16 mandating that essential businesses in New York require their employees to wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public. The New York State Department of Health has now issued guidance regarding the order, which went into effect April 15th. We highlight the provisions of the order and the DOH guidance below.
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UPDATED: New York Issues Important Guidance on COVID-19 Quarantine Leave Law

April 24, 2020 | Blog | By Michael Arnold, Corbin Carter

New York State issued guidance on March 20th detailing answers to many frequently asked questions about the newly implemented COVID-19 quarantine leave law. We summarized the key components of the emergency law, which was enacted on March 18, 2020 and became effective immediately, in a previous blog post. In short, employers are immediately obligated to provide certain paid/unpaid leave (with duration and pay status varying based on the employer’s size), job protection, and expanded paid family leave and disability benefits to employees who are subject to a government-issued order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.
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COVID-19 Updates in the DMV: Guidance for D.C., Maryland & Virginia Employers

April 23, 2020 | Blog | By Jennifer Budoff, Danielle Bereznay

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States, the federal and state governments have scrambled to adjust existing legislation, or create new legislation, to account for the “new normal.” It is no surprise that many employers, especially those that operate in multiple jurisdictions, are struggling to keep up. Here we have summarized recent COVID-19 related updates in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region.
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Coronavirus Molecule

Part One of the COVID-19 Roadmap Series: Introduction

April 22, 2020 | Blog | By Jennifer Rubin

The rapid onset of the coronavirus crisis stripped many employers of the opportunity to prepare an orderly retreat from the physical workplace. While we do not know what the “normal” post-pandemic American workplace will look like, employers should plan now for this transformation.  The Mintz Employment, Labor and Benefits section is pleased to provide this Roadmap for the Post-Pandemic Workplace series that will provide guidance on critical issues employers should focus on as they prepare for what promises to be a very different workplace.
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Updated: Summary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s FFCRA Regulations

April 22, 2020 | Blog | By Nicole Rivers, Michael Arnold, Katharine Beattie

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has released its 124-page temporary regulations of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).
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Employers in essential or “critical infrastructure” industries face significant challenges in maintaining business operations while ensuring the health and safety of their employees and their community. On April 8, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) relaxed its previous guidance on critical infrastructure workers returning to work or continuing to work after being “potentially exposed” to COVID-19. The interim guidelines now allow critical infrastructure workers who have had potential exposure to COVID-19 to return to work more quickly, or to continue working, provided the workers (i) are and remain asymptomatic; and (ii) that their employer(s) implement certain policies and/or protocols to protect their employees, as well as the community.
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Bringing positive news for employers and a welcome distraction from the COVID-19 crisis, the United States Supreme Court recently held that for claims of racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), plaintiffs are obligated to meet the more stringent “but-for” causation standard at every stage of a lawsuit.
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