On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 13998 to promote COVID-19 safety in domestic and international travel. The EO confirms existing public health measures and implements new measures that will impact marine operators and activities within sea ports for both domestic and international travel.
The CARES Act passed in March 2020 created an “employee retention tax credit,” which entitled eligible employers to a refundable tax credit for wages paid to employees during periods that the employer’s business was subject to a suspension, a shutdown, or a significant decline in revenues. The tax credit was not widely used by employers with fewer than 500 employees, primarily due to the fact that employers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans could not take advantage of the credit. On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (the CAA) was signed into law. The CAA significantly expanded the usability of the employee retention tax credit by allowing employers with PPP loans to take advantage of the credit. Further, the CAA increased the amount of the tax credit available. In tandem, these changes make the credit an attractive opportunity for employers during 2021 as well as easier to obtain for qualifying wages paid during 2020.
On December 29, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued two guidance bulletins addressing compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The first made clear that telemedicine visits will permanently be allowed as an FMLA-approved visit if certain conditions are met. The second permits employers to provide FMLA-required postings electronically to employees when the work is being performed remotely.
On December 2nd, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on the length of quarantine required for an individual who is asymptomatic but was in close contact with someone with COVID-19. The prior guidance required quarantine for 14 days (other than for critical infrastructure workers). The new guidance allows for quarantine to end 10 days after exposure or 7 days after exposure when combined with a negative test. The test can be taken within 48 hours of the end of the quarantine period, i.e. as early as day 5. The key factor is that the individual remains asymptomatic during the entire quarantine period.
This updated guidance is outlined in the chart below which addresses return to work scenarios under the current CDC guidance.
You’re probably used to having Plan A, Plan B, and a plethora of contingency plans to deal with the many challenges posed by the pandemic. Because the government has not decided whether to extend the “flexibility” given to employers with respect to the verification of I-9 documents, employers might need to be ready for the procedures to return to “normal.”
COVID-19 has caused many challenges in the workplace. Employees are working from home, working hybrid schedules, and conducting meetings by Zoom and other “not in person” methods.
While things in today’s workplace range from fluid to uncertain to sometimes chaotic, employers are not relieved from complying with federal and state employment laws and requirements. There is no “COVID-19” exception to Title VII. Employers must still comply with federal and state employment rules that existed prior to COVID-19. With this in mind, employers need to make sure they are operating their businesses in a manner that allows them to defend the types of claims and allegations that often occur in the workplace.
On October 21st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on what constitutes “close contact” with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for purposes of isolation. “Close contact” had been within 6 feet for a 15 minute period. It has now been revised to be within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes over a 24 hour period which greatly expands what may qualify. The CDC also provides some examples of factors that should be considered when evaluating the length and extent of the contact. This updated guidance is outlined in the chart below which addresses return to work scenarios under the current CDC guidance.
The Louisiana Maritime Association issued an updated COVID-19 Daily Report Supplement this week on September 23, 2020. In this supplement, there are updated links to current state and local guidance and some additional CDC recommendations for maritime pilots. Follow this link to access this report online.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, detailed arrangements, procedures, and protocols have been designed and implemented to help assure the health and well-being of seafarers and passengers, while maintaining day-to-day operations of marine and offshore assets.
In a recent Maritime Executive article, authors Martin Petricic and Gareth Burton of ABS worked with Rear Admiral Joyce Johnson DO MA U.S. Public Health Service (Ret’d) to provide practical guidance and insights for the mitigation of infectious disease outbreak risks onboard vessels. The full article can be found here.
Commercial enterprises doing business in Louisiana are beginning their recovery in the wake of Hurricane Laura. Many face catastrophic property losses, often accompanied by business income losses due to a complete cessation of business activities. Fortunately, many business owners have had the foresight to contract for business interruption insurance (also called “business income” insurance or time-element coverage). While having coverage offers some relief to affected businesses, the complexity of a business interruption claim coupled with a pressing need for operating capital creates a difficult scenario for business owners. Jones Walker is ready to assist clients in navigating this process, and we offer the following “golden rules” to provide some guidance in the preparation of business interruption insurance claims.