On May 19, OSHA released updated enforcement guidance for inspections related to COVID-19 complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.

In response to the reopening of many parts of the country, OSHA plans to operate within the following framework:

  • In areas where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased, OSHA will return to its regular inspection policy except that it will:
    • Continue to prioritize COVID-19 cases; and
    • Use phone investigations or Rapid Response Investigations (RRIs) where OSHA may have previously performed onsite investigations.
  • In areas where community spread is elevated or there is a resurgence, OSHA will:
    • Continue to prioritize COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection. On-site inspections will be focused on hospitals and other health care providers and workplaces with high numbers of complaints or known COVID-19 cases; and
    • Use phone investigations instead of on-site inspections when they can adequately address the hazards.

OSHA also emphasizes that this guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 public health crisis and encourages employers to frequently check OSHA’s webpage for updates.

On May 19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its policy for when employers have to record COVID-19 cases in their injury and illness logs.

Under the revised policy, employers who are otherwise required to keep OSHA logs must make a determination as to whether workers’ COVID-19 cases are job-related. Previously, OSHA took the position that only healthcare employers, corrections facilities, and emergency-response providers were required to make that determination.

Continue Reading OSHA Issues Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19

In our previous article “COVID-19 and the Shipowner’s Legal Obligations,” published in The Maritime Executive, and through our participation in a Zoom webinar on potential vessel operator liabilities hosted in conjunction with Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association, we discussed the standard of reasonable care owed under the Jones Act and an employer’s obligation to provide a reasonably safe place to work. An owner has a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel under the General Maritime Law.

Recently, a COVID-19-related wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a vessel owner/Jones Act employer in the Eastern District of Louisiana titled, Kathy Norwood v. Rodi Marine LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 2:20-cv-01404. This case has been assigned to Judge Eldon Fallon and will test the legal obligations owed by vessel owners.

Continue Reading COVID-19-Related Jones Act Suit Filed

Companies and organizations worldwide are facing a difficult question: As the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic shifts gears from emergency to maintenance, how can we reopen and run our businesses — from Day One and beyond — in a manner that preserves jobs and generates revenue without risking the health and safety of our employees and customers? The answers to this question are not simple, nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Back-to-Work Toolkit: Helping Businesses Protect Lives and Livelihoods

On May 15, 2020, the Mississippi Gaming Commission issued its Order Authorizing Reopening (authorizing the reopening of Mississippi casino properties at 8:00 a.m., on Thursday, May 21, 2020) under the limitations described in Industry Letter 2020-01.

Please click here to review Industry Letter 2020-01 from the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

Please click here to review the Reopening Order from the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

In a press release from Washington, DC, on April 17, 2020, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the existence of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take a number of actions to render direct aid to American farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump directed the USDA to craft this immediate relief program to provide critical support to US farmers and ranchers, to maintain the integrity of the food supply chain, and to ensure Americans continue to have access to the food they need. The CFAP will receive $19 billion in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as well as from other USDA-related entities such as the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Continue Reading USDA Announces New Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to Farmers, Ranchers, and Consumers

In a significant, and overall welcome, development, on May 13, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued additional guidance regarding the required certification by applicants for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan that the “current economic uncertainty makes th[e] loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”

Borrowers applying for a PPP loan are required to make the certification in good faith, and the SBA had previously issued guidance stating that all PPP loans of more than $2 million would be subject to audit to determine whether the borrower had an adequate basis for making the certification. This prior guidance also established that any borrower that repaid the PPP loan in full on or prior to May 7, 2020 (subsequently extended to May 14, 2020, and now further extended to May 18, 2020), would be deemed to have made the certification in good faith (see FAQ 31, FAQ 37, Interim Final Rule on Extension of Limited Safe Harbor with Respect to Certification Concerning Need for PPP Loan Requested dated May 8, 2020, and FAQ 47).

Continue Reading SBA Offers Further Guidance — and Certainty — Regarding Good Faith Certification of PPP Loan; Further Extends Safe Harbor Repayment Date

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides for, among other things, an “employee retention tax credit” for employers that are forced to suspend operations or experience a financial downturn. The CARES Act disqualified employers that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from taking the employee retention tax credit. Some employers that received PPP loans are now contemplating repaying the loans based on recently released guidance clarifying the scope of employers that are eligible for the PPP. The guidance allows employers that received PPP funds to repay the funds by May 14 without penalty.

Continue Reading Employers That Repay PPP Funds by May 14 Are Eligible for Employee Retention Tax Credit

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it will not collect EEO-1 data from private sector employers this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ordinarily, all private sector employers with at least 100 employees, plus those with 50 or more employees and that also have at least one federal contract or subcontract worth at least $50,000, must respond to the EEO-1 survey annually by March 31. In the EEO-1 survey, covered employers are required to report the number of employees by race and gender in each of 10 job categories, ranging from service workers to their top executives, who were employed in a pay period of the employer’s choosing between October 1 and December 31 of the previous calendar year. This does not mean covered employers will get a complete pass on having to report their 2019 EEO-1 data. In the same announcement, the EEOC said it now plans to open the EEO-1 survey for both 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 data in March 2021. Thus, if you are required to respond to the EEO-1 survey, be sure to hold on to your 2019 EEO-1 data and be prepared to report it along with your 2020 EEO-1 data when the survey reopens in March 2021.

Earlier this year, the EEOC had announced an indefinite postponement of the March 31, 2020, deadline for reporting 2019 EEO-1 data. The earlier postponement was due to the EEOC’s decision last year to discontinue the EEO-1 Component 2 pay data collection report and to seek approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a new EEO-1 report form for Component 1 basic information. As of the EEOC’s May 7 announcement, the new EEO-1 report form had not been released. Presumably, the new report form will receive final approval from the OMB before the 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 survey opens in March 2021.

On May 4, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued four frequently asked questions and related responses (“FAQs”) regarding the COVID-19 Order (the SEC’s Order issued on March 25, 2020 (Release No. 34-88465 available here), which as we previously reported here, gave public companies a 45-day extension to file certain periodic reports otherwise due between March 1 and July 1, 2020, subject to specified conditions). The FAQs address the impact of the COVID-19 Order in certain situations, specifically the disclosure required in order to take advantage of the extended filing deadline relief and the use of Form S-3 when taking advantage of such relief.

The FAQs provided by the SEC can be found here.

Continue Reading SEC Issues FAQs Regarding COVID-19 Order