Update on Information and Resources Regarding Employer Obligations in Response to COVID-19

Dear Clients and Friends,

We hope you all remain safe and healthy. We are writing to provide you with important updates on information and resources regarding employer obligations in response to COVID-19:

  • OSHA and Recording COVID-19 as a Work-Related Illness:  OSHA changed its standard for when an employee case of COVID-19 must be recorded on the employer’s OSHA log (Form 300) as a work-related illness. Through May 25, 2020, the standards described in the enforcement memo here applied.  Those standards required employers in only certain industries (health care, emergency response, and correctional institutions) to make a work-relatedness determination.  Beginning May 26, 2020, every employer in all industries must make the work-relatedness determination and, if a case of COVID-19 is determined to be work-related, record it on Form 300. The new standard and the analysis are described in OSHA’s enforcement memo, which can be found at:  New Guidance for Recording COVID-19 Cases.  Note that if a work-related COVID-19 case results in the death of the employee, the employer will have to follow OSHA’s rules for reporting the death to OSHA within 8 hours of the fatality. More information about OSHA’s requirements related to COVID-19 can be found at: OSHA COVID-19 Page
  • COBRA Notices and Deadlines Change: Earlier this month, the US DOL updated its model COBRA notices (general notice and election notice) that group health plans and plan sponsors may use to satisfy the notice requirements. The updates are to assist qualified beneficiaries in better understanding the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.  This is the first COBRA model notice update since 2014.  The new model notices and a brief FAQ about the notices can be found at:  COBRA Notices.  In addition, the US DOL and the IRS issued a Joint Notice extending certain time frames affecting a participant’s right to continuation of group health plan coverage under COBRA after employment ends. Normally, a qualified beneficiary has 60 days from the date of receipt of the COBRA notice to elect COBRA and another 45 days after the date of the COBRA election to make the initial required COBRA premium payments. Normally, COBRA coverage may be terminated for failure to pay premiums within a 30-day grace period.  The Joint Notice extends these deadlines (and many other participant-related deadlines) by requiring plans to disregard the period from March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (known as the “Outbreak Period”) when setting such deadlines.  The Joint Notice provides examples of how the extended deadlines are to be calculated.
  • FFCRA Updates:  New Q&As under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) were added by the US DOL this month.  The Q&As provide helpful guidance on many different types of situations related to paid leave under the FFCRA.  The new Q&As (nos. 89-93),  provide guidance on issues related to domestic workers, employees who are working from home but then suddenly request to use paid leave, and whether paid leave is available once an employee’s child’s school closes for the summer.  One of the new Q&As also addresses the situation of a temporary worker employed by a temp agency that is not covered by the FFCRA due to its size (over 500 employees), but placed at a business that has fewer than 500 employees and is covered by the FFCRA. All of the USDOL’s Q&As, including the new ones, can be found at New Q&As.
  • CDC Guidelines: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released much-anticipated guidelines for businesses and employers to follow as they re-open (“Re-Opening Guidelines”).  The Re-Opening Guidelines are a comprehensive set of measures designed to keep people and employees safe as businesses and organizations re-open or ramp up operations.  There are guidelines for businesses in general and for specific industries such as child care facilities, schools, and restaurants. Measures include cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, and monitoring for possible reemergence of infections. Appendix C on pages 18-22 of the Re-Opening Guidelines provide links to measures for specific industries, and can be found at: CDC Activities and Initiatives for Opening America Up. The updated CDC Interim Guidance For Businesses can be found at:  Interim Guidelines for Businesses and Employers.  The CDC also has a helpful set of FAQs regarding suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace, which can be found at: Suspected or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
  • New Hampshire:  The Business Guidance under Governor Sununu’s Stay at Home 2.0 Order requires businesses and employers to follow all CDC guidelines as well as the New Hampshire guidelines that apply to essential businesses and other industries allowed to re-open.  The New Hampshire Guidance for Businesses, both the Universal Guidelines and industry-specific Guidelines for businesses allowed to re-open, can be found at Stay at Home 2.0.

We hope these resources are helpful to you.

Cook Little & Sheehan Phinney

Cook Little is pleased to announce that we have joined the business law firm, Sheehan Phinney.