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Back to Work: Employer Documents

The return of the workforce brings a renewed set of documentation requirements for employers, particularly those employers with fewer than 500 employees and any companies who received PPP funds. Back in March, employers needed a COVID-19 Leave Form and a Remote Work Policy, but things have changed. 

With the ever-increasing rules, orders, interpretations, employee questions, and customer expectations, it is imperative that businesses have the necessary documents in place. 

What are the necessary documents? Companies will want to have policies and forms in place to minimize the risk of liabilities and to best manage the workforce. Because of the uncertainties around the spread of COVID-19 and its testing and treatment, companies are more at risk for an extension of liability or a regulatory intervention. 

What do we specifically need? And why? Keeping in mind the volatility of the laws, rules, and regulations, the safest practice is a Back to Work set of forms and policies to include: 

  • Return to Work Notice and Form
    With furloughs, terminations, PPP loans, and expansive unemployment, employers must track which employees are refusing to return to work, as a best practice, and to extinguish any continuing obligation to the employees. Additionally, under PPP forgiveness exception rules, businesses must maintain a written record if an employee rejects a good faith return to work, the employee was fired for cause, the employee voluntarily resigned, or the employee voluntarily requested a reduction of hours. 
  • Waiver of Liability
    The state orders regarding workforce and workplace requirements can create additional duties owed to business invitees. A Waiver of Liability for customers, while not foolproof, will provide an important line of defense to frivolous lawsuits alleging COVID-19 exposure at your business. 
  • COVID-19 Testing Consent Form
    As an established precautionary measure, employers will want to engage in some testing or results review for their employees to prevent an outbreak in the workplace. For healthcare providers, this is a recommended best practice with respect to obtaining patient consent and informing patients of the risks associated with COVID-19 when seeking treatment. A Consent Form will set out the necessary parameters for testing by both employers and healthcare providers. 
  • Childcare Leave (Summer Vacation) Form
    Under the FFCRA, employees may be eligible for Emergency Paid Childcare Leave.  However, that leave is only applicable to school and care closures due to COVID-19. It does not apply to school closures due to Summer Vacations. During the summer months, employees will need to provide supplemental information regarding their requests for Childcare Leave. 

  • Workplace Policy on COVID-19 Safety and PPE
    A top question we receive from employers is “What do we do if an employee refuses to wear a mask, wash hands, keep distance, etc.?” The Workplace Policy will address the mandatory requirements and the potential for disciplinary actions.

  •  OSHA Standards Policy
    More and more groups are calling on OSHA to implement COVID-19 safety standards beyond the General Duty Clause. As OSHA introduces federal requirements, employers must be able to implement and adapt through an OSHA Standards Policy. 
  • Internal COVID-19 Reporting Form
    When two or more employees raise a concern about workplace safety, they are arguably engaging in a “protected concerted activity” protected by the NLRA. The number of retaliation, whistleblower, and public policy claims are on the rise. It is prudent and imperative for employers to have reporting policies and procedures in place, document and investigate any COVID-19 concerns of the employees and prevent retaliation to avoid the potential claims. 
  • Away from Workplace COVID-19 Policy
    This is another major concern for employers. Even if employees are monitored at work, what can stop them from engaging in risky behaviors away from work? An off-duty conduct policy isn’t fail-safe, but it will help set expectations for employees’ actions away from work that may affect the workplace. If employees travel to hot-spot areas, or party with large groups of people, that creates risk for the employer and coworkers, and this Policy announces the employer’s right to restrict the employee from returning to work until safe from exposure.

If you need assistance with any or all of these recommended Back to Work Policies and Forms, please contact Jeffrey C. Miller at 216.658.2323 or jcmiller@bmdllc.com or Amanda L. Waesch at 330.253.9185 or alwaesch@bmdllc.com or your attorneys with Brennan Manna & Diamond. A Back to Work package will be offered to existing L+E Advisory and Healthcare Advisory clients.

Protections Under Federal and Ohio Law for Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers of Contaminated Property

Most industrial/commercial property developers are generally aware of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), often also referred to as “Superfund”. CERCLA, a United Stated federal law administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was created, in part, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized that environmental cleanup could help promote reuse or redevelopment of contaminated, potentially contaminated, and formerly contaminated properties, helping revitalize communities that may have been adversely affected by the presence of the contaminated properties. Commercial property developers should be aware that CERCLA provides for some important liability limitations for landowners that own contaminated property impacted by materials hazardous to the environment. It can also assist with landowners concerned about the potential liabilities stemming from the presence of contamination to which they have not contributed. In particular, CERCLA provides important liability limitations for landowners that qualify as (1) bona fide prospective purchasers (BFPPS), (2) contiguous property owners, or (3) innocent landowners.

Puerto Rico Is Open For Business

Puerto Rico has the highest vaccination in the nation. More than 73% of the total population is fully vaccinated. The U.S. national average is just over 57%. The ports opened in June 2020 and San Juan held it first live concert this past summer. It is important to remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and there is no need for visas, the banking systems is almost identical to the mainland and the Island uses the U.S. postal service and U.S. dollar as its currency. There are thousands of flights from the U.S. to Puerto Rico daily and all main airlines fly to the Island.

Ohio Medical Board Changes Telemedicine Rules

A SCMS News Article by Scott Sandrock.

The Rising Threat from Insiders – Get Your House in Order

As its name implies, an ‘Insider Threat’ originates inside an organization. An ‘insider’ is any person who has or had authorized access to or knowledge of an organization’s resources, including personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks, and systems. ‘Insider threat’ can manifest from malicious, complacent, negligent or unintentional acts that negatively affect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the organization, its data, personnel, or facilities. Certainly, ‘Insider Threat’ can be an activity by a bad actor employee, but can also arise from an inadvertent or unknowing action inside an organization (such as an employee who unintentionally opens a phishing email or clicks on a malicious link).

In Cybersecurity– A Good Offense is the Best Defense

2021 has been a watershed moment for cybersecurity incidents as cybercrime has become a frequent headline and cyber criminals have thrived on unsuspecting and/or unprepared businesses and institutions. For example, the Solar Winds attack exposed sensitive data from top companies like Microsoft as well government agencies[1] and the Colonial Pipeline attack substantially disrupted the petroleum supply chain[2]. We have seen an almost 20% increase in data breaches and attacks since last year.