Guidelines for Employers
From the Governor
Just last week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order in an effort to further enhance California’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s order, among other things:
- Waives the one-week waiting period for people who are unemployed and/or disabled as a result of COVID-19;
- Delays the deadline for state tax filing by 60 days for individuals and businesses unable to file on time based on compliance with public health requirements related to COVID-19 filings;
- Directs residents to follow public health directives and guidance, including canceling large non-essential gatherings that do not meet state criteria;
- Readies the state to commandeer property for temporary residences and medical facilities for quarantining, isolating or treating individuals;
- Allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically; and
- Allows local and state emergency administrators to act quickly to protect public health.
Employees Who Are 65+
Yesterday, the Governor further recommended that people over the age of 65 self-isolate. To that end, employers who are still operating should be mindful of employees who have been recommended to self-isolate, and to refrain from requiring such employees to report to work in the workplace.
Whenever possible, employees who have been recommended to self-isolate should be given remote working capabilities and/or time off (further discussed below).
LA Mayor Garcetti's Emergency Order
Yesterday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an Emergency Order placing temporary restrictions on restaurants, bars, and other establishments in the City of Los Angeles. The restrictions took effect in the City of Los Angeles at 11:59 p.m. yesterday (March 15, 2020) and will remain in place through noon on March 31, 2020, subject to extension.
The order temporarily closes bars and nightclubs that do not serve food, movie theaters, entertainment venues, bowling alleys, arcades, gyms and fitness centers.
Restaurants, bars and retail food facilities may not serve food for “dining in”, but may continue to offer food for delivery, takeout or drive-thru. The Mayor also strongly urged houses of worship to limit large gatherings on their premises and observe social distancing practices.
The following establishments within the City of Los Angeles will be temporarily closed to the public:
- Bars and nightclubs that do not serve food;
- Movie theaters and entertainment venues;
- Bowling alleys and arcades; and
- Gyms and fitness centers.
The following restrictions will also apply:
- All restaurants will be prohibited from serving food to dine-in customers, but may continue to prepare and offer food via delivery service or take-out;
- Houses of worship are urged to limit large gatherings on their premises and to explore and implement ways to practice their respective faiths while observing social distancing practices.
The following establishments will continue to operate:
- Grocery stores will continue to operate and there is no shortage of food or interruption in our food supply;
- Cafeterias within hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities will continue operations.
The Mayor also ordered a moratorium on evictions of residential tenants during this local emergency period if the tenant is able to show an inability to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Employers Should Know
Reporting Time Pay
Under normal circumstances, in the event an employee who is scheduled to report to work, and does report to work, but is not put to work or furnished with less than half of their usual or scheduled day’s work because of inadequate scheduling or lack of proper notice by the employer, “reporting time pay” is due to the employee in the amount of half the usual or schedule day’s work, but in no event for less than 2 hours nor more than 4 hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
BUT, reporting time pay is not required when the employer's operations cannot begin or continue due to threats to employees or property, or when civil authorities recommend that work not begin or continue.
At this time, there is no State or local requirement for a business to provide “paid leave” if that is not a benefit currently offered by the company, or otherwise required by law (i.e., paid sick leave).
However, federal lawmakers are currently working on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201), which would provide:
- Free coronavirus testing.
- Paid emergency leave.
- Enhanced unemployment insurance.
- Additional funding for nutritional programs.
- Protections for health care workers and employees responsible for cleaning at-risk places.
- Additional federal funds for Medicaid.
The House passed the bill yesterday and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming days. President Trump is expected to sign the bill this week.
Although changes are likely to occur before the bill is signed into law, a summary of the current bill includes, for employers with fewer than 500 employees:
- Amendment of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for employees who either have to quarantine themselves, care for a family member who is quarantined, or care for a child whose school has been closed.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can apply for an
exemption through the Department of Labor “when the imposition of such
requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business.”
- A new federal paid sick leave law requiring employers to provide 2 weeks of paid sick leave (up to 80 hours or the equivalent of 2 weeks for part-time employees) for people cannot work for COVID-19 related reasons such as being quarantined, caring for someone who is quarantined, or place of work or child’s school is closed due to COVID-19.
Businesses and self-employed individuals are eligible for a tax credit to
cover sick leave.
We will provide an update on this measure as developments occur.
Paid Sick Leave
All California employers are required to provide paid sick leave either pursuant to California’s Paid Sick Leave laws, or pursuant to any applicable local law/ordinance that may provide even more time off to employees.
For example, employers with operations within the geographic boundaries of the City of Los Angeles must comply with the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Ordinance,either by:
- providing at least 48 hours of paid sick leave to an employee at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period (lump-sum/front-loading); or
- providing the employee one hour of sick leave per every 30 hours worked (accrual method).
For employers using the accrual method, accrued unused paid sick leave carries over to the following year of employment and may be capped at 72 hours; however, an employer may set a higher cap or no cap at all.
Additionally, salaried exempt employees must receive his or her full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work, without regard to the number of days or hours worked. This includes situations where the exempt employee is checking emails from home, etc.
Employee Use of Paid Time Off (PTO), Vacation and Sick Leave
Although an employer is required to provide Paid Sick Leave in accordance with applicable law (above), and an employer may provide other time off such as PTO or vacation time, an employee should be given the option to use such time for purposes of leave due to COVID-19, but not required, and in accordance with an employer’s other leave policies.
EDD - Unemployment Insurance (UI), State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL)
The EDD is also offering support for people affected by the coronavirus.
- Employees who incur a loss of wages due to a reduced work schedule or temporary closure of their workplace due to COVID-19 may file for unemployment benefits (UI).
- Employees who are sick or quarantined due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 may file for disability insurance benefits (SDI).
- Employees caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 or quarantined due to being exposed to the virus may apply for paid family leave benefits (PFL).
More information from the EDD is available here.
Governor Newsom has issued an Executive Order giving the EDD discretion to waive the usual 7-day waiting period for:
- Disability insurance applicants who are unemployed and disabled as a result of the COVID-19 and who are otherwise eligible for disability insurance benefits.
- Unemployment insurance applicants who are unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 and who are otherwise eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
EDD - Work Sharing Program
Employers can also apply for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing Program if reduced production, services, or other conditions cause them to seek an alternative to layoffs.
The Work Sharing Program helps employees whose hours and wages have been reduced:
- Receive UI benefits.
- Keep their current job.
- Avoid financial hardships.
The Work Sharing Program helps employers:
- Minimize or eliminate the need for layoffs.
- Keep trained employees and quickly prepare when business conditions improve.
- Avoid the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.
Click here for information on how to apply.
CA Department of Industrial Relations FAQ: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm
CA Labor & Workforce Development Agency Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for Employers and Workers: https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/
To the extent a workplace is continuing operations, see: