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Archive for April, 2020

MA Governor Extends Non-Essential Business Closings Until May 18, 2020

April 29, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By Amanda E. Thibodeau

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker extended his previous emergency order to close non-essential businesses and his stay-at-home advisory until May 18. His previous order closed non-essential businesses until May 4. The press release can be found here.

Along with extending the closure of non-essential businesses, the order also extends the stay-at-home advisory, urging residents to stay at home and limiting all gatherings to 10 people or less until May 18.

Governor Baker also appointed a 17-person re-opening advisory board who will plan a phased re-opening of the state. The new board is comprised of leaders from government, business, and healthcare sectors.

The Morse Employment Law team is following the latest developments related to COVID-19 responses, and will continue to report as appropriate. You can find our complete COVID-19 resource collection here.

The Post-Quarantine Workplace: Practical Considerations Related to the Re-Call of Employees to the Worksite

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)As employers continue to navigate unprecedented economic challenges – with possible easing of shelter-in-place and business closure orders in the coming weeks – one thing is clear: A return to normal business operations, in any short-term scenario, is unlikely. 

Employers will soon face very difficult decisions concerning the re-opening of worksite locations and the re-calling of employees. To help prepare for this eventuality, Matthew Mitchell has identified common themes and subjects employers may encounter in the  Post-Quarantine Workplace including worksite preparation, change management, government relief opportunities and employment law compliance considerations.

Read our full COVID-19 Alert for our Return-to-Work Guide.

Unemployment Options Under the Massachusetts Emergency Regulations

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)Currently, 26 million Americans have requested unemployment benefits since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Federally, the CARES Act provides new and expanded emergency options, which are being adopted and implemented by individual states. At the state level, Massachusetts has put into effect Emergency Regulations to assist both employees and employers with unemployment insurance during COVID-19 and to help implement portions of the CARES Act. For Massachusetts employers trying to put their employees in the best position to maintain wage rates, the following options and strategies are available to help:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Furloughs and Standby Status
  • Short-Term Compensation Programs (or Work Share Programs)
  • Other Important Provisions

Amanda Thibodeau explains each of these programs and qualifying criteria in our recent COVID-19 Alert.

PPP Loan Program: Analysis of Treasury Department Interim Final Rule on Affiliation; Impact on Portfolio Companies

April 6, 2020 Leave a comment

MLM Headshot Photo 2019 (M1341570xB1386)By: Matthew L. Mitchell

On April 3, 2020, the United States Treasury Department issued “Interim Final Rules” and a related guideline concerning the Paycheck Protection Program’s “Affiliation Rule.”   The Interim Final Rule and guideline may be found here:

The instructions included in the Interim Rule and Guideline significantly limit, by application of the Affiliation Rule, the types of businesses that are eligible to apply for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.  Of particular note:  The Interim Rule and Guideline apply the restrictions of the Affiliation Rule to start-up and emerging businesses, likely precluding many such companies from access to PPP loans funds.

The Morse Employment Law team is following this topic closely. Read our latest COVID-19 Alert for more information.

DOL Releases New Guidance for Compliance with CARES Act and FFCRA

April 3, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda E. Thibodeau

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new guidance to help states with administration of the new unemployment provisions part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). It also updated and added additional guidance for the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave implementation under the FFCRA.

The new unemployment guidance provides help to states in implementing the temporary emergency state staffing flexibility provision of the CARES Act. It also provides help to states in determining eligibility requirements for applicants – especially in the area of gig workers and independent contractors, who are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits. The new guidance can be found here.

The guidance added by the DOL for the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave implementation includes a webinar to help employers determine eligibility and answer other questions related to benefits and protections under the FFCRA. The DOL also added additional materials to its Questions and Answers and added more workplace posters in additional languages. You may view these new materials here.

The Morse Employment Law team is following this, and other matters related to COVID-19 responses, and will continue to report as appropriate.

DOL Posts Temporary Rule Issuing Regulations on Families First Coronavirus Response Act

April 2, 2020 Leave a comment

AET Headshot Photo 2019 (M1344539xB1386)By: Amanda E. Thibodeau

On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted a temporary rule issuing regulations on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  In particular, the new regulations deal with implementation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) portions of the FFCRA. The regulations are temporary and will expire December 31, 2020, and will not affect the Family Medical Leave Act beyond that date.

The new regulations shed light on several important areas of the FFCRA.
Our COVID-19 Alert addresses a few key takeaways on the following topics:

  • Self-quarantine
  • Effect on FMLA Leave and Paid Time Off Used Concurrently
  • Small Business Exemption
  • Intermittent Leave
  • Notice and Leave Documentation

The new regulations take effect immediately and contain many more details concerning the implementation of the FFCRA. Please see our previous Alert on the FFCRA for additional requirements under the new law, or reach out to our Morse Employment Law Team for help.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”)

April 1, 2020 Leave a comment

JEH Headshot Photo (M1160809xB1386)By: Joseph E. Hunt

On March 31, 2020, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) issued guidance for the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), one of the hallmarks of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act designed to provide up to $350 billion in short term loans to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to information provided by Treasury, while PPP loans can only be made by private lenders who are certified by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”), they are fully guaranteed by the SBA. These PPP loans are made for a two-year period, and provide a 0.5% fixed interest rate with repayments deferred for six months.

An applicant business is eligible to obtain a PPP loan equal to the lesser of (a) $10 million or (b) 250% of its average total monthly payroll costs over a trailing 12-month period, as measured from the loan origination date. Loan amounts will be forgiven as tax free cancellation of indebtedness as long as (i) the loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, mortgage interest costs, rent expenses, and utility costs over an eight (8) week period beginning as of the origination date, and (ii) employee and compensation levels are maintained.

Per Treasury, the underwriting standards for eligibility are relaxed, and private lenders making PPP loans will be required to verify that the applicant business was in operation as of February 15, 2020, and that it had employees for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes.

The application window opens on Friday, April 3, 2020 for small businesses and sole proprietorships and Friday, April 10, 2020 for independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Applications can be made through any SBA-certified private lender.

Additional resources are available on the Treasury’s website.

Morse is following this topic closely. Please feel free to reach out to your Morse contact, or to speak with Joe HuntAmanda Thibodeau, or Matt Mitchell directly, should you have any questions.

Read our latest COVID-19 Alert.