Welcome to the Coronavirus Update! As always, please visit the IEC Coronavirus Resources dropbox for specific information to help your businesses and employees.
This Week’s Top Information
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Reviews COVID-19 Vaccines
Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spoke with UPS Healthcare, CVS Health, Walgreens, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on COVID-19 vaccines, where things currently stand, what distribution looks like, the barriers involved, and what role the business community can have in the rollout. View the webinar
OSHA Provides New Resource Directory
OSHA has provided an updated list of general COVID-19 resources grouped by agency, a section with resources on reopening workplaces, cloth face coverings and respiratory protection, vaccines, and additional industry-specific COVID-19 resources grouped by industry. Learn more
U.S. DOL Issues New Guidance on FFCRA Medical Leave
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued additional guidance on whether workers who did not use leave granted under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in 2020 may use it after Dec. 31, 2020. The FFCRA’s paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements expired on Dec. 31. Learn more
Three Things to Know About the Coronavirus Today
Review a timely account of our nation’s COVID-19 status. Read More
Take a Closer Look at the COVID-19 Vaccines
Join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation TODAY at 2 p.m. EST for a look at COVID-19 vaccines. Discover where things currently stand, when rollout and distribution will begin and what that looks like, the barriers involved, and what role the business community can have in the rollout. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will discuss the state of the pandemic and recession, and how states are working to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. Walgreens’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Ban and CVS Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan will discuss the role they’re playing in the distribution of vaccines, and how they’re approaching these issues from an employer perspective. Register Now
EEOC Issues Revised Guidance Addressing COVID-19 Vaccines
On December 16, the EEOC issued revised COVID-19 guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations and employees. The guidance addresses several common questions employers have raised with respect to the COVID-19 vaccine. While the EEOC points out that federal employment laws do not prevent employers from following guidelines and suggestions from public health authorities, the administration of vaccines to employees may raise legal issues employers should consider.
How Do the Moderna & Pfizer Vaccines Differ?
Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was authorized and shipped out to the first Americans earlier this week, but there are a few key differences. Most importantly, Moderna's vaccine can be stored in normal freezers and does not require a super-cold transportation network, making it more accessible for smaller facilities and local communities. Learn More
CDC Revises Quarantine Recommendations
On December 2, the CDC revised its COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, offering an alternative for individuals coming into close contact with positive or presumed-positive individuals. The CDC states the original 14-day quarantine period is best after close contact, but the revised guidelines allow for the following quarantine periods, during which the individual remains symptom-free:
- After day 10 following close contact;
- After day 7 following close contact, with a negative test taken within 48 hours of the final day of quarantine
CDC Alters Critical Infrastructure Personnel Guidance and Recommends New Testing Strategies
The CDC reports the levels of COVID-19 have been rising nationally since September and has made significant changes to its critical infrastructure sector guidance that urges employers to allow exposed but asymptomatic critical infrastructure personnel to continue to work only as "a last resort and only in limited circumstances."
EEOC Updates COVID-19 Technical Assistance Publication
EEOC has posted an updated technical assistance document, What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, Rehabilitation Act and Other EEO Laws, which addresses common questions about COVID-19 and federal equal employment opportunity laws for employers, advocates, and workers.
Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination: Is It Legal and Is It Right for Your Workplace?
By all accounts, the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19 is a matter of when, not if. According to the World Health Organization, 173 potential vaccines are currently being developed in labs across the world, 31 of which have advanced to clinical stage testing on humans. Drug manufacturers estimate that a vaccine will be ready and approved for general use by the end of this year or early 2021.
DOL Publishes Accommodation Compliance Strategies for COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs shared accommodation strategies from the Job Accommodation Network and Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion to help contractors remain compliant in the midst the coronavirus pandemic.
Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) Provides Updated Guidance for Construction
CISC has revised the COVID-19 Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan for Construction. Version 3 of the plan includes important changes and additions to the following sections of the plan:
- Symptoms of COVID-19
- Screening questions for jobsite visitors
- Guidance on the use of face coverings
- Guidance on Jobsite Exposure Situations
- Information on when to record a COVID-19 case on the OSHA 300 Log
- COVID-19 checklist for employers and employees
Deferral of Payroll Tax Goes into Effect
On September 1, President Trump’s memorandum deferring payroll tax obligations went into effect. This memorandum allows for the deferral of the employee portion of federal payroll taxes—6.2% for social security and 1.45% for Medicare—from Sept. 1, 2020, until Dec. 31, 2020, for workers earning less than $4,000 on a biweekly basis or $104,000 annually.
Lost Wages Assistance Program
On August 8, President Trump issued a memorandum, which establishes a “lost wages assistance program” to help workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by dipping into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).
DOL Issues Guidance on Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Under the FFCRA
On Aug. 3, the U.S. Department of Labor issued FAQs providing guidance on Families First Coronavirus Response Act compliance for employers with federal government service contracts covered by the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act and federal construction contracts covered by the Davis-Bacon Act.
OSHA Recordkeeping Flowchart for COVID-19 Cases
Since the onset of the pandemic, employers have struggled with determining when to report COVID-19 infections to OSHA and when to record infections on their OSHA 300 logs. To assist employers in determining their recording and reporting obligations, Ogletree Deakins has prepared this flowchart.
Mastering Telecommuting During COVID-19: Maintaining the Work-Life Balance
This podcast provides tips and strategies for working from home including scheduling and prioritizing tasks, managing childcare responsibilities, and maintaining personal wellness.
CDC Revises Guidance for Home Isolation
The CDC has revised its Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings interim guidance which employers rely on to determine when employees are safe to return to work after being sick with or testing positive for COVID-19. The CDC now requires that a person be fever-free for 24 hours versus the previous requirement of being fever-free for 72 hours.
7 Ways to Improve Construction Safety Culture During a Pandemic
It is an ambitious goal. Some may say it is unattainable. But many companies are innovating and developing policies and procedures that are keeping COVID-19 out of the workplace.
CDC Expands COVID-19 Risk Factors
On June 25, the CDC expanded its list of risk factors of individuals more likely to develop severe illness or die from COVID-19. Previously, the CDC had identified those 65 years of age and older as high risk. Now, the CDC notes that the chance of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and recognizes that the risk does not suddenly increase at age 65.
CDC Releases Guidance on Testing Non-Healthcare Workers
On July 3, the CDC issued new guidance entitled “SARS-CoV-2 Testing Strategy: Considerations for Non-Healthcare Workplaces.” The new guidance recommends incorporating COVID-19 testing in five scenarios: (1) testing individuals with COVID-19-related symptoms; (2) testing asymptomatic individuals with a recent known or suspected exposure in order to control transmission; (3) testing asymptomatic individuals without a recent known or suspected exposure for early identification in special settings; (4) testing to determine when an individual may discontinue home isolation; and (5) testing for public health surveillance.
Milwaukee Supports the Industry
As states begin to open up, many businesses are questioning the proper protocols and procedures to put in place to protect their employees and the public. Milwaukee has created a COVID Resource Guide that covers tool transfer best practices, PPE protocols, collaboration protocols, and more.
Tips for Navigating COVID-19 Guidance for Construction Industry Employers
As reported in our last update, OSHA has revised its guidance for employers performing construction work of all types. Construction industry employers may want to consider OSHA’s recommendations when developing their workplace safety and health plans for two important reasons.
NEMA Publishes COVID-19 Guide for Disinfecting Electrical Equipment
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) recently published NEMA GD 4-2020 COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance for Electrical Equipment. Since managing the COVID-19 virus requires proper cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, NEMA members have developed specific guidelines to answer common questions on how to maintain cleanliness while preserving the functionality and integrity of electrical equipment.
EEOC Provides Guidance on High-Risk Employees Returning to Work
Higher-risk employees who need reasonable accommodations must alert their employers verbally or in writing of their need for job modifications related to underlying medical conditions, according to the EEOC.
The Correct Way to Wear a Respirator at Work
Do you know the seven steps to correctly wearing a respirator? Following this guidance will help you properly put on and take off your respirator and keep you and your co-workers safe. Spanish version. View this helpful video to aid in keeping you healthy.
Change in a Post-COVID WORLD
Electrical distributors are preparing for changes to their operations and customers in the electrical contractor industry – post-COVID 19. Check out the National Association of Electrical Contractors survey results.
IEC Platinum Partners Optimistic About the Future
The IEC Platinum Partners remain optimistic about the future of their businesses and the electrical industry as a whole. During a call among the partners on April 30, the main topic of conversation centered on the new and exciting ways technology will be employed as we move beyond COVID-19 and into the future. The group considered the virtual methods of communication, product delivery, purchasing, and technology being put to use during the pandemic will likely continue to be the norm when we get to the other side. Several participants mentioned the time saved by ordering online as opposed to visiting a brick and mortar location and the younger generation’s comfort level with e-commerce as drivers toward a more virtual business environment moving forward.
CDC Issues New Guidance on Returning to Work
The CDC has issued new guidance on a Symptom-Based Strategy to Discontinue Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 based on the most recent data. In the new guidance, the CDC states that a time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery approach may be appropriate in areas with community transmission where “continued testing is impractical.”
IEC Provides Operational Policy Templates
IEC National and the IEC Safety Committee have developed operational policy templates to address COVID-19. Thank you to Harvey Hammock for his work on these policies.
CDC Weighs In on Temperature Screenings and Disinfection
The CDC has updated its General Business Frequently Asked Questions document to include advice to employers on how to conduct employee temperature screenings, providing three options for employers to consider. It has also issued guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Reopening Businesses The guidance states that it “is intended for all Americans whether you own a business, run a school, or want to ensure the cleanliness and safety of your home.”
CISC Provides Recommendations for Construction Industry
The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) has released updates to its COVID-19 Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan for Construction document, including new guidance on the use of face coverings; guidance for Critical Infrastructure Employers; procedures for screening and job site visits; procedures for monitoring the temperature of workers; and guidance on ride-sharing and the use of common drinking and eating sources. A version in Spanish is available.
Emotional Well-being During COVID-19
Infectious disease outbreaks and other public health events can cause emotional distress and anxiety. Feeling anxious, confused, overwhelmed, or powerless is common, especially in the face of a virus with which the general public may be unfamiliar. You’re not alone, and there are resources to help you get through.
Law Update on Safety, Paid Leaves, Furloughs, and Other Issues
Phillip Russell of Ogletree Deakins delivered a powerhouse webinar on April 10 on recent labor updates resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including stay-at-home orders, electrical contractors as essential businesses, safety issues, paid sick and extended family and medical leave, furloughs, and other cost-saving measures.
Sample Essential Worker Letter
While “stay-at-home” and mandatory quarantine orders are in place, it may be necessary for workers to carry a letter explaining that they are considered essential and are carrying out company business. Here is a sample letter that can be customized for you company’s needs.
IEC Webinar on Labor & Employment Policies
On March 18, IEC hosted a webinar with Phillip Russell and Dee Anna Hays of Ogletree Deakins who spoke to how electrical contractors can implement relevant workplace safety, pay, leave, and other labor and employment policies. The presenters also addressed precautions to consider as they relate to your general contractors, subcontractors, and customers.
Review all Legislative Resources →
SBA to Release PPP Loan Information
The SBA has released the identities of those who borrowed $150,000 or less as of November 24, 2020 through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The names, addresses, and precise loan amounts of all individuals and entities that obtained COVID-19-related loans under the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) have been released. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Center for Public Integrity sued the SBA after the agency initially denied their Freedom of Information Act requests.
Tell Congress to Act on PPP Legislation Immediately!
Only a few short days remain before the end of the year and the end of the 116th Congress. IEC is asking you to help once more by asking Congress and the Trump administration to come to an agreement and pass long overdue COVID-19 relief legislation. Contact your members of Congress and urge them to pass a bill that includes the following:
- Second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Draw
- Simplified PPP Loan Forgiveness
- Full Tax Deductibility for PPP Loans
- Liability Protection Against Unwarranted Lawsuits
- Non-Profit Eligibility for PPP Funds
DOL Publishes Additional Guidance on FLSA, FMLA, and FFCRA
The U.S. Department of Labor has published additional guidance for workers and employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as they begin to open.
State-by-State COVID-19 Guidance Available
Ogletree Deakins has developed an excellent state-by-state COVID guidance webpage for IEC members. Visit the site to review your state’s regulations and ensure you’re compliant.
IEC is Advocating for You
IEC has been active in requesting Congress to enact various policies related to the current COVID-19 crisis. IEC has urged Congress to enact the following:
- Make 501c6 entities eligible for PPP funds
- Eliminate the 75/25 rule, which requires at least 75 percent of PPP funds to be used to cover payroll costs and no more than 25 percent to be used for non-payroll costs
- Extend the eight-week period for purposes of calculating PPP loan forgiveness
- Extend the June 30 safe harbor date for rehiring and restoration of pay
- Change the rules limiting the ability of businesses to take tax deductions for expenses covered by a PPP loan
- Consider that future COVID-19 legislation include additional investment in the skilled trades
EEOC Laws in the Midst of COVID-19
The EEOC enforces workplace anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The EEOC laws continue to apply during the pandemic, but they do not prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions of the CDC or public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19.
OSHA Issues Enforcement Guidance for Compliance
OSHA has released interim enforcement guidance for assessing an employer’s compliance with OSHA standards and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is specifically aimed at standards and regulations that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, or assessments.
OSHA Guidance on Recording and Reporting
OSHA has issued guidance on determining whether a COVID-19 case is work-related for reporting and recording purposes. Employers have struggled to determine whether a particular COVID-19 case is “work-related” for purposes of reporting to OSHA and recording the case on the OSHA 300 log.
What You Need to Know About the CARES Act
On March 27, the House passed Phase III of the COVID-19 relief bills, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. IEC has compiled a variety of helpful resources to guide you through the implications of the CARES Act, including a comprehensive summary of the bill, information on small business loans, an informative conference call with S-Corp Association, and a comprehensive CARES Act webinar provided by Ogletree Deakins.
FFCRA Webinar Available to IEC Members
On April 2, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) goes into effect, changing the legal requirements related to employee benefits and leaves of absence. In addition to the numerous resources IEC has compiled for you to become more familiar with the FFCRA, Ogletree Deakins has recorded an informative webinar, "Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What Employers Need to Know," which IEC members now have full access to.
DOL Expands Guidance on FFCRA Requirements
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has expanded its earlier guidance to include 59 of the most common questions surrounding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the legislative initiative available to employers with fewer than 500 employees.
IRS Issues Guidance on FFCRA Tax Credits
The U.S Department of Labor (DOL) is now deferring to new guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which provides answers to the documentation employers should collect from employees in order to qualify for the related tax credits, the written request requirement, leaves based on quarantines, leaves based on school closures, and record-keeping obligations.
Electricians Included in Essential Workforce Federal Guidance
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released guidance designed to help state and local jurisdictions and the private sector identify and manage their essential workforce while responding to COVID-19. States and localities may determine what is considered an essential workforce in their areas. The guidance includes electricians and states, “Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.” CISA executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s responsibilities as assigned under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to provide strategic guidance, promote a national unity of effort, and coordinate the overall Federal effort to ensure the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure.
ABC Resources Available to IEC Members
Additional resources are available from Merit Shop Partner Association, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
Ogletree Deakins Coronavirus Resource Center
Additional resources are available from Ogletree Deakins