Monthly Archives: March 2020

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Governor Wolf issued an Order pursuant to his disaster emergency powers, directing the immediate closure of all businesses that are not life sustaining.  Enforcement of the Order was scheduled to begin on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.

 

Following the issuance of the Order, the Wolf Administration created a process for businesses to request waivers from the closure mandate.  Due to the high volume of waiver requests received, the Administration is delaying enforcement of the Order, which will now begin on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 8:00 a.m.  The amended Order delaying enforcement is available here.

 

In addition to delaying enforcement, the Administration has also issued a revised list of life sustaining businesses.  The list was updated to conform with guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security concerning Essential Critical Infrastructures.  The Administration has also issued a FAQ addressing questions about the Order. 

 

Requesting a Waiver

 

The Administration created an online waiver application for non-life-sustaining businesses to request an exemption from the closure Order.  According to the Administration, waiver requests will be reviewed by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and a response will be issued via email.  Businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about their application. 

 

Businesses that are considering a waiver request are encouraged to contact BCGL prior to submitting their request. 

 

Download a PDF of this article here.

Dear Clients & Friends,

As you are likely aware, Governor Wolf has ordered the physical closure of all “non-life sustaining businesses” effective as of 8 p.m. this evening (March 18).


In anticipation of that order, BCGL has developed a firm wide plan that will enable us to avoid interruptions in service. Although our office is closed, our lawyers and other service providers will continue to work to meet the needs of our clients on a remote basis. Do not hesitate to contact us. We are here and will continue to meet your needs through this historic time.


We are also prepared to advise you on discrete issues related to the impact of COVID-19 including crisis management, human resources, business interruption issues, privacy and security issues, and contractual provisions implicated by the COVID-19 response including force majeure clauses.

If you are scheduled to meet with any of our lawyers or team members at the office, you will be contacted to make alternative arrangements.  


We wish for the continued health and safety of all of our clients, friends and team members and a return to normalcy for everyone as soon as possible.


Sincerely,

Rory O. Connaughton
Managing Member

On Monday, March 23, 2020, at 12:00 p.m., BCGL will host a webinar titled "Coronavirus Update for Employers."  During the webinar, Theresa Mongiovi, Chair of BCGL's Employment & Labor Law Department, will address the following topics:

 

     -Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), new sick time requirements,
      expanded FMLA benefits, employer tax credits;
     -Pennsylvania's recent closure directives and how they impact business and 
      industry sectors;
     -Protective measures for businesses that remain open and continue operations;
     -Workforce planning, teleworking arrangements and employee pay issues; and
     -Layoff considerations, unemployment compensation and workers' compensation.

TO JOIN THE WEBINAR
Join us Monday at noon at the following link:  COVID-19 Webinar

You can also dial in using your phone at the following toll free number:  1-877-568-4106
The access code for the webinar is 469-968-469.

 

The webinar will review the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was signed into law by President Trump on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  FFCRA creates new paid leave benefits which impact employers with fewer than 500 employees.  You can download BCGL's Guidance on FFCRA here.

On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Wolf Administration ordered certain “non-essential” businesses to close for 14 days to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, while urging other types of business to voluntarily close.  A lack of clear guidance has left many business owners unsure of whether their business is mandated to close, or merely encouraged to close. 

 

CURRENT CLOSURE DIRECTIVES

 

Late in the day on March 16, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) issued additional guidance on the closure of non-essential businesses.  Based on that guidance, as of March 17, the following closures are in place in Pennsylvania:


Non-Essential Businesses


-Public-facing industries, such as entertainment, hospitality and recreation facilities, are urged, but not required to close. This includes, but is not limited to, community and recreation centers; gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities; hair salons and barber shops, nail salons and spas; casinos; concert venues; theaters; sporting event venues and golf courses; retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operations.

-Restaurants and bars have been ordered to close their dine-in facilities. Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so.


Essential Services and Sectors


-Essential services and sectors may remain open but are encouraged to use social distancing practices. In addition, employers may refer to the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidance for Workplaces which is accessible here.

-Essential services and sectors include, but are not limited to, food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, feed mills, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair/hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and healthcare, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores, warehousing, storage, and distribution, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.

-Dental practices have been urged by the American Dental Association to postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks, and to limit procedures to emergency dental care. Many dental offices have closed for routine appointments and will evaluate whether to reopen after the recommended three-week period.

-Medical practices should comply with guidance and recommendations issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), including guidance on maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. The CDC’s Interim Guidance for Healthcare Professionals can be accessed here, and the WHO Communication Package for Healthcare Facilities can be accessed here.


Professional Services Businesses


-Professional service businesses are encouraged to have employees work remotely from home. When working from home is not possible, employers should employ social distancing practices and be aware of the CDC’s Guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

-These businesses include legal services, business and management consulting, accounting services, insurance services and other professional services.

 

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

 

The PA Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is proactively notifying workers that they may be eligible to received unemployment compensation benefits if they are unable to work for one of the following reasons:

     -Their employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19;

     -Their hours of work are reduced because of COVID-19;

     -They have been told not to work because their employer feels their might get or spread COVID-19; or

     -They have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts.

 

In an effort to aid workers whose employment is impacted by COVID-19, the Wolf Administration has also implemented the following changes to the UC benefit system:


Waiting Week is Suspended. Normally, when an employee files for unemployment compensation, they are not eligible to receive benefits during their first week of unemployment (known as the “waiting week”).  The waiting week requirement is currently suspended, and eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week they are unemployed.


Work Search and Registration Requirements Temporarily Waived. Individuals receiving unemployment compensation benefits are normally required to register with PA CareerLink and engage in weekly work search efforts.  Both of these requirements have been temporarily waived.

 

L&I is also notifying workers that they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.  Additional information about unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits for those impacted by COVID-19 is available here.

 

ADDITIONAL FINANCING AVAILABLE

 

DCED if offering working capital loans that may be of assistance to businesses during the COVID-19 shut down.  Information about financing will be posted here as it becomes available. These loans are in addition to the Economic Injury Disaster Loans being offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  You can learn more about SBA loans here.

 

BCGL’s Business and Employment Team is available to assist you with coronavirus strategies for your business. Please reach out to Ted Brubaker (TedB@bcgl-law.com), Brett Jackson (BrettJ@bcgl-law.com) and Ryan Givens (RyanG@bcgl-law.com) with business-continuity and financing questions, and Theresa Mongiovi (TheresaM@bcgl-law.com) and Angela Sanders (AngelaS@bcgl-law.com) with employment-related questions.


Download a PDF version of this article here.