By Jill L. Ripke, Brittany Sachs and Lauren Kulpa

We have updated and added to our frequently asked questions (FAQs) for U.S. employers relating to COVID-19 and developments in employment law. The additional FAQs focus on transitioning employees who have been working remotely back to a physical office location. These new Q&As address topics such as how to transition employees back to work, whether employees are required to return, and concerns related to employees that relocated to a different city or state while working remotely.

These FAQs provide general guidance based on the current understanding of COVID-19 and federal law. Different conclusions may be reached based on different circumstances, changes to the pandemic, and/or variations in state or local law. Moreover, because the laws, regulations, and guidance pertaining to COVID-19 are constantly in flux and continue to evolve, there may be new or different information not addressed or referenced in these FAQs. Employers should contact experienced counsel for guidance specific to their business.

On March 19, 2021, Governor Newsom approved SB 95, which requires COVID-19 supplemental sick leave through September 30, 2021 and creates new COVID-19 vaccine–related paid sick leave obligations for covered employers. The new law, which adds Sections 248.2 and 248.3 to California’s Labor Code, is effective immediately, but the employer obligation to provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave does not take effect until March 29 (10 days after the date of enactment). It is important to note that the obligation to provide supplemental paid sick leave is retroactive to January 1, 2021, which means employers may owe back pay to employees who took covered leave on a previously unpaid basis, following the December 31, 2020 expiration of California’s previous supplemental sick leave legislation, discussed here.

The requirement is in addition to California’s mandated paid sick leave and may be used by covered employees upon oral or written request. An employee cannot be required to use any other paid or unpaid leave, time off, or vacation before the supplemental sick leave. The Labor Commissioner has developed a poster that employers are required to display or disseminate regarding the new requirements.

Continue Reading California Requires COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Through September 30, 2021

On March 12, 2021, New York passed a new law requiring all New York employers to provide up to four (4) hours of paid leave for the purposes of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. New York is the first state to implement paid leave specifically limited to time spent getting vaccinated. The law is effective as of March 12, 2021, and the law’s leave entitlement is set to expire on December 31, 2022. In addition to paid leave, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who request or take vaccination leave, or otherwise exercise their rights under the new law. Continue Reading New York Implements Targeted Paid Vaccination Leave

By: Jessica Cohen

This is a summary of current Washington State and Seattle governmental orders affecting commercial tenancies at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residential tenancies are not addressed in this article.

Washington State: Under Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-19.6, commercial landlords in Washington State are prohibited from increasing (or threatening to increase) rent or the amount of any deposit on commercial rental property if the commercial tenant has been materially impacted by COVID-19, whether the tenant (i) is personally impacted and unable to work, (ii) the business was deemed a “non-essential” business pursuant to the Stay Home – Stay Healthy Proclamation 20-25, or (iii) the business lost staff or customers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The prohibition on increasing rents does not apply if rent increases were in a lease agreement executed prior to February 29, 2020. These protections are in effect until June 30, 2021.

King County: The King County’s Sheriff’s Office announced on March 17, 2020, that it is “temporarily suspending the service and enforcement of evictions until further notice.” The sheriff’s letter implies that it applies to commercial, residential, and post-foreclosure evictions.

City of Seattle: Continue Reading Summary of Washington State, King County, and Seattle Eviction Moratoria Regarding Commercial Leases

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released long-awaited Guidance this morning regarding permissible activities and relaxed precautions for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second shot of a two-dose vaccine (e.g., Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving the single-dose vaccine (e.g., Johnson & Johnson).

Specifically, today’s CDC Guidance states that fully vaccinated individuals may:

  • Gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask;
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19; and
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure to COVID-19 if asymptomatic.

Continue Reading CDC Releases Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Persons

The California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) unveiled a new website for companies operating in California that contains consolidated resources regarding COVID-19.  The website includes a variety of resources for employers to “learn about COVID-19 workplace requirements such as safety procedures, training for employees on infection prevention, and what to do in case of an infection or outbreak.”  The new website also includes a COVID-19 employer portal where employers can generate customized guidance relevant to the employer’s business industry as well as online trainings and links to additional helpful resources.

On February 10, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance to reflect that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 if the vaccinated person:

  • Is fully vaccinated (meaning it has been more than two weeks after receipt of the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that has a two-dose series, or it has been more than two weeks after receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine);
  • Is within three months following receipt of the last dose of the vaccine in a series; and
  • Remains asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

Individuals who meet these criteria should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following exposure to COVID-19 and seek medical care if they experience symptoms of COVID-19. If individuals do not meet these criteria, they should follow current guidance on quarantining after exposure to COVID-19.

However, the CDC recommends that vaccinated inpatients and residents in healthcare settings still should follow preexisting quarantine recommendations (rather than the new standards above). The CDC has noted that while it is “not preferred,” healthcare facilities could consider waiving the quarantine requirements for vaccinated patients and residents to prevent critical issues such as lack of space, staff shortages, and shortages of PPE.

The CDC explained that these quarantine recommendations for vaccinated persons, including the criteria for timing since receipt of the last dose in the vaccination series, will be updated when more data become available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are authorized.

With multiple states rolling out phased access to COVID-19 vaccines, many employers are considering whether they want to require employees to be vaccinated, how to encourage employee vaccinations, and the implications of vaccine policies for their businesses. Below are a few of the top questions that Perkins Coie has received from its clients:

  • May I make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for my employees?
  • If I have a mandatory vaccination policy, what do I do if an employee objects? May I fire the employee?
  • May I offer COVID-19 vaccines at the worksite?

View the responses and additional FAQs here.

By Andy Smetana and Teri Lindquist

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently released a flurry of new materials implementing changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These materials provide clarifications and updates, but also introduce new changes that borrowers should note when applying for loan forgiveness, a loan increase, or a “second draw” PPP loan.

New Forgiveness Applications and Forgiveness Guidance

  • There are three new forgiveness application forms. The simplest form, found here, is only one page long and is for loans of $150,000 or less. The updated “EZ” form for eligible borrowers is here, and the updated full forgiveness application form is here. Any borrower preparing to apply for forgiveness should contact their lender about use of these new forms.
  • Borrowers can now choose a “covered period” of any length between 8 weeks and 24 weeks, measured from the date their PPP loan was disbursed. This applies for new and existing PPP loans and may be helpful for borrowers seeking to avoid a reduction in forgiveness based on the FTE reduction quotient. See the new forgiveness guidance here.
  • The prior option of using the “alternative payroll covered period” has been eliminated.
  • As noted in our summary of the Economic Aid Act, the permitted uses for new and existing PPP loans have been expanded, and this is reflected in the new guidance and application forms.
  • Borrowers are required to apply for forgiveness for their initial PPP loan prior to or simultaneously with their application for forgiveness for the “second draw” loan, but the applications cannot be submitted on the same form.

New Guidance for PPP Re-Borrowing and Loan Increases

  • Borrowers who returned or repaid all or a portion of their PPP loan before December 27, 2020, or who received a PPP loan in an amount that was less than the amount they were approved to receive, may be eligible to re-borrow the amounts previously returned or repaid or obtain a loan increase, as long as they have not previously received forgiveness as to the remainder of their original PPP loan. Guidance for these borrowers can be found here (as to eligibility requirements) and here (as to calculating the maximum loan amount).

New “Second Draw” PPP Loan Guidance

  • New guidance on “second draw” loans may be found here. This includes elaboration on (1) the calculation of a borrower’s decline in “gross receipts,” which must exceed 25% in a quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 for a borrower to be eligible for a “second draw” loan, and (2) the supporting documentation that borrowers must provide to their SBA lender to demonstrate their revenue decline. A borrower who applies for a “second draw” loan of $150,000 or less will not need to provide supporting documentation regarding their revenue decline until they apply for forgiveness.

Businesses interested in taking advantage of new PPP opportunities should contact their SBA lender to determine next steps. Experienced counsel can also assist as needed.

By: Allan E. Low and Anne Li

Update: This article was updated on January 19, 2021, to include that the commercial eviction moratorium went into effect on January 11, 2021. The bullet points featuring the four tiers of the commercial tenants, created by the Board Ordinance, were also updated to include that each tier’s full-time employee count is as of November 1, 2020.

On December 1, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a commercial eviction moratorium ordinance (the Board Ordinance), which Board Ordinance came into effect on January 11, 2021. When the Board Ordinance became effective, the mayor’s previous executive orders which impose a moratorium on commercial evictions (the Mayor’s Moratorium) terminated. Continue Reading San Francisco Board of Supervisors Enacts a New Commercial Eviction Moratorium Ordinance