Experience

COVID-19 Response Team - Resources and Updates

The response to COVID-19 has state and federal authorities making swift and unprecedented changes to current laws, drafting new laws and making exceptions everywhere in between. This leaves employers, business leaders and carriers scrambling. Thompson Coe’s COVID-19 Response Team is here to guide businesses, employers and carriers through understanding their obligations and strategies during this uncertain time, as well as keeping them informed of the most recent developments. We have compiled a catalog of resources including news alerts, recorded webinars, issues for consideration, and key attorney contacts.

We are also providing constantly updated information regarding state responses in Texas, California, Louisiana and Minnesota, and federal measures implemented to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Labor and Employment Resources

Contact any of our Labor and Employment attorneys directly via phone or email with your questions and concerns. Also visit myHRgenius for additional HR resources and information. 

Congress Expands Unemployment Benefits Under the CARES ACT - Client Alert

DOL Clarifies The Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Client Alert

Updated Guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Client Alert

DOL Guidance on Paid Leave Law - Client Alert

Congress Passes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act -  Client Alert 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Webinar

EMERGENCY HR TIP: Form I-9 in-person review suspended - Client Alert

The Coronavirus - Podcast

Coronavirus Primer - Client Alert

Coronavirus Q&A - Client Alert

Insurance Coverage Resources

Emerging Risks: Insurance Coverage for COVID-19 - Webinar

Q&A From Insurance Coverage for COVID-19 Webinar - Publication

First Louisiana Business Interruption Suit Filed in Wake of Coronavirus - Client Alert

Restaurants File First Business Interruption Suit in California - Client Alert

Data Privacy and Cyber Security Resources

Cyber Risk Considerations Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Texas

State-Wide Actions

March 31, 2020 Texas Governor issues executive order implementing Statewide essential services protocols and directing Texas Division of Emergency Management to maintain an online list of essential services

On March 19, 2020, the Governor of the State of Texas, Gregg Abbot, issued Executive Order No. GA-08 related to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation.  The Executive Order provides four critical orders:

  1. Every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people;
  2. People shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or vising gyms or massage parlors, provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this Executive Order;
  3. People shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance; and
  4. Schools shall temporarily close. 

This Executive Order does not prohibit people from visiting places such as grocery stores, gas stations, parks, and banks, as long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.  Additionally, this Executive Order does not mandate sheltering in place.  All critical infrastructure will remain operational, domestic travel will remain unrestricted, and government entities and business will continue providing essential services. 

The Executive Order is effective on March 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. and continues until April 3, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Link:  https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-issues-executive-orders-to-mitigate-spread-of-covid-19-in-texas

On a state-wide level, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster in all Texas counties. See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-declares-state-of-disaster-in-texas-due-to-covid-19.

Employment-related actions by the Governor include his suspension on March 14, 2020 of three sets of statutes that relate to the trucking industry, to help get supplies where they need to be:

  • The oversize and overweight permitting requirements under Transportation Code, Chapters 621 through 623, as well as Title 43, Chapter 219 of the Texas Administrative Code, for all divisible and non-divisible vehicles and loads;
  • The International Registration Plan (IRP) vehicle registration under Transportation Code § 502.091 and 43 Tex. Admin. Code § 217.56, as long as the vehicle is registered in one of the 48 contiguous states of the United States; and
  • The 72-hour and 144-hour temporary registration permits under Transportation Code § 502.094 and 43 Tex. Admin. Code § 217.40(b)(3), as long as the vehicle is registered in one of the states of the United States.

https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-waives-certain-state-trucking-regulations-to-expedite-delivery-of-resources-around-texas

Also on March 14, 2020, Governor Abbott directed the Texas Medical Board (TMB) and the Texas Board of Nursing (TBN) to fast-track the temporary licensing of out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, certain retired physicians, nurses, and other license types to assist in Texas' response to COVID-19.

  • TMB will allow out-of-state physicians to obtain a Texas limited emergency license or hospital-to-hospital credentialing through the time period that encompasses the Governor's Disaster Declaration. Other types of out-of-state health care professionals regulated by TMB may also receive temporary licenses. These rules are pursuant to Title 22, Chapter 172.20 and 172.21 of the Texas Administrative Code. Specific licensing requirements under these rules may be found on the TMB website.
  • Additionally, TMB is encouraging retired physicians who are Texas residents with licenses that have been placed on official retired status for less than two years to apply for a return to active status. These licensing requirements under Title 22, Chapter 166.3 of the Texas Administrative Code can also be found on the TMB website.
  • In accordance with Section 418.171 of Texas Government Code, any out-of-state nurse may practice in Texas for the purpose of rendering aid, provided the nurse holds a current license in good standing in their home state. Therefore, any out-of-state nurse with a license in good standing is not required to hold a Texas license in order to practice nursing in a disaster relief effort operation setting. More information can be found on the TBN website.

See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-fast-tracks-licensing-for-out-of-state-medical-professionals.

On March 15, 2020, the Governor in conjunction with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agreed to waive laws prohibiting trucks from the alcohol industry from delivering supplies to grocery stores.  See https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-waives-laws-to-allow-trucks-from-alcohol-industry-to-deliver-grocery-supplies.

Texas has also waived the waiting week for unemployment benefits.  See https://twc.texas.gov/news/twc-waives-certain-requirements-unemployment-benefits-services.  For employers closing business temporarily or permanently resulting in layoffs, the Texas Workforce Commission provides the option of submitting a mass claim for unemployment benefits on their behalf.  More information on submitting a Mass Claim is available at https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/mass-claims-unemployment-benefits.

Dallas County/City Of Dallas

Link to City of Dallas Mayor’s Extension of Proclamation Extending Local State of Disaster to April 29, 2020

April 2, 2020 - Dallas County "Stay Home Stay Safe" Order

Of note, Judge Jenkins’ order finds jurisdiction from Texas Government Code Section 418.108, which limits his declaration of a local disaster to seven days. The local disaster declaration may only be continued or renewed past the seven days with consent from the “governing body of the political subdivision.” Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 418.108(b). Accordingly, at this time, it is again on the agenda for April 7, 2020 before the Dallas County Commissioners Court for consent to be continued or renewed past April 30, 2020. The proposed amendment, if agreed, would amend the current order until April 30, 2020 (not May 20, 2020) unless given explicit consent from the Commissioners Court.

Link to April 7, 2020 Dallas County Court Commissioners Agenda: https://dallascounty.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=579

City of Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (enforcement) https://dallascityhall.com/departments/fairhousing/paid-sick-leave/Pages/default.aspx

Link to Ordinance Rules: https://dallascityhall.com/departments/fairhousing/paid-sick-leave/Pages/Rules.aspx

Additionally, Federal Court District Judge Sean Jordan granted an injunction of the City of Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, pending further decision of constitutional challenges to the ordinance, asserted by two businesses and the State of Texas: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6821565-f92024c1-549e-4b70-b23d-7b09834d152e.html

City of Austin

Clarification for Statewide Issued Protocols to Essential Services and Activities-April 02, 2020 This contains the City of Austin’s position on conflicting provisions of its order and Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order of March 31, 2020.

Clarification for Statewide Issued Protocols to Essential Services and Activities-April 02, 2020

Stay Home - Work Safe: Supplemental Guidance Based on Executive Order No.GA-14 - April 2, 2020

Mayoral Order Impacting Commercial and Residential Landlords and Tenants (Austin)  - March 26, 2020

Stay Home - Work Safe: Guidance for the Construction Industry (Austin) − March 24, 2020

Stay Home - Work Safe Order (Austin) −March 24, 2020

Stay Home - Work Safe Order (Travis County) −March 24, 2020

Order of Control for Mass Gatherings and Critical Infrastructure (Austin) −March 21, 2020

Order of Control for Mass Gatherings and Critical Infrastructure (Travis County) − March 21, 2020

Austin’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance remains on enjoined on appeal, so will not go into effect until the appeal is resolved or the injunction is lifted.

City of Houston

Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and local health officials in Houston ordered bars and nightclubs to close and food-service establishments to stop in-service dining for 15 days, effective at 8 a.m. on March 17, 2020.  Restaurant carry-out, delivery and drive-thru service, third-party delivery services, and grocery stores are not affected by the requirements. See https://houstonemergency.org/COVID19/. The City of Houston has not yet adopted a paid sick leave ordinance.

City of San Antonio

Links to the City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s current orders, which were jointly issued on March 23rd are as follows:

https://www.sanantonio.gov/Portals/0/Files/health/COVID19/Website%20Docs/Emergency%20Declaration%20No.%205.pdf?ver=2020-03-23-175107-393

https://www.bexar.org/DocumentCenter/View/26253/Executive-Order-NW-03---Judge-Nelson-Wolff---March-23-2020?bidId=

The appeal addressing San Antonio’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is currently abated pending action by the Texas Supreme Court relating to the City of Austin’s Ordinance.  Therefore, San Antonio’s Ordinance has not gone into effect.

California:

On March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20, which ordered “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors” (as defined at https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19).  Essential services remain open, such as:

  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry services
  • Essential state and local government functions (i.e. law enforcement, govt. programs, etc.)

This order is in place until further notice.

This order comes on the heels of several other Executive Orders affecting California Employers in the past few weeks.  Notable among them was the March 12, 2020 Executive Order N-25-20, which, 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 to cancel large non-essential gatherings that do not meet state criteria; and
  • Allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically.

Additionally, Executive Order N-31-20, executed on March 17, 2020, temporarily lifts various safety regulations, including certain permitting requirements and hours-of-service limits, for interstate motor carriers and commercial drivers engaged in support of emergency relief efforts.

Executive Order N-25-20 (March 12, 2020)

  • 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 to cancel 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

March 15, 2020:

-Gubernatorial advisory requesting home isolation of everyone in the state age 65 and older, and people with chronic disease, both high-risk populations.

-Advisory closing all bars, night clubs, breweries, and wineries in the state

-Restaurants urged to cut capacity to allow for “deep social distancing”

From an employment law perspective, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office recently issued the following:  https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm

Los Angeles:

On March 19, 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the “Safer at Home Order,” an emergency order prohibiting residents of the City of Los Angeles from all activities outside of their homes unless it is necessary for an essential activity.  The essential activities, and business operations necessary for those essential activities, that are exempt from the Order, include, but are not limited to: healthcare operations; grocery stores; organizations that provide food, shelter, and social services; gas stations; banking institutions; childcare facilities providing services to employees exempt under the Safer at Home Order; and outdoor activities, such as walking, running, and cycling, provided that individuals comply with social distancing requirements.  The Safer at Home Order takes effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., but allows until Friday, March 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. for people to gather belongings and address administrative issues.  The Order is then effective until April 19th and may be extended further.  Failure to comply with the Safer at Home Order will constitute a misdemeanor subject to fines and imprisonment. 

For more details and a complete list of the essential activities exempt under the Safer at Home Order, please visit:

https://www.lamayor.org/sites/g/files/wph446/f/article/files/Safer%20at%20Home%20Order%202020.03.19.pdf

-Closure until March 31 (with certain exceptions)

  • All movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys and arcades
  • All gyms and fitness centers
  • All bars and nightclubs that do not serve food
  • All private social clubs
  • In addition, all restaurants and retail food facilities will be prohibited from serving food to dine-in customers.

-LA Unified School District closed

-Various parks and other public facilities closed, including most LA County Buildings

Louisiana

State of Louisiana Executive Department Proclamation Number JBE 2020-30 (March 16, 2020)

  • The proclamation imposes restrictions on commerce and gatherings as follows:
  • Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops are closed but may offer take-out and delivery orders.
  • All bars are closed
  • All movie theaters are closed
  • All casinos are closed
  • All fitness centers are closed
  • These restrictions remain in place until April 12, 2020
  • Gatherings are limited to fewer than 50 people until April 13, 2020
  • All legal deadlines are suspended until April 13, 3020.
  • The proclamation also declares a state of emergency and empowers the chief law enforcement officer of any political subdivision to impose curfews or similar restrictions on citizens and businesses.

State of Louisiana Executive Department Proclamation Number JBE 2020-29 (March 14, 2020)

  • This proclamation provides for an exemption from the federal rules and regulations limiting the hours commercial vehicle operators may drive in order to facilitate the greater need to move goods and supplies.
  • The proclamation suspends Louisiana state licensure riles, laws and regulations for medical professional and personnel.  Providers from other states and countries offering medical services as a result of COVID-19 may practice if they are in good standing with the state of country of their licensure.
  • The proclamation suspends a number of statutory provision related to unemployment insurance.  La. R.S. 23:1600(4) is suspended such that claimants are not required to wait one week before receiving benefits.  La. R.S. 23:1601 (1) and (2), which provide disqualifications related to reasons for unemployment, are suspended to the extent such separations are the direct result of impact caused by COVID-19.

State of Louisiana Executive Department Proclamation Number JBE 2020-27 (March 13, 2020)

  • The proclamation orders all public schools to close until April 13, 2020.  The requirement that students attend 63,720 instructional minutes per year is suspended.
  • The following statutes are suspended to the extent they apply to “emergency-related claims”, defined to include claims for unemployment compensation filed by persons whose unemployment is directly due to the impact of COVID-19 or their inability to get to their job or worksite because they are sick, isolated or quarantined, caring for sick family members., or when an employee’s child’s school is closed:
  • La. R.S. 23:1533, which provides for claimants’ benefits to be charged against base period employers for purposes of employers’ tax experience rating and the protesting such charged by employers.
  • La. R. S. 23:1552, which provides for the charging of claimants’ benefits to certain employers,
  • La. R.S. 23: 1600(2) and (3) to the extent they require claimants to register and search for work

Louisiana Department of Health – HEALTHCARE FACILITY NOTICE #2020-COVID19-DENTAL PROVIDER – 004 (March 17, 2020)

The Louisiana Department of Health has ordered dental offices to provide only essential procedures for a 30-day period beginning March 18 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Minnesota

Minnesota's New Coronavirus Executive Order Impacts Employers

On March 16, 2020, Governor Walz issued two executive orders. One requires closure of places of public accommodation and the other expands workers’ access to unemployment insurance.

Executive Order 20-04

Emergency Executive Order 20-04 provides for the temporary closure of bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning March 17, 2020 at 5:00 PM and lasting through March 27, 2020 at 5:00 PM, the following types of establishments are closed to the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption (not including institutional or in-home cafeterias that serve residents, employees, and clients of businesses, or childcare facilities, hospitals, or long-term care facilities)
  • Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption
  • Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on-premises consumption
  • Theatres, cinemas, indoor and outdoor performance venues, and museums,
  • Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, and spas
  • Amusements parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities
  • Country clubs, golf clubs, boating or yacht clubs, sports or athletic clubs, and dining clubs

However, businesses that offer food and beverage do not need to close completely They may continue offering food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, so long as they use precautions to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19. These businesses and their employees should practice social distancing.

Places subject to closure under the Executive Order that plan to offer food and/or beverage through one of the methods mentioned above must adhere to some rules. For one, they can only let five members of the public in the establishment in order to pick up orders at any one time. Those five members of the public must stay six feet away from one another while on the premises. These restrictions do not apply to employees, contractors, or suppliers for such establishment.

It is important to note that the Executive Order does not in any way affect the operation of the following types of businesses:

  • Grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than the portions that serve food and drink for on-premises consumption
  • Healthcare facilities, childcare facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities
  • Crisis shelters, soup kitchens, or similar institutions
  • Restaurants and food court inside of the secured zones of airports

Local law enforcement and public health authorities will monitor and enforce the Executive Order. The closures and restrictions may be extended by a future Executive Order. Those who are found to have willfully violated the Executive Order may be fined up to $1,000 or subject to 90 days imprisonment.

Executive Order 20-05

Many employers have had to reduce their employees’ hours or lay them off due to the effects of COVID-19. To ensure these workers have full access to unemployment benefits, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-05. The Executive Order makes the following changes to Minnesota’s unemployment compensation statutes:

  • Waives the non-payable week requirement, so workers can become eligible for benefits as quickly as possible
  • Amends “suitable employment” under the unemployment benefits statute, which  will now not include employment that puts the health and safety of the applicant at risk or employment that puts the health and safety of other works and the general public at risk
  • Presumes that a leave of absence is involuntary when:
    • A health authority or a health care professional has determined that the presence of the applicant in the workplace would jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the applicant has actually contracted a communicable disease
    • A quarantine or isolation order has been issued to the applicant pursuant to Minnesota law
    • A health authority or a health care professional has recommended that the applicant should self-quarantine or self-isolate due to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immunocompromised
    • The applicant has been instructed by their employer not to come in to work because of an outbreak of a communicable disease
    • The applicant’s child’s school is cancelled or the child’s daycare or childcare provider is unavailable, provided the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or another accommodation from the employer and no other reasonable accommodation was available
  • Prohibits the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program from using unemployment benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in computing the future unemployment tax rate of a taxpaying employer
  • Waives the five-week benefit limitation for business owners
  • Strict compliance with any other Minnesota Statute or Rule that is inconsistent with the Executive Order is waived and suspended during the public emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Executive Order will remain in effect until the public health emergency is concluded. Because unemployment benefits are typically only around 50% of an employee’s average wages, employers should permit employees to exhaust all remaining paid time off and sick and safe time (for Minneapolis and St. Paul employers) prior to laying off or terminating the employee for reasons related to COVID-19. Though it is difficult to lay off employees or reduce their hours for reasons out of the employer’s control, knowing that the employee is more likely to have access to unemployment insurance may ease the transition.