FFCRA, I-9 Update, Culture Development, and Virtual Teleconferencing
April 2020 Edition
PPR experts provide insight on trending topics from the past month.
FFCRA Small Business Exemption - Under 50 Employees
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was recently passed by President Donald Trump. The FFCRA provides emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. It became effective on April 1, 2020 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. The FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees What companies can claim an exemption? Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can self-certify an exemption if they can demonstrate that providing the child-care leave options in the FFCRA would jeopardize the company’s ability to continue operating. This exemption applies only to (a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or childcare provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons and (b) expanded family medical leave due to school or place of care closures or childcare provider unavailability for COVID-19 reasons. What reasons qualify as “jeopardizing the company’s ability to continue operating” for a company with fewer than 50 employees? To claim an exemption for the child-care leave options in the FFRCA, a company must establish that:
The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding the available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operating capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
What is the process for claiming exemption? To elect this small business exemption:
An authorized officer of the company must determine, in good faith, that the company with fewer than 50 employees meets at least one of the criteria above.
The company should document, via an internal memo, why it meets the criteria.
There is no need to send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption.
While it is not required, it is recommended to communicate with employees if you are claiming an exemption and why you are claiming this exemption.
You will still be required to post to the FFCRA Employees’ Rights poster.
The Department of Labor will address this process in more detail in forthcoming regulations.
Dallas Paid Sick Leave Law – Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction for Enforcement
Employers recently impacted by the City of Dallas’s Paid Sick Leave law received a reprieve by a federal judge last week who denied in part the City’s efforts to dismiss claims by employers that the new law violates both federal and state constitutions. Granting a preliminary injunction, the decision halts enforcement of the law, scheduled to start on April 1, until the matter is finally resolved in court.
I-9 Form Updates
The new version of the Form I-9 will become mandatory on May 1, 2020. New hires and employers, or their authorized representatives, must complete the form to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. Due to precautions being implemented by employers and employees related to physical proximity associated with COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will exercise discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with Form I-9. Employers will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over a video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2. Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. For more guidance on completing Form I-9 under these temporary measures, please visit www.ice.gov. The PPR team is ready to support you. You may contact your lead consultant or reach out to us at email@example.com.
Culture Questions to Ask with New Work Changes
As many workers adjust to working from home, now is a good opportunity for employers to gather valuable intel on how to capture and sustain new and positive work/performance changes as a result of the COVID-19 situation. Start with providing employees with an open invitation to send their thoughts about their new work situation. You can use an online survey or have someone on the team collect the answers, categorize by themes, and share with your leadership team to analyze for selection of best ideas/action steps. Be creative in how you use it for culture enhancement:
What new work best practices have emerged that we want to continue?
How is this situation making us an even stronger team? (we suggest using responses to create a Word Cloud for your handbook)
Are there smarter or more efficient ways now in which we can drive our mission forward?
What tactics have we adopted to become more united despite social distancing?
Giving what we are learning through this situation, what are the top three things we want to avoid once we go back to what we used to know as "normal"?
Virtual Interviews and Teleconferencing
With the current shift in working from home for many employees, no doubt there are going to be many things that are new and different to them. One of those might be having to do a video interview or video conference. Maybe you were in the middle of an interview process and now the employer wants to do a virtual interview. Or you have a big meeting that is planned for next week and it now has to be conducted through video conferencing.
Your best bet is to be prepared and try to avoid some issues that come with working remotely. Here are a few suggestions to help make the shift to working remotely.
Maintain good eye contact. Resize and move the window with the person you are speaking with through video. Move it as close to your webcam as possible as this will help you avoid looking down or away.
Make sure to smile. Your smile is meant to be a tool to show that you’re a pleasant person. Try not to go overboard as this could easily come across as nervous or too eager.
Control your nervous tics or twitches. If you are able, try to record yourself before your first virtual run. This will show you things that you don’t realize you are doing. Maybe it is a nervous verbal tick or saying “like” or “uh-huh.” Or maybe it’s overly animated hand movements, fidgeting with your hair or twirling a pen. These things can be distracting. You can break these nervous habits with a little preparation and practice.
Pay attention to your posture and positioning. Sit upright and keep your back straight. Adjust the height of your chair to make sure you are in the frame of the video.
If possible, adjust your webcam to just above your eye-line and angled slightly downward. Use a stack of books or a box behind your monitor.
Check the lighting in your room. Don’t sit with a window behind you without shutting the blinds. This can make you look washed out.
Use a headset to avoid background noises that can creep in. Also, your voice will be richer and clearer with an external microphone.
Check the background on your camera. A plain wall or neutral background is your best bet.
Clothing is key. Be sure and check what you are wearing. Don’t wear white as it is way too bright on camera. Don’t wear loud prints or super bright colors. Softer, solid colors work great and navy is the safest.
Internet / Bandwidth. If possible, try to connect physically to your router. This will be the safest connection with the least amount of interruptions.
Do a technical run-through an hour ahead of your appointment. Check for anything that is distracting.
When working from home you will always have a neighbor who decides to mow his yard or let the kids out to play. Simply apologize, address it very briefly, and move on. There are some things in life we can’t control.
Our Trusted Resources
We know it can be easy to be bombarded with news about the COVID-19 pandemic. To assist with filtering information and staying up to date. We are sharing our most trusted resources: