Late on Friday, March 13, 2020, the Connecticut Department of Labor issued new FAQ for employees and employers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of this may be repetitive of what I and others have posted before, but I thought it would be helpful to provide both a link to the materials but also some of the content relevant to employers as well.
As the CTDOL notes, however, this FAQ should not be taken as legal gospel. It’s simply an attempt to provide some needed guidance here. As you will see, it still leaves some decisions down to a case-by case basis.
For example, if an employer requires an employee self-quarantine even though he/she is not sick (or, closes its doors for a 2 week period) and doesn’t pay its employees, are the employees eligible for unemployment?
Probably, though the DOL says decisions will still be made on a case-by-case basis.
Here are some other FAQ:
What happens if an employer cuts an employee’s hours to part-time; is the employee still eligible for unemployment?
Yes, the employee may receive partial unemployment.
Can an employer require employees to stay home (and not pay them) if they are sick with COVID-19?
According to the DOL: Yes, you can require your employee to stay home. However, you should issue the employee an Unemployment Separation Package, found here.
But the the DOL says that the “individual must be physically able and available for full time work in order to qualify for unemployment benefits.”
That’s probably going to exclude most people anyways, so call this one a bit ambiguous.
If an employer has to close the doors of its business for 14 days because an employee is sick and other employees need to be isolated, will it be liable for unemployment benefit charges?
The DOL says: You will be liable in the same way you would be for a layoff or a shut down. If the President declares a disaster that includes Connecticut and your company, it is possible you may not be liable.
Is there an alternative to laying off employees if business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?
Again the DOL says: Yes. The Department of Labor offers a SharedWork program which is a smart alternative to a layoff. The program allows employers to reduce the hours of full-time employees by as much as 60 percent, while their workers collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.
Does the Paid Sick Leave (PSL) law cover absence due to COVID-19?
Says the DOL: For covered service workers and employers with 50 or more employees, PSL will cover certain absences caused by COVID-19.
If an employer decides not to open the business for the day or for a specific work shift, and notifies the employee not to report for work, must the employee be paid?
Says the DOL: If you are a non-exempt “hourly” employee, no. An employer is not required to pay a non-exempt employee for the time in which he or she performs no work.
• If you are an exempt employee and you have worked for any portion of the week, yes. The employer is required to pay you the full weekly salary if you work for any portion of the week.
• Also, it is not permissible for the employer to make any deduction for the time that the exempt employee is absent from work from the employee’s accrued Paid Time Off (“PTO”) benefits, because Conn. State Agencies Regs. § 31-60-14(b)(2)(A) does not permit a deduction “of any kind” when a lack of work is occasioned by the operating requirements of the employer.
If an employer decides to keep the business open, but the employee elects not to report for work, must the employee be paid?
The DOL says: No. For the non-exempt employee, an employer is not required to pay a non-exempt employee for the time in which he or she performs no work. For the exempt employee, the employer may make a deduction in pay in full-day increments pursuant to Conn. State Agencies Regs. § 31-60-14(b)(1)(B) because the employee is asking for the day off for personal reasons.
If an employer is shutting down for say a 2 week period, does it have to pay a non-exempt or exempt employee who does not work at all during the 14 days?
The DOL says: No. Employees are not required to be paid for any work week in which he or she performs no work at all during the week.
This is just a sampling of the Q&A available. Note that for many employers, federal law also must be complied with.
For employers struggling through uncharted territory, we’re answering questions we never thought we’d have to ask. Be sure to talk through some of these issues with a trusted advisor.