Author Archives: Jennifer Fowler-Hermes

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes

About Jennifer Fowler-Hermes

Jennifer is a board certified expert in labor and employment law. She is also a Florida Supreme Court certified circuit mediator. She represents private, public, for-profit, and not-for-profit employers in a wide range of matters. Jennifer not only represents both large and small employers in litigation matters, but she also assists employers in managing risks to avoid litigation. She can be contacted at jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com or (941) 552-2558.

Unemployment Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

As businesses in Florida make decisions on how to move forward during the COVID-19 public health emergency, many businesses are weighing the effects of a layoff or furlough on their employees’ ability to secure unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act—which was signed into law the afternoon of March 27, 2020—includes provisions that address these issues. These provisions are referred to as the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act.

Before addressing how the CARES Act may temporarily affect unemployment, it is important to understand what steps the State of Florida has already taken. At this stage, Florida has temporary made individuals who have a COVID-19-related unemployment situation eligible for reemployment assistance (the name Florida gives to unemployment benefits). Specifically, under current Florida guidance, the following persons are currently eligible for COVID-19 unemployment benefits:

  • People ordered to quarantine by a medical professional
  • Those laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19
  • Those caring for an immediate family member with the virus.

The CARES Act will expand these benefits—presuming, of course, that Florida enters into an agreement with the federal government. Such an agreement is required for each provision in the CARES Act related to unemployment.

If Florida agrees and participates in the expended benefits, below is general summary of what will be available to those whose work has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus:

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: provides an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits on top of the maximum benefits an individual may receive (state provided benefits + Pandemic Unemployment Compensation = Total Benefits). These benefits are available to those whose lack of work is tied to COVID-19 up through July 31, 2020.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: provides for financial assistance for gig workers, the self employed and contract workers typically not eligible for benefits.

  • Applies to those not eligible for regular benefits, including those that have already exhausted rights to regular or extended benefits, provided that they meet certain criteria – i.e. a need related to COVID-19.
  • It appears that furloughed workers will be eligible for benefits, even while staying on company benefit plans.
  • Does not include those that have the ability to telework with pay or are receiving paid leave benefits.
    • Available for loss of pay/income between January 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
    • No “waiting period” for benefits.
    • Benefits shall not exceed 39 weeks total benefits under this or any other unemployment provision, unless extended benefits are provided.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation: provides an additional 13 weeks on top of states’ standard limits for employees meeting specific criteria (lack of work due to COVID-19).

  • Florida’s current standard limit for benefits is 12 weeks.
  • Thus, it appears that a total of 25 weeks of eligibility—unless extended benefits apply in which case this benefit should be used before the extended benefit.

Temporary Funding of State One Week Waiting Period: provides that if States waive the requirement of a one week waiting period for benefits, the States will be reimbursement for unemployment compensation payments made for that week.

Temporary Financing of Short-Term Compensation (“STC”) Payments: provides that from the date of enactment until December 21, 2020, States such as Florida will be reimbursed for payments made pursuant to an STC program, if the need for such payments arises from a reduction in hours due to COVID-19 and the works is not employed on a seasonal, temporary, or intermittent basis.

  • STC allows employers to reduce hours of work for employees rather than laying-off some employees while others continue to work full time.
  • Those employees experiencing a reduction in hours are allowed to collect a percentage of their unemployment compensation benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.
  • Additional information can be found at this website the State of Florida has established:

Williams Parker has launched a multidisciplinary task force of lawyers across the firm to advise on issues arising from COVID-19 and to provide guidance for affected clients. This team is closely monitoring legal developments and guidance from federal, state, and local government and public health officials. For the latest updates, please visit our website.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2558

This post was originally published on Williams Parker’s Labor & Employment Blog.

Should I Pay Exempt Employees Who Miss Work Due to Bad Weather Conditions?

As Florida prepares for a potential direct hit by Hurricane Irma, employers have many concerns. At some point, when decisions have been made about if a business will stay open and if goods or people need to be moved out of harm’s way, the following question will most likely be asked: “Should I pay exempt employees who miss work due to bad weather conditions?”

When it comes to deductions from exempt employees’ salaries it is easy to get into trouble.  The general rule is that an exempt employee is entitled to receive his or her entire salary for any workweek he or she performed work. This means, if the worksite closes for a partial week due to bad weather conditions (such as a hurricane), and the exempt employee has worked during that workweek, the employee is entitled to his or her full salary. However, if the employer has a leave benefit, such as PTO, and the employee has leave remaining, the employer can require the employee to use paid time off for this time away from work. If the employee does not have any remaining leave benefit, he or she must be paid.

If the work site remains open during inclement weather and an employee is absent (even if due to transportation issues), the employee can be required to use paid time off.  If the employee does not have any paid time off remaining, the employer may deduct a full-day’s absence from the employee’s salary. For a more detailed explanation see this opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor.

As for non-exempt employees, the FLSA only requires that employees be paid for the hours they actually work. However, those non-exempt employees on fixed salaries for fluctuating workweeks, must be paid their full weekly salary in any week for which work was performed.

 

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
941-552-2558

This post was originally published on Williams Parker’s Labor & Employment Blog. To receive updates regarding labor and employment news and insight, subscribe here

Guidance for Employers from the Dark Side

A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far away, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act. Since then, Congress has continued to pass laws governing the employee/employer relationship. In 1938, it passed the Fair Labor Standards Act; in 1964, it passed the Civil Rights Act; and in 1993, it passed the Family and Medical Leave Act. These acts and many others can make businesses feel like they have been thrown into a trash compacter or frozen in carbonate. Management attorneys, a.k.a the light side of the force, provide guidance and counsel to businesses and assist in navigating these laws which seem to appear and/or change as if powered by a hyper drive.

On Thursday, April 27, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Michael’s on East in Sarasota, businesses will have an opportunity to learn about recent developments and current trends related to wage and hour compliance, employee criminal conduct, and sexual orientation and gender identity not only from their Jedi, but also from a Sith, a.k.a. a plaintiff’s employment attorney. It is not often that businesses have an opportunity to learn from both sides of the Force.

This seminar will provide guidance in important areas of employment law to assist professional service providers in their role as employers. The workshop will include best practices from legal compliance and human resources perspectives, and will conclude with a Sith providing insight into employers’ mistakes that strengthen the dark side. This seminar is intended to be an interactive presentation with the aim of providing solutions to troublesome employment issues confronting law firms and other professional service providers. To learn more about this event and to register, visit the Sarasota County Bar Association website.

Disclaimer: This seminar does not have a Star Wars theme; I just watched The Force Awakens on HBO this weekend.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2558

The above post was originally published on The Williams Parker Labor & Employment blog

Hurricane Update: Should I Pay Exempt Employees Who Miss Work Due to Bad Weather Conditions?

When it comes to deductions from exempt employees’ salaries it is easy to get into trouble.  The general rule is that an exempt employee is entitled to receive his or her entire salary for any workweek he or she performed work. This means, if the worksite closes for a partial week due to bad weather conditions (such as a hurricane), and the exempt employee has worked during that workweek, the employee is entitled to his or her full salary. However, if the employer has a leave benefit, such as PTO, and the employee has leave remaining, the employer can require the employee to use paid time off for this time away from work. If the employee does not have any remaining leave benefit, he or she must be paid.

If the worksite remains open during inclement weather and an employee is absent, the employee can be required to use paid time off.  If the employee does not have any paid time off remaining, the employer may deduct a full-day’s absence from the employee’s salary.

For a more detailed explanation see:
https://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSA/2005/2005_10_24_41_FLSA.pdf.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
941-552-2558

This post was originally published on The Williams Parker Labor & Employment Blog, which focuses on the latest trends and developments concerning labor and employment law and provides commentary and analysis regarding best practices for employers, HR professionals, C-level executives, and boards of directors. Visit the blog to read more and subscribe to receive the latest updates.