Participation is encouraged, and questions may be submitted in advance.
Jennifer Fowler-Hermes is a partner and chair of the Labor & Employment practice at Williams Parker. She is a board certified labor and employment attorney with over 20 years of experience helping businesses effectively navigate an array of labor and employment matters. In addition to advocating for clients in litigation matters, Jennifer provides advice and guidance regarding day-to-day employment-related business decisions; delivers management training; drafts employment-related documents, contracts, and policies; collaborates with clients in the management of a crisis (such as COVID-19); coordinates employer responses to agency investigations; and leads management-side collective bargaining teams. She is also a Qualified Arbitrator for all Florida Courts and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Civil Circuit Mediator.
With Florida’s governor implementing Phase 3 of re-opening the state, businesses should update their COVID-19 response plans and anticipate issues that may arise as more employees are permitted to return to work. Among other provisions, Executive Order 20-244 provides for:
Unrestricted staffing of worksites and implementation of the final phasing-in of employees returning to work;
Continued prudent and practical measures to ensure employees do not come to the worksite if they believe they are infected with COVID-19 or show symptoms of influenza-like illness;
With more employees returning to the workplace, businesses must continue to evaluate the safety measures in place to protect employees and customers–including continuing to monitor CDC and OSHA guidance regarding recommended precautions. Because employees have been working under alternative arrangements (or not working at all), as they return, businesses should remind employees of important policies governing the workplace, such as anti-discrimination and code of conduct policies.
Furthermore, supervisors should be prepared to answer employee questions or know who will have appropriate answers to questions about the employer’s response plan and continued employee performance expectations. And, although many restrictions have been lifted, there will still be issues relating to safety and leave of absences under both the Family First Coronavirus Relief Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Businesses should also be prepared for employee requests for accommodation–including requests to continue to work remotely. Finally, businesses should anticipate employees refusing to comply with company safety requirements (such as mask wearing) and be prepared to respond.
Businesses should not assume that supervisory personnel will be prepared to handle the foregoing issues. Instead, businesses should prepare supervisors and have systems in place to provide support to them. In addition to reminding supervisors about important policies, this is a very good time to remind them about the importance of documentation. It is anticipated that there will be an uptick in employment-related litigation as a result of COVID-19 and employer decisions relating to COVID-19. Making sure that supervisors are prepared to accurately and appropriately document issues relating to their subordinates may prove invaluable. If supervisors have not been trained on how to prepare accurate, clear, complete, and factual documents that will be helpful in the event there is litigation, it may very well be the time to implement a training program. As businesses adjust to the new work environment, many are turning to remote training options, such as Zoom or other virtual conference programs to make sure their supervisors are prepared.
The memorandum expands the list of “essential services” in Florida to include:
Employees at services and programs addressing mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other urgent counseling – as long as social distancing guidelines are maintained;
Certain employees necessary for maintenance and preservation of theme parks and entertainment complexes, zoological parks and facilities, and aquarium facilities, that are closed to the general public; and
Employees at professional sports and media production with a national audience – including athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team, and others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public.
In compliance with the Safer-at-Home Order, Williams Parker remains dedicated to serving its clients and continues to advise and represent clients with respect to their legal matters. Our firm has launched a multidisciplinary task force of lawyers across the firm to advise on issues arising from COVID-19. 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.
We invite you to join our partner Jennifer Fowler-Hermes for a virtual presentation hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance this Wednesday, April 8.
The program will answer questions around the new aid packages available to businesses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. With the rollout of these new programs, business owners are scrambling to quickly understand the details surrounding the offered benefits, applications processes, and eligibility requirements. Jennifer will share guidance on how employers should approach the situation from an HR perspective and will be joined by a partner with Kerkering Barberio to provide insight on the tax and accounting implications.
Participants may join by video or phone. For more details and to register, visit LWRBA.
The FAQs explained that notwithstanding that persons in Florida who are senior citizens or individuals with a significant underlying medical condition are ordered to “stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” they may leave their homes as necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities, including but not limited to going to work at an essential service. Continue reading →
First, the Safer-at-Home Order mandates that senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition (such as chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease) stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Next, the Safer-at-Home Order requires that all persons in Florida limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.Continue reading →