Thoughts for Business Owners Trying to Run a Business During a Pandemic

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



Who would have thought we’d be in a situation like this? This is the 21st century, not the Middle Ages. The need for action is certain, but the need for panic is not. In fact, panic makes the matter worse for all concerned.

On the personal front, take care of yourself first. You need to have your wits about you at a time like this.

coronavirus covid19
  • Keep your mind busy with something other than worry. If you have a hobby, now is a good time to engage in it. Read a book; write a letter; call your mother. If working 80 hours a week has limited time with your kids, spend some time with them now. Just speak to them with open-ended questions. Find out what’s on their minds. Do something together.
  • Help someone else – you’ll feel good about it.
  • We’ve all heard the saying that every problem is an opportunity. One of the best ways to stay calm is to do something. You can’t sit and fret your way out of this.

On the business front, now is a great time to analyze your situation, both short- and long-term.

Continue reading »

Updated COVID-19 Recovery and Reopening Orders: St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Missouri, Outstate Missouri Areas, and Illinois

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



UPDATED 9/28/2021

Review the links below for guidelines for reopening your business based on your location. If you have any questions, one of our employment attorneys can assist you.

Additional Resources:

COVID-19 ORDERS AND INFORMATION

State of Missouri
St. Louis Metro Area

St. Louis County

City of St. Louis

St. Charles County

Franklin County

Jefferson County

Lincoln County

Warren County

Other Missouri City and County Orders

Continue reading »

An Employer’s Guide to Paid Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Lauren L. Wood

By Lauren L. Wood



UPDATED 9/21/2020

This chart is intended to provide a general overview of new obligations under the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act legislation. This new law is complex and subject to regulatory guidance and evolving interpretations. The employment law attorneys at Danna McKitrick, P.C. are available for up-to-date guidance before taking any action. For updated DOL regulations, see Department of Labor’s Updated Regulations for FFCRA effective 9/16/2020.

EMERGENCY FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
(FMLA EXPANSION)

Who must provide leave under the FMLA Expansion?

Employers with less than 500 employees

Who is eligible to
use this leave?

Employees (both full- and part-time) after 30 days from hiring, for the reasons listed below.

Why may an employee use this leave?

The employee is unable to work, either onsite or remotely, because the employee must care for a minor son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed, or whose care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency

How long is the
leave?

Up to 12 weeks

What is the required pay during the leave?

The first 10 days may be unpaid. An employee may choose to use accrued PTO for the first 10 days.

This is the employee’s choice and may not be mandated by the employer. After the first 10 days, the employee must receive pay based on the number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work. The pay must be two thirds of their regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000.00 total.

Is job protection
required for an employee who uses this leave?

Yes, the employee must be able to return to the same or equivalent position.

Are there exceptions to the requirement for job protection?

Yes, job protection requirements may not apply to employers with less than 25 employees, if specific conditions are met and the position is eliminated due to changes
resulting from the public health emergency. In this circumstance, an employee must be placed on a re-hire list for one year.

Are any employers with less than 500 employees exempt from the new FMLA expansion?

Possibly. The Secretary of Labor may choose to exempt small businesses with less than 50 employees if following the requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Note that the Secretary of labor has NOT made this exemption as of the time
of this writing.

Employers of health care providers or emergency responders may exclude such an employee from the benefits of this Act. The regular FMLA definition of health care provider is limited and this exclusion should be applied cautiously.

When is the FMLA Expansion in effect?

April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020

How will my
business recover the cost of this leave?

With a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified paid wages required under this Act.

EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT

Continue reading »

Reducing Payroll and Avoiding Lawsuits During the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



No one knows how long the COVID-19 Pandemic will last.  The predictions are all over the place, from 6 weeks to 4-6 months.  Last week, businesses instituted a hiring freeze. This week businesses are looking at terminating their entire workforce in some cases and shutting down or taking other measures.

layoff

According to Moody’s Analytics, over 50% of the 153 million jobs in the economy are at high or moderate risk of being lost.  (In perspective, there were 800,000+ jobs lost in March 2009 during the Great Recession). According to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, “…as many as 10 million of those workers could see some impact to their paychecks — either layoffs, furloughs, fewer hours or wage cuts.

What are your company’s payroll options when your orders disappear or are substantially reduced?

As flight director Gene Kranz says in Apollo 13, “Work the problem, people.”

Continue reading »

How the Washington Attorney General Is Changing Franchise Agreements Nationwide and What It May Mean For You

Corporate Law Practice Group

By Corporate Law Practice Group



The state of Washington has a reputation as a worker-friendly state with some of the highest minimum wages in the country. So it’s no surprise that Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson has been aggressively pursuing large corporate franchisors that include no-poach clauses in their franchise agreements. What is surprising is that he’s affecting franchise agreements across the U.S.  (A “no-poach clause” is language in the franchise agreement that prevents a franchisee from hiring current and former employees of another franchisee or its franchisor.)franchise

Businesses are always trying to gain competitive advantages by pushing the boundaries of regulations that promote fair competition. For example, many workers have non-compete clauses in their take-it-or-leave-it employment agreements. These clauses prevent a  competitive labor market which creates a wage-fixing affect and triggers anti-trust laws. As a result, many courts have determined that non-compete clauses for employees without knowledge of trade secrets and with little ability to sway customers to follow them are unenforceable. Courts have refused to enforce non-competes for yoga instructors, camp counselors, and fast food employees.

Many franchisors include “no-poach” clauses in their franchise agreements. The terms restrict franchisees from poaching each other’s employees by allowing the franchisor to terminate the franchise of any franchisee who hires a worker employed by another franchisee or its franchisor. No-poach agreements and non-compete agreements both discourage employees from leaving their current employer. Continue reading »

DOL Final Overtime Rule Published – Effective 1/1/20, Minimum Exemption Threshold Set at $35,568 Annually

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has finally issued its long-awaited final rule updating its regulations defining exemptions for executive, administrative, and professional employees.

Some of the key take-aways from the new regulation are:

  1. The “standard salary level” to qualify for the exemption has been raised from $455 per week to $684 per week ($35,568 annually). Employees paid less than this amount after January 1, 2020 will not qualify for the exemption and will have to be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours per week.overtime exemption
  2. The total annual minimum compensation level for “highly compensated employees” (“HCE”) has been increased from $100,000 to $107,432 annually.
  3. Employers may use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive pay (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level.
  4. There are special provisions for workers in U.S. territories and in the motion picture industry.

Continue reading »

To Discipline or Not to Discipline: What to Do With Illinois’ New Pot Law?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Employers in Illinois will face a conundrum come January 1, 2020. Illinois legislature recently passed some of the most expansive marijuana laws that the United States has seen to date. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (the “Act”) legalizes marijuana, making it a “lawful product” under the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act which prohibits discrimination against employees for using lawful products. It raises the question of when disciplining an employee for marijuana use is acceptable compared to when the discipline may cross the line into prohibited discrimination.

marijuanaThe Act explicitly grants employers the right to maintain a drug-free workplace. Section 10-50 states in part:

  • Employers may adopt reasonable zero tolerance or drug free workplace policies (the Act allows employers to define the extent of the “workplace” while providing guidelines of what shall standardly be considered part of the workplace).
  • Employers are not required to allow an employee to use marijuana at work or while on call (the Act defines “on call” as when an employee is scheduled with at least 24 hours’ notice to be on standby or otherwise responsible for performing work-related tasks).
  • Employers may adopt employment policies concerning drug testing, smoking, consumption, storage, or use of cannabis in the workplace or while on call. These employment policies may not be applied in a way that discriminates against employees for their use of marijuana outside the workplace.
  • Employers may discipline their employees for using marijuana at work, possessing marijuana at work, or being under the influence of marijuana at work.

Continue reading »

UPDATE: Salaries Speak Louder than Words

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



co-authored by Katherine M. Flett and Jessica A. Gottsacker

Equal Pay Day was celebrated this month on April 2, 2019. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Thankfully, this date is not stationary. In fact, the date occurs seventeen days earlier than it did in 2005. While there is a lot to celebrate with that achievement, there is still a long way to go to completely close the gender wage gap.equal pay day

In fact, the Supreme Court recently faced the opportunity to potentially close this wage gap even further when it granted cert to Rizo v. Yovino. See Katherine Flett’s blog post titled “Salaries Speak Louder than Words” for more discussion on the case. In Rizo, the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc found that the use of salary history to establish a starting salary violated the Equal Pay Act, as it perpetuated the discriminatory nature of women historically being underpaid in almost all sectors of employment. Thus, reliance on prior pay could no longer be considered as an affirmative defense under the Act’s fourth catchall exception, “any other factor other than sex.” Continue reading »

#MeToo Movement Spurs a 50 Percent Increase in EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



It comes as no surprise that one year after the rise of the #MeToo movement, more women are not just speaking up about sexual harassment in the workplace, but they are taking action in the courthouse.#metoo

According to a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) press release, the EEOC has already filed 66 harassment lawsuits in 2018, including 41 specifically citing sexual harassment – a 50 percent increase over 2017.

The EEOC also reported that it recovered almost $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation in 2018, up from $47.5 million in 2017. Interestingly, the overall number of discrimination charges are down, but charges for sexual harassment are up.

Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the agency, commented during an interview with The Washington Post that she believe the increase is a result of the #MeToo movement, saying “This stuff happens everywhere. If you don’t address it in your workplace, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a federal enforcement [action].” Continue reading »

Employers With Arbitration Clauses Win – Part Two: Factors Employers Should Consider When Determining Whether to Incorporate an Employee Arbitration Program

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



arbitrationOne of the many employment-related decisions a company must make is whether it wishes to require employees to give up their rights to file an employment action in court, and instead to require employees to use arbitration.

In Part One, we discussed how employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis. This much-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis allows employers to use arbitration agreements as a tool to avoid costly class action claims with more certainty that they will be enforced by the courts.

The decision in Epic also added an additional favorable factor to the arbitration choice column. The Court ruled that employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis and thus avoid class actions. Epic Systems (which was decided along with two sister cases) involved employees seeking class action litigation, despite having employment contracts with provisions that required individualized arbitration proceedings.

Although Missouri is an employment at will state, employees can sue employers under various state and federal statutes in state or federal court. Some of those statues, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act, allow class actions. Litigation is very costly and there could always be a runaway jury. Arbitration, on the other hand, is designed to avoid complex and time-consuming litigation and to provide an alternate source of justice. An arbitration could take six months to resolve but the decision will be final and binding and unappealable, while a court proceeding through a jury trial could take 21-41 months and the decision is always appealable. Continue reading »