Call Today for a Free Consultation 317-843-2606
MAKING SENSE OF THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

MAKING SENSE OF THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

Effective April 1, 2020 and continuing through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will require certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded Family Medical Leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

There are essentially 2 parts to the Act. Part 1 is an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Part 2 requires certain employers to provide Federal Paid Sick Leave.

The Act applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. This includes both full and part-time employees. This number also includes dual employees, such as those provided by professional employment organizations (PEO’s) also known as staffing agencies. There may be exceptions for “extreme financial hardship,” but the Department of Labor has not yet produced any guidance for what that means.

The Act also provides for a “Distressed Small Business Exception,” which only applies to employers with 50 or less employees. Again, because this law is so new, there is little to no guidance from the Department of Labor as to who will qualify for this exception.

So, what does the FFCRA require employers to do?

Generally, all employers must provide their qualifying employees with:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined either (1) pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider, and/or (2) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

FAQ’s about the FFCRA:

How does an employee qualify for these FFCRA benefits?

Some examples include:

  • Being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
  • Having symptoms of the virus.
  • Being required to be in self-quarantine.
  • Being ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine.
  • Having to care for a spouse or child who is infected with the virus.
  • Another common example will be caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19 – Or having substantially similar condition based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Can both parents claim paid leave under the FFCRA?

There is nothing in the law that suggests that both parents would not be entitled to paid leave if they otherwise qualify for the benefits.

Can my employer require me to use paid sick leave before paying benefits under the FFCRA?

It depends. The expanded benefits to FMLA do not kick in for the first 10 days, therefore you may be required to use unpaid sick leave to cover that gap. The mandatory sick leave would not require you to use accrued unpaid leave.

How much pay am I entitled to receive?

It depends on whether you are seeking the expanded benefits of the FMLA, or the mandatory paid sick leave. Normally, a qualifying employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. The new law expands that to include paid leave of two-thirds of base pay based on number of hours normally worked. The maximum is $200 per day, or $10,000 per employee, based on 12 weeks of eligibility.

The mandatory paid sick leave under the FFCRA is capped at $511 per day, with a total benefit of $5,110 per employee.

How are employers expected to pay for these FFCRA benefits?

The government has rolled out several plans to help small business employers pay for these new benefits. One option is a dollar for dollar tax credit for payments made. A second option is a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover payroll costs. If certain conditions are met, and all of your employees remain on the payroll for a specified period, these loans will be forgiven (they don’t have to be paid back). Lastly, some employers may have business interruption insurance that could be applicable. Definitely check your policy to determine coverage.

Can my employer disclose my diagnosis of COVID-19?

Yes, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to HIPPAA’s confidentiality requirements. For example, an employer can disclose such a diagnosis for the safety of your co-workers.

What if I contracted COVID-19 at work, will workers’ compensation cover my treatment?

There is much we don’t know about how the new laws will be interpreted, and whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 could be considered an occupational disease. Certainly, for those on the front lines fighting this disease, for instance health care workers, an argument could be made that it is a risk of the job.

If I have to provide these FFCRA benefits, my business will be forced to shut down. Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

If I have to take leave, can I get my job back when I return?

Yes. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to reinstatement after 12 weeks. If your employer has less than 25 employees they must “make reasonable effort” to reinstate an employee who has taken leave under the Act.

In these uncertain times, it is always best to know your rights. If you have questions about Coronavirus/COVID-19, and your entitlement to benefits under the new laws, please contact us for a free legal consultation. We are not currently taking in-person interviews in our efforts to avoid unnecessary spread of the virus, but we are always available for telephonic consultations.

House Bill 1070 – Distracted Driving

House Bill 1070 – Distracted Driving

We have all seen it, and perhaps even done it ourselves. Driving down the road with a cell phone in our hand. Indiana House Bill 1070 “Distracted Driving,”(read here) passed the House by a vote of 86-10 last week and has been referred to the Indiana Senate. This bill will make it illegal to have a cell phone or other “mobile device” in one’s hand while operating a motor vehicle in Indiana. It modifies the existing law which prohibits texting while driving to include all uses of a mobile device that are not hands free or voice activated. The current law which makes it “unlawful to type, transmit, or read e-mail or text messages on a communication device while driving in Indiana,” has been in effect since July 1, 2011, but has been ineffective in curbing the behavior. This is due primarily, because the existing law as written, is difficult to enforce. This new law could go a long way to prevent distracted driving, and potentially save lives, because it will allow officers to write tickets simply by seeing a person operating a vehicle with a device in their hand, and there will be no requirement that they prove that the operator was actually using the device.

The Indiana Department of Labor defines distracted driving as, “any non-driving activity a motorist engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving. Stressful jobs, busy lifestyles and technology are just a few reasons why individuals may engage in distracted driving activities.” https://www.in.gov/dol/2873.htm

There Are Three Primary Types of Distracted Driving:

  • Cognitive distraction takes your mind off the road.
  • Visual distraction takes your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distraction takes your hands off the wheel.

Texting, or otherwise using a device to search the internet, change a song, look up a contact, or like a Facebook post can be extremely dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction. Your mind is not focused on the road because you are concentrating on your device. Your eyes are also taken away from the road, as are your hands. As we all know, it only takes a second of distraction to cause a crash.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in 2012, 3,328 people died in crashes linked to driver distraction, and more than 421,000 more people suffered a distracted driving-related injury. In fact, 17 percent of all crashes resulting in an injury involved driver distraction. More recent statistics indicate nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured daily in accidents in which at least one driver was distracted.

  • Nearly 4,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.
  • Distracted driving was the reported cause of death of 3,450 people in 2016.
  • An estimated 391,000 drivers were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2017.
  • For comparison, there were 39,773 gun deaths in the United States in 2017.
  • In 2019, distracted driving was a reported factor in 8.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes. https://www.thezebra.com/distracted-driving-statistics/

If you support this Bill we would encourage you to contact your State Senator and request that they vote in favor of HB 1070, click here.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a distracted driver, it is important to know your rights, and to preserve important evidence to support your claim. Call us for a free consultation.

The Dram Shop Act

The Dram Shop Act

In lieu of the recent case against Tiger Woods, we thought it would be beneficial to explain the Dram Shop Act. Who is responsible when an accident or injury occurs because of someone being intoxicated?

Federal statistics & data show deaths caused by drunk drivers have dropped significantly in last 30 years, however, the phenomenon still occurs far too frequently.

In Indiana, when a drunk driver injures or kills a person, the bar or person that served the driver might share responsibility for the event. Under what is known as the Dram Shop Act, giving alcohol to a visibly drunk person can cause civil liability.

Now, the bar or person must possess or control the beverage and actually serve the alcohol. In addition, the person serving the alcohol must possess actual knowledge that the recipient was drunk at the time the beverage was provided. So, many times it is important to determine how much alcohol the person drank, over a certain time period as well as whether the person showed signs of intoxication like slurred speech or strange behavior.

If you have questions, an attorney can help sort through the issues to determine if these factors in the Dram Shop Act apply.

Please feel free to contact Goodin Abernathy.

Should I Allow Vaping In My Rental Units?

Should I Allow Vaping In My Rental Units?

Most landlords and owners do not allow smoking in their rental units – and for good reason: the smell remains in the house long after the tenants move out; the tar and smoke buildup on walls, carpets, and ceiling; and it increases the risk of accidental fire to your rental home.

 

But what about vaping and e-cigarettes? Should you allow their use in your rental? Recent polls indicate 10% of U.S. adults and 15% of U.S. adults under the age of 40 use e-cigarettes. This equates to millions of users throughout the country, so allowing the use of e-cigarettes might spark more interest in your rental properties from that growing population.

Risks of Vaping and E-Cigarettes to Your Rentals

Before you sign up those vaping tenants, you should be aware of the risks of vaping and e-cigarettes to your rentals.

http://time.com/3915957/e-cigarettes-vaping-health-tobacco-addiction/ (hyperlink 10% of U.S. adults with this).

That Chain-Smoker Perfume

Just like traditional cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, e-cigarettes do produce emissions that leave behind a residue that can build up on walls, ceilings, and in vents over time. The vapors from e-cigarettes are significantly cleaner than those from traditional cigarettes, but it will still leave an oily residue with repeated and long-term use. While the stench and deep staining of nicotine are not as prevalent with e-cigarettes, it is likely there will be extra cleaning costs upon your vaping tenant’s move-out.

Fire Hazards

While e-cigarettes have a significantly smaller chance of burning down your unit than falling asleep on the couch with a lit cigarette, the danger is still real. In July 2017, FEMA issued a report that 195 separate incidents of explosion and fire were reported involving e-cigarettes in the preceding 8 years. Many of these explosions occurred when the e-cigarette was being charged. Often this charging is done when tenants are asleep and not in a position to realize the danger before significant damage is done to your unit.

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/electronic_cigarettes.pdf (hyperlink FEMA with this).

What to Do?

Ultimately it will be up to each landlord to allow or exclude the use of e-cigarettes in its properties. However, whatever you decide, you need to be sure your lease is updated to address e-cigarettes and vaping, and to ensure your tenants are aware of the rules regarding vaping and smoking before you rent to them.

Age Discrimination in the Workplace: A Growing Trend for Baby Boomers

Age Discrimination in the Workplace: A Growing Trend for Baby Boomers

In the next five years, approximately 25% of our workforce will be 55 years or older. For some people like Bruce Arians, a former Colts NFL football coach, jobs are still opening up (see recent news article here). But how are things going for the rest of our older workers? Are you an older professional that was just fired or handed a severance package?

Demographics show a large portion of the Baby Boomer generation is still working. Whether its because they need to work or because they want to work, many 50+ year olds are not retiring. Theoretically, our federal law protects employment discrimination against workers 40 years of age and older. The law is known as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the “ADEA”. But not all employers follow the law, and it’s much tougher for older workers to find new jobs – let alone financially recover from an unexpected severance.

In Indianapolis, our attorneys see this scenario commonly unfold in the medical industry. Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys are experienced with pharmaceutical and medical device representatives suddenly facing a “forced retirement.” Typical scenarios show the experienced reps are asked to train new, younger sales people. The trainees tag along, meet the customers and learn the ropes. Then, if they aren’t fired, the older rep’s territory just gets split up. Part of the territory is assigned to the younger worker, while the older rep’s compensation package does not change. This means the experienced worker just trained themselves into a pay cut. You can imagine what happens after a little more time when the younger worker learns the ropes: they’re handed both territories and the older worker is shown the door.

Other times the older, experienced worker gets pushed out or “harassed out” of their position. Their younger managers start building flimsy records of statistical violations. They say the older worker isn’t making enough sales calls; is not attending enough meetings; fails to use the company’s technology correctly, etc.

Behind the scenes, the company’s strategy is simple: replace the higher paid, experienced worker with cheaper labor offered by young workers. The older workers – who devoted their careers to improving the company’s interests – get cut loose by new or younger managers trying to make their own numbers look better.

Another typical scheme involves luring away experienced, older workers from competitors. After the older worker shares her book of business and discloses other proprietary information, the new company abruptly lets them go. The new company just wanted the work intel for its younger reps and never really planned to keep the new, older hire on board.

When companies plug younger workers into jobs and push out 40+ year old workers, the experienced workers should contact our Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys for an ADEA evaluation.

Contact Goodin Abernathy LLP, and we will tell you how to look for signs of illegal ageism or age discrimination. Consult us and we will explain the legal process for an ADEA or EEOC claim with an eye towards enforcing your legal rights.

Construction Accidents

Construction Accidents

CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS


If you or someone you know was injured while working at a construction site, there are typically two areas of law that we use to make your claim.

The FIRST is a worker’s compensation claim. This area of law is for employee claims against their own employers. The law requires the employer to offer these basic benefits:

1) Pay all medical treatment- including the ambulance, hospitals, doctors, physical therapy, medicine and x-rays.

2) Lost Income- if you miss more than 7 days of work in a row, the employer must pay you 66% of your average income. This is called TTD or Temporary Total Disability. These payments can extend if you return to restricted or less hours.

3) PPI- Permanent Partial Impairment- When the doctor says you are finished treating, she or he needs to write a report explaining if your injury caused a long term impairment that affects your ability to work.

The SECOND type of legal claim is for NEGLIGENCE against the general construction company. Unfortunately, a lot of times this legal claim is overlooked and the worker misses out on additional recovery.

So don’t let that happen to you. Share your information and we’ll investigate whether we can help you.

For instance, written construction contracts or legal relationships between the construction firms can require the general contractor to protect your safety.

A negligence claim against the general contractor can help you recover more than the limited benefits allowed by a work comp claim. This can be a VERY important part of your financial recovery.

Take a look at more information about these claims on our website OR just call me, Jim Browne at Goodin Abernathy.

For something really easy, just click the “Do I have a case” button and we’ll look at the specifics of your case.

Goodin Abernathy wants to help – and we’ll put our experience to work for you.