logo

Firm's Response to COVID-19

March 16, 2020

Friday Eldredge & Clark, LLP is closely monitoring and assessing the situation of the COVID-19 outbreak and its far-reaching implications. Our top priority is to protect the well-being of our employees, clients, and the community at large, as we continue to focus on our clients’ needs and the business at hand, especially in this time of uncertainty.

We have developed a robust plan to continue servicing your legal needs during this crisis and address any challenges that arise as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the event of an office closure or other disruption, our lawyers and staff are equipped with remote work capabilities with access to our documents and systems in a secure environment.

Read More

 

________________§________________


DOL Issues Families First Notice for Employers to Post

March 26, 2020

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Employers are required to post the FFCRA Poster to provide notice to all employees.

Download FFCRA Poster

Read More

________________§________________

COVID-19 Product Shortages – Legal Pitfalls in Choosing Among Customers

March 25, 2020

By Robert S. George

Supply chains across the globe are being disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as manufacturers of “non-essential” goods curtail or completely suspend production based on worker shortages or government orders. The impacts of those realities will be felt for months or years to come by downstream businesses who assumed a certain supply of goods or raw materials when accepting orders from their customers. Given the lead times associated with manufacturing products, supply chains will not be refilled overnight. That means that many sellers may not have sufficient supplies to fill all customer orders in the short term or once the pandemic abates and consumer demand returns.  In those situations, sellers will need to carefully consider their legal obligations before picking and choosing among their customers in a limited supply context. 

Read More

 

________________§________________


Telemedicine Update: COVID-19 Prompts Rapid Regulatory Changes

March 24, 2020

By Amie K. Alexander

As Arkansas begins its second full week of battling COVID-19, telemedicine has emerged as a major weapon in fighting the pandemic. Last week, both the federal and state government issued notices of significant regulatory flexibility for telehealth services in hopes that health care providers can treat a higher number of patients and reduce the spread of COVID-19 by keeping more sick or high-risk patients at home. 

OCR Relaxes HIPAA Penalties for Good-Faith Provision of Telemedicine Services Utilizing Everyday Communications Technologies
 

On March 17, 2020, The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces certain privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), announced that it will loosen regulatory restrictions for healthcare providers serving patients through telehealth. Specifically, OCR will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for certain HIPAA violations against healthcare providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies such as Apple FaceTime or Skype during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. 

Read More

 

________________§________________

Retirement Plans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 23, 2020

By Jeremiah D. Wood

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant disruptions to normal everyday life, and part of this normal everyday life is retirement planning. This alert is intended to provide guidance to retirement plans in this very unusual time we find ourselves related to retirement plans. The first section is related to defined contribution plans, and the second section is related to defined benefit plans. 

Defined Contribution Plans (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), 401(a), and 457(b) plans) 
 
Even though it seems obvious, it is worth noting that contributions to defined contribution plans are based on the amount of compensation an employee receives, thus, if an employee is not paid during a furlough, they will receive less in contributions. In addition, for those employee contributions made pursuant to the employee’s own deferral election (or an automatic enrollment), during this unpaid furlough, the employee will not be entitled to make pretax, Roth after-tax, or traditional after-tax contributions to their retirement accounts. If the employee is receiving paid time off, then typically this is included in compensation that can be deferred from and used to determine employer contributions on behalf of the employee. 

Read More

________________§________________


DHS/ICE Temporarily Allows Employers to Verify I9 Documents Remotely

March 23, 2020

Employers familiar with the federal form I9 know that the Authorized Representative must physically inspect the documents presented by the employee so that she may attest the documents appear genuine and relate to the new employee. The employee must also be physically present. That has presented a problem for employers with remote workers. At least for now, there is a temporary solution, but only for those employers working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Department of Homeland Security announced that employers may inspect identity and employment authorization documents remotely (video, fax, email, etc.) until May 18, 2020. The employer may also retain the copy of the I9 temporarily. There are conditions, however.  

First, your company must be operating remotely due to the crisis. The rule does not apply to employers operating with employees physically present. Second, if HR is remote or there are other issues related to COVID-19 that prevent in person inspection of the documents (i.e., social distancing restrictions have been mandated, newly hired employee or HR employee are subject to quarantine or lockdown), you may be able to use this option on a case-by-case basis.  

Read More

________________§________________

EEOC and DOL Provide Needed Guidance to FFCRA

March 20, 2020

The EEOC and the Department of Labor have posted recent guidance for employers related to COVID-19. Here are key takeaways for employers:

Note: This guidance does not take into account the impact that the FFCRA (click here to view story) will have on employers. 

Treatment of Employees and Job Applicants

The EEOC recently announced that although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act continue to apply, they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or state and local public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19. 

Read More

________________§________________

Group Health Plan Changes in Wake of Coronavirus

March 20, 2020

By Alexandra A. Ifrah and Joshua M. Osborne

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020 President Donald Trump signed into law House Bill 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (FFCRA) which implements extensive efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus as well as the economic impact of the virus. This new law includes requirements affecting the coverage under employer sponsored group health plans and health insurance issuers in the group and individual market. Specifically, the provisions affecting health plans focus on mandated coverage of COVID-19 testing. 

All group health plans (including grandfathered health plans) are required to provide full coverage for COVID -19 testing which includes both the FDA approved in-vitro diagnostic procedures used for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 or the diagnosis of the virus that COVID-19 as well as the cost of administering the in-vitro diagnostic products (i.e., testing). The new law also requires group health plans to provide coverage for any health care provider office visit (either in-person or telehealth services), urgent care visit or emergency room visit if such visit results in a COVID-19 test or an order for a test to be administered.

Read More

________________§________________

Gov. Announced Local Economic Aid To Businesses

March 19, 2020 

Locally, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced three different forms of economic aid that are or will be available to assist employers: $12 million in community development block grant funding. This is money from a program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  $4 million for a bridge loan program. The governor stated these funds will be targeted to mid-sized companies to make payments and provide working capital to help these businesses remain viable.  SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The governor has declared a state of emergency for Arkansas small businesses and has sent correspondence to the Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting funds under its Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

Read More

________________§________________

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)  - What It Means For Employers

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.

The final version of the law contains significant revisions to the draft bill we reported on earlier this week.

The FFCRA, as passed, includes two provisions regarding paid leave: 1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act; and 2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Both provisions will go into effect Thursday, April 2, 2020 (15 days after signing the bill). They expire on December 31, 2020. 

    Read More

    ________________§________________


    IRS Extends Deadline to Pay and File Taxes

    March 18, 2020

    To combat anticipated financial hardships occurring as a result of COVID 19, the Treasury Department has announced that taxpayers may postpone the payment of up to $1,000,000 in taxes due for 2019 ($10,000,000 in the case of corporations) until July 15, 2020 without penalties and interest. The $1,000,000 limitation applies regardless of whether the taxpayer is filing an individual or joint return. Tax returns are now due July 15.

    Click here to read the official guidance from the Treasury Department.

    ________________§________________

    Treasury Dept. Proposes Coronavirus Aid

    March 18, 2020

    The Treasury Department has issued its proposal on the next phase of legislation, which would include two, $1,000 payments to certain citizens and would devote $300 billion to government-backed small business interruption loans to help avoid layoffs. The loans under this plan would cover 100 percent of payroll for six weeks with a cap of $1,540 per week per employee. The Treasury Department would promulgate rules and regulations regarding interest rates and conditions for eligibility and repayment.   

    No final decision has been made.

    Click here to read fact sheet

    ________________§________________


    Businesses Should Plan & Prepare for Coronavirus-Related Legal Issues

    March 13, 2020

    By Robert W. GeorgeKatherine C. Campbell and Matthew D. Mitchell

    As the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) reverberate through the economy, local companies would be wise to consider, and to prepare for, legal issues important to managing the business fallout from the virus. We touch on a sample of these legal issues below: (1) force majeure provisions, (2) business interruption insurance, and (3) employment law issues.

    Force majeure clauses are often found tucked away in the “miscellaneous” provisions of commercial contracts — most often found in supply or sales contracts. Simply stated, a force majeure clause may excuse one party’s failure to perform its obligations under a contract if the failure is the result of events or circumstances outside of that party’s control. The classic example of a force majeure clause is a natural disaster that delays a party’s performance under a contract. However, courts have also applied force majeure clauses to business disruptions caused by former disease outbreaks, such as SARS. Determining whether a force majeure clause in one of your contracts excuses your performance, or the performance of a counterparty will require a consideration of contractual language and circumstances unique to each business and each contract. Nevertheless, what we can say is that conversations about coronavirus and contractual excuse are happening around the country right now, so thinking about impacts to your business may be a sensible use of time and resources. In the context of agreements for the sale or purchase of products rather than services, your rights may also be impacted by statutory concepts like the doctrine of “impracticability” in the Uniform Commercial Code which may excuse the delay or non-delivery by a seller of goods.

    Read More 

    ________________§________________

    Coronavirus & The Workplace

    March 12, 2020

    By Allison C. Pearson

    As Arkansas learns of its first presumptive case of coronavirus (COVID-19), it seems inevitable that the virus will have at least some impact on day-to-day activities. The precise extent and duration of that impact remain to be seen. In light of these unusual circumstances, the best mantra we could advise your business is to expect the best but prepare for the worst.

    Preparation will look different for every business, but we encourage all of our clients to consider the following:

    Plan and Communicate

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends employers identify a pandemic coordinator and/or team with defined roles and responsibilities for preparedness and response planning. This team should include staff with expertise in equal opportunity laws.

    ADA Compliance

    Remember, the ADA prohibits an employer from making disability-related inquiries and requiring medical examinations of employees unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

    Read More

    avocado