Knowledge and Insights
While New Jersians and Pennsylvanians alike are eager to return to work and life, their plans for normalcy seem to have been thwarted by recent orders by both states extending the stay at home orders in New Jersey and the eastern part of Pennsylvania.
However, despite the delay, both states have announced reopening plans, with New Jersey outlined six key principles and benchmarks to guide the process for restoring New Jersey’s economic health and Pennsylvania announcing the Red, Yellow and Green phases of reopen.
Complicating, and in some cases, contradicting these plans is the CARES Act, and which includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Under the CARES Act, business could apply for a PPP loan which permits forgiveness of debt, provided that the funds are used for a particular purpose and in a specified period of time. Specifically, seventy-five percent of the loan proceeds must be used for payroll and employers are required to maintain a certain level of pre-COVID-19 employees within an 8-week period of time from when the loan was funded.
Therefore, employers must get their people back to work, or at least pay them to not work, to qualify for the forgiveness of the PPP loan. While this may seem like an easy endeavor to a business owner, for many employees, the added $600/week provided through unemployment makes staying on unemployment more enticing than returning to work.
These are just a few of the challenges that employers must tackle as they begin to contemplate reopening. Supply shortages, social distancing, staggered schedules, additional cleaning, and employee health assessments must also be considered by an employer who is preparing to reopen amid the pandemic.
In addition to these considerations, each state is mandating specific policies and plans. For example, Pennsylvania requires each company to designate a Pandemic Safety Officer. New Jersey requires a post-pandemic plan. Employers need to be vigilant and prepared, but they should not go at it alone. Lawsuits and threats of future litigation await the unaware business owner on a variety of issues from discrimination and retaliation to whistleblower claims.
Employers should turn to their trusted advisors – topping the list should be their accountant and employment attorney. This team of professionals can ensure that each business owner is complying with the morass of new legislation and acting in good faith.
In addition to providing half hour and hour consultations to discuss individual situations, my firm offers employers a variety of flat fee services to assist business owners through these challenging times. We have also created The Return to Work Toolkit which contains an employer checklist, employee health assessment, Employee Recall Procedure and letter which provides the necessary documentation for an employer to claim the PPP exemption, plus all of the policies and procedures necessary to implement the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and claim the tax credit. Diligent planning is crucial to a successful restart.
Christina M. Reger is the Founding Partner of the Law Offices of Christina Reger, LLC. She is licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Christina works with businesses and corporations to prevent litigation from employees and applicants by ensuring that the employer has the proper policies and procedures in place, providing training and educating staff, and generally reviewing the operation to ensure compliance with the morass of employment laws. Christina offers a unique fee structure that provides predictability and accessibility to the legal services her clients need. She can be reached at email@example.com.