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COVID-19 Alerts

Governor Baker Announces Four-Phase Approach to Reopen the Massachusetts Economy

On Monday, May 18th, Governor Baker unveiled his four-phase approach to reopen the economy in Massachusetts, a summary of which can be found at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-four-phase-approach. Phase 1 of the plan began on May 18th allowing manufacturing and construction businesses to begin operations as well as worship services. More businesses will be permitted to open on May 25th, including lab and office spaces, barbershops and hair salons, pet grooming, car washes, curbside retail services, and certain recreation and outdoor activities.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ISSUES TITLE IX REGULATIONS

On May 6, 2020, the United States Department of Education (“DOE”) issued final regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The new regulations go into effect on August 14, 2020, so school districts are encouraged to review their policies and procedures and provide staff training on these new regulations as soon as possible. The final regulations list specific elements that must be included in any policy, such as range of disciplinary actions, standards of evidence, and procedures.

NEGOTIATING TIMELINES: FUNCTIONING AT THE INTERSECTION OF IDEA PRINCIPLES, PARENT INTERESTS, AND FAPE

On May 1, 2020, DESE held a special education leadership meeting led by Russell Johnston to discuss the April 27, 2020 Department of Education (“DOE”) recommendations to Congress (these recommendations are detailed in a separate client alert). Many stakeholders, including DESE, were surprised to learn that Secretary DeVos did not recommend that Congress amend IDEA’s timelines during this period of school closures. DESE further advised districts during the call that remote learning days count as “school working days” for purposes of the IDEA. Mr. Johnston confirmed that DESE’s prior proposal that school districts act in good faith and do their best to comply with timelines to the extent possible is now rendered moot by DOE’s recommendations.

US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION SUBMITS IDEA AND 504 WAIVER RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONGRESS

On April 27, 2020, the United States Department of Education (“DOE”) submitted recommendations to Congress regarding provisions of the law that it believes that states should have the authority to waive.

Laws addressed in the report include the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the IDEA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19

The coronavirus and its effects are likely to have an impact on workers’ compensation claims. Two of the most common questions that have been raised regarding COVID-19 and workers’ compensation are addressed below, including compensation for employees who contract COVID-19 at work and employees who are injured while working from home.

Bargaining and Protected Concerted Activities in the Time of COVID-19: Guidance and Lessons for Employers

The recent need to make difficult and sometimes time-sensitive decisions during the pandemic has raised the question of bargaining and other obligations under federal and state labor law. Whether or not you have a unionized workforce, the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or the “Act”) for covered private sector employers and Massachusetts state law, M.G.L. c. 150E, for public sector employers in Massachusetts, protects employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activities. Moreover, for those employers with organized workforces, employers are generally obligated to bargain before making changes to employees’ wages, hours, working conditions, or other mandatory subjects of bargaining. Failure to do so may constitute an unlawful unilateral change and result in a finding that the employer committed an unfair labor practice.

This client alert highlights the law’s provisions addressing permits, permit applications, and public hearings. The law defines “permit” broadly to include permits, variances, special permits, licenses, amendments, extensions, and other approvals by a permit granting authority. A “permit granting authority” is also defined broadly to include any local, district, county, or regional official or multi-member body authorized to issue a permit.

Employer Tax Credits for Retention and Leave Payments under the FFCRA and CARES Act

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) as well as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) have delivered some much needed relief to employers hit hard by the COVID-19 virus and associated work stoppages. These Acts allow employers to obtain relief from wage payments against the payroll taxes they otherwise owe.

Omnibus Municipal Relief Law – Part II: Permits, Applications, and Public Hearings

On Friday, April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19, which was codified at Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (the “Act”). The Act addresses a number of issues faced by municipalities resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including the implications for town meetings, town budgets, taxes, sale of alcoholic beverages, and multi-member body permits.

This client alert highlights the law’s provisions addressing permits, permit applications, and public hearings. The law defines “permit” broadly to include permits, variances, special permits, licenses, amendments, extensions, and other approvals by a permit granting authority. A “permit granting authority” is also defined broadly to include any local, district, county, or regional official or multi-member body authorized to issue a permit.

Omnibus Municipal Relief Law – Part I: Changes to Off Premises Service of Beer and Wine; Advice on Administration and Enforcement

On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (the “Law”), a multidimensional municipal relief bill affecting a broad range of municipal concerns arising from the present COVID pandemic, and Governor Baker’s emergency orders. The legislation addresses multiple varied municipal issues ranging from postponement of Town Meetings, recalibration of the municipal budget process, and tolling of permit timelines. Among the provisions of the new law is Section 13 which significantly alters the licensing landscape for the sales and service of alcoholic beverages. As with many sections of the law, this alteration is limited to the duration of Governor Baker’s March 10, 2020 Declaration of Emergency.

CARES ACT – $2 Trillion in Coronavirus Relief Including Expanded Unemployment Insurance

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. The massive bill provides economic relief for both workers who are laid off and businesses which have shut down or curtailed business operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scope of the CARES Act, also known as the stimulus bill, goes far beyond worker benefits and also provides loans for small and large companies as well as multi-faceted support for America’s health care system. This client alert summarizes the expanded unemployment insurance provisions of the CARES Act which provide financial assistance to workers unable to work due to COVID-19.

Guidance for Municipalities on Conducting Remote Public Meetings Under the Open Meeting Law and the Relaxed Remote Participation Standards

On March 12, 2020, the Governor issued an Executive Order (“Order”) suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law (“OML”), to allow expanded remote participation and alternative access to all public meetings conducted under the OML ( this excludes Town Meetings). No public body in Massachusetts has ever been authorized to conduct all remote public meetings prior to the Order, and many cities and towns shut down meetings for much of the rest of March. In the coming weeks, as local governments begin moving forward to conduct the public business, select boards, school committees, planning boards, boards of health, and all public board and commissions, will be faced with this new experience.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Post Your Notice And April 1, 2020 Effective Date

April 1, 2020 Effective Date

On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is April 1, 2020. This means that the paid leave provisions contained in both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance on COVID-19 and the FLSA

In addition to issuing guidance on OSHA and COVID-19, which we covered in our Labor & Employment Alert issued on March 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor also issued Questions and Answers on COVID-19 and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and COVID-19 and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This edition of the Client Alert will highlight the Questions and Answers provided by the DOL regarding the FLSA.

Sweeping Federal Legislation Passed Related to COVID-19 –

Significant Changes Made to Workplace Leave Laws and Benefits

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Act (the “Act”). President Trump signed the Act into law the same day. Among other provisions, the Act expands food assistance and unemployment programs, provides free coronavirus testing, expands the federal Family and Medical and Leave Act to cover employees unable to work due to childcare obligations created by school closures, establishes paid leave for such absences, and provides a new paid sick leave benefit related to COVID-19. The text of the new Act can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201

This Alert will summarize some of the major provisions affecting most public and private employers. We will be supplementing this Alert with additional information as information becomes available.

MA Legislature Passes Relief Bill Waiving the One Week Waiting Period for

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Massachusetts Legislature passed significant legislation directing the Director of Unemployment Assistance to waive the one-week waiting period for any person making a claim for unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 circumstances. It was promptly signed by the Governor, thereby providing significant relief for workers affected by the current situation.

Corporate and Business Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is increasing concern about possible widespread business interruptions and the need to adapt to the changing behaviors of the consumer made necessary by the virus’s spread.

OSHA Strategies for Dealing with COVID-19 in the Workplace

Last week, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was designated as a global pandemic. It continues to disrupt our workplace communities and our community at large. To assist employers in continuing to plan for and respond to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance on COVID-19 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This edition of the Client Alert will focus on the OSHA guidance. We will issue subsequent Client Alerts which will cover the FLSA and the FMLA guidance.

GOVERNOR BAKER ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER TO IMMEDIATELY ALLOW EXPANDED REMOTE PARTICIPATION AND “ALTERNATIVE ACCESS” TO ALL PUBLIC MEETINGS

On March 12, 2020, as part of his authority under the State of Emergency declaration, and in response to multiple recommendations to keep distance between individuals in order to protect public health due to the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order (”Order”) suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law, to allow expanded remote participation and alternative access to all public meetings. The Order provides swift and much needed clarification for select boards, school committees and all other “public bodies” subject to the Open Meeting Law.

Strategies for Dealing with COVID-19 in the Workplace Installment 1 of the MHTL COVID-19 Client Alert

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is creating increasing concern in workplace communities and in our community at large. Each day infections spread to new parts of the world and the U.S. The number of cases and deaths continues to rise in the U.S. Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the number of cases and deaths globally, reports that the virus is in over half of the U.S. states, with 755 cases and 26 deaths.

PANDEMIC: LESSONS FOR SCHOOLS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THE CORONAVIRUS

On February 1, 2020, a university student from Boston became the eighth person in the United States to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, and the first on the East Coast. This student had recently returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic. Since then, scarcely a day has passed without additional coverage of the coronavirus, which has been declared a global public health emergency.

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Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19

The coronavirus and its effects are likely to have an impact on workers’ compensation claims. Two of the most common questions that have been raised regarding COVID-19 and workers’ compensation are addressed below, including compensation for employees who contract COVID-19 at work and employees who are injured while working from home.

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