It is impossible to predict how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last and what long-term impacts it will have on our society. However, the more we know, the better we can plan for the future. Lieser Skaff Alexander is committed to keeping our community informed about specific areas of concern created by this situation and provide legal insights as to their impact on families and businesses. We stand with our community and country during this unprecedented time and will continue to serve it by providing the information you need as we move forward together.
Read Our Blog Posts About COVID-19
Jeff Lieser joins AM Tampa Bay to talk about the Payroll Protection Program
The initial Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was not well designed and funds were quickly depleted. The second round of PPP funding allows more businesses to qualify for loan forgiveness. Attorney Jeff Leiser discussed the challenges of the loan forgiveness process and strategies for a successful outcome.
Employer responsibilities under the Florida Domestic Violence Leave Law
Domestic violence cases have increased by 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and this tragedy may impact many Florida employers as staff return to the workplace. The Florida Domestic Violence Leave Law requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide time off to allow affected personnel to address legal and other aspects of their situation.
Employee mental health concerns for businesses reopening from COVID-19
Mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, sadness and fear, are almost universal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As workplaces reopen, employers should review mental health compliance requirements under both Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Hillsborough County courthouse now open with changes due to COVID-19
As Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Court opens to hear cases after the COVID-19 shutdown, it becomes the latest entity to take advantage of remote meetings for some cases. If you need to visit the courthouse, newly implemented procedures are in place to protect from virus spread. Find links to get information about your case and view the list of changes.
Legal considerations for business reopening during COVID-19
If you are a business owner, the prospect of re-opening after the mandatory Covid-19 shutdown may have you feeling conflicted. You undoubtedly need the revenue to survive; however, the prospect of being sued by an employee or customer who claims to have contracted Covid-19 from your business may give you pause. Find out if you could be held legally liable.
Freedom of Information Act requests can expose a business’s COVID-19 PPP loan activity
Some companies have experienced severe public backlash after they accepted PPP loans. Are more businesses soon to face the same wrath? COVID-19 has changed the way organizations do business, and when Freedom of Information Act requests for other PPP loan recipients become public, companies of all sizes could be facing public scrutiny. Could your business be facing a reputation management disaster? Find out how the FOIA and COVID-19 could spell danger for your organization.
What if employees are scared to return to work during COVID reopening?
If your business is re-opening following the Covid-19 shutdown, an important step in that process is calling employees back to work. You may find, however, that some workers are less than enthusiastic about returning to work. Fear of contracting the coronavirus coupled with historically high unemployment benefits have some employees balking at the idea of going back to the workplace. As an employer, what should you do if an employee refuses to return to work?
Governor Desantis’s Executive Order on Phase 1 to reopen Florida
Florida governor Ron DeSantis gave the Executive Order Wednesday to begin the process of opening the state with Phase One of the White House’s recommendations. Notable exclusions from the phase one recommendations were the geographic areas of South Florida, salons, movie theaters, and gyms.
Virtual mediation now available
With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to impact businesses in the Tampa region, many find themselves in need of help to negotiate through conflicts. Yet in-person mediation is challenging under shelter-in-place rules. Virtual mediation offers an alternative that works well in this time. Learn how virtual mediation can help your business with access to the mediation services you need even while maintaining important social distancing guidelines.
Florida and essential critical infrastructure workers
Employers often wonder if their employees are considered essential during the COVID-19 crisis. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has offered some guidance which some may find confusing. However, one aspect of this list everyone should be aware of is the impact it could have on their business operations. While the list is extensive, there are some important caveats attached to the memo.
EEOC clarifications and guidance regarding COVID-19 Medical Information and ADA accommodations requests
Each employer is required by law to make reasonable accommodations regarding employees with disabilities. During this challenging time, this may feel like an impossible task. Medical personnel are busier than ever, and most employers are also cognizant of the fact they must keep certain information confidential. Fortunately, the EEOC has offered some specific guidance on how to handle requests made under the ADA and how and when medical information may be shared.
New CDC guidance on essential workers return-to-work standards after Coronavirus exposure
Every employer remains concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on their workplace. One person who is a carrier can infect the entire workplace. When an employee is essential to your business, you want to make sure you take the proper precautions to ensure you are not putting your entire workforce at risk of contracting the coronavirus. Fortunately, the CDC has issued helpful guidance for employers who have employees who were exposed or presumed exposed to the virus.
COVID-19 and contractual commitments – Force Majeure
Due to COVID-19, many business owners find that they cannot meet contractual commitments made prior to the pandemic. Whether they are still bound by the terms of the contract will depend on the contract’s language or if the company can demonstrate impracticality or frustration of purpose. These potential legal options to avoid contractual obligations require the guidance of a skilled business attorney.
What businesses need to know about employee leave and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Under the comprehensive FFCRA, nearly every private employer with between 1 and 499 employees must now offer extended paid sick leave (EPSLA) and paid emergency family leave (EFMLEA). There are specific requirements that must be met for employees to qualify for these extended paid benefits as well as exceptions to these rules. Combined, these acts create a structure for paid sick leave and paid emergency family leave that impacted employers must understand and apply to their workforce while also complying with other Federal, State and local laws as well collective bargaining agreements and existing company policies.
A quick(ish) breakdown of Florida’s stay-at-home order for businesses:
Florida’s state-wide stay-at-home order is already in effect, with exceptions for “essential businesses and services.” While the list of essential services is long, there are many that do not qualify for this status. There are others, such as child care and restaurants, that are allowed to operate but only in a limited capacity. If you have questions about whether or not your business is “essential” or have other questions about operating a business during this crisis, please contact the offices of Lieser Skaff Alexander.
COVID-19’s impact on evictions and foreclosures
President Trump has placed a hold on foreclosures of mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) but this has had a limited effect on Florida homeowners. However, local action has been taken to delay or stop foreclosures and evictions in parts of the state. Depending on the county, the Sheriff’s Departments have stopped executing Writs of Possession, the County Clerk’s Office is closed to the public or the Sheriff’s Department is only addressing “mission-critical” cases. In Hillsborough County, the order to halt eviction processes appears to only apply to residential dwellings.
Notarized from the comfort of your home: COVID-19 does not stop Florida’s online notaries public
With restrictions tightening due to the virus, it has become almost impossible to access notary public services, but there are options. Some notaries are designed as offering a Remote Online Notary service (RON) and offer a safe and accessible alternative. The RON designation means that the notary public has registered with the state as offering online services, completed the required education course, posted a $25,000 bond, and purchased a $25,000 insurance policy to protect you against errors and admissions. The online notary process requires access to online video communication technology and takes longer than the traditional process, but it is worth the effort if you need this service. In addition, the Florida Supreme Court has issued an administrative order which temporarily allows non-ROMs to perform these services, however, there are some limitations and questions about how this process works.
Businesses Beware: A stack of mail can be a stack of liability
While the rest of the world slows down due to Coronavirus, the mail continues to be delivered. Unless the post office has received a notice to hold mail, they will deliver it to your business office regardless of whether it is open. Even if your offices are not open, a qualified person needs to review the contents of the delivered mail and identify anything that requires immediate action to avoid unforeseen, negative consequences. Avoid unpleasant surprises when the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted by checking your business mail regularly and address urgent or time-sensitive matters immediately.
What landlords and property managers should be doing during COVID-19
One of the biggest challenges of our current situation is that we don’t know when it will end and what changes will be implemented once it does. For landlords and property managers, the expert real estate attorneys of Lieser Skaff Alexander present several recommendations regarding how to address tenant and building needs during this time. We believe that your primary focus should be on staying informed of any legal changes with regard to rent payments and eviction processes in our state and keeping an open channel of communication between the landlords and property managers, as well as the managers and tenants. We also recommend prioritizing necessary repairs over those that can wait to be addressed after this crisis has passed.