Tensions are high amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has effectively put many segments of the nation – and its workforce – on a temporary lockdown.

Most states have required all non-essential businesses to close their doors for the time being, while others remain fully operational, relying on work from home arrangements.

Many business owners have begun taking the steps necessary to avoid layoffs and retain teams for the long term or are considering tapping into the multiple money-saving options available them, such as:

* Hour reductions

* Voluntary unpaid leaves of absence

* Furloughs

* Layoffs

Precautions must be taken, however, as these actions can carry with them various compliance considerations:

* Employers who are considering a reduction of hours to save on costs should be aware of state and local laws. Employers must pay exempt employees the same amount for each pay period worked, regardless of the hours (employers can pay exempt employees for fewer pay periods). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers may reduce an exempt employee’s salary “during a business or economic slowdown” assuming the reduction is for a significant period of time and unrelated to the “quantity or quality of work performed.”

* Furloughs and temporary unpaid layoffs often allow employers to retain much-needed talent, while reducing the time and costs required to replenish staff when the world returns to some semblance of normalcy. For non-exempt employees, furloughs are typically straightforward.

For employees paid based on hours worked, fewer hours = reduced pay. But careful attention must be paid to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and certain state laws, however, when furloughing exempt employees. Furloughs of less than a week could potentially jeopardize the exempt status of certain salaried employees. (Exceptions exist for employees with COVID-19 and those who must take time to care for children, etc.)

* Federal and state WARN Acts require prior notice be given before temporary layoffs and furloughs. To determine if the WARN Act is necessitated during COVID-19, employers should refer to:

  • All state and local laws.
    State emergency declarations/laws issued during the pandemic.
    Federal law, including relief packages.
    Notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

* Some companies will have no choice but to lay off certain employees, which can result in serious implications for the company, particularly where morale is concerned.

* It is important to remember that any employment actions or alterations may result in multiple benefits consequences, and many situations are unique. Employers should not assume that coverage continues during furloughs, or – conversely – ends if employment is terminated. Affordable Care Act penalties could be triggered if an employer fails to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-timers or if arrangements are not made to maintain affordability of COBRA coverage.

In uncertain and stressful times like these, your outsourced workforce management company can provide a modicum of relief and peace of mind.

Maslow Media Group can help your company navigate the myriad potential legal pitfalls related to critical employment adjustments necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As an outsourced workforce management company, we can ensure you remain compliant, while helping you streamline critical processes, such as payroll, employee relations, benefits administration, and more. Your employees interact with our company directly regarding any questions and/or concerns.

Maslow Media Group is knowledgeable of and compliant with an ever-moving, ever-changing roster of state and federal laws and regulations, including ACA, FLSA overtime, OSHA, tax law, immigration law, independent contractor guidelines, and much, much more.

We can partner with you to help you boost efficiency while lightening your administrative burden, helping you to avoid non-compliance penalties. Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.