Month: March 2020

Coronavirus: Top 10 issues for employers

Coronavirus: Top 10 issues for employers

By Esra A. Hudson and Michael E. Olsen, Manatt Employment Law, March 9, 2020

Republished with permission

The coronavirus outbreak has caused concern for companies worldwide as they navigate and plan for its impact on their business operations. While different industries will be affected in different ways, there are some steps that all employers can take to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Here are the top ten issues employers should keep in mind when formulating a coronavirus response.

  1. Ensure good and open communication

Good communication with employees regarding the outbreak and the company’s response is essential. Employees should be reminded of relevant policies and practices, such as sick leave, paid time off and telecommuting policies. Employees should be informed as soon as reasonably practical about the company’s plans and expectations, and should be updated regularly.

  1. Ensure a safe workplace

Employers can and should take steps to ensure a safe work place, including instructing sick employees to stay home and educating employees about proper hygiene (disinfecting hands and surfaces), social distancing, and how to recognize COVID-19 and its symptoms. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance on preparing the workplace for a flu pandemic, which can be found here.

Additionally, an employee who contracts the coronavirus in connection with their employment may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Certain categories of workers (e.g., healthcare workers such as nurses) may be granted a presumption that they contracted the disease in the course of employment.

  1. Consider telecommuting

To prevent community spread, some employers may choose to expand telecommuting options for employees. Employers should review or consider implementing telecommuting policies to permit remote work and make the terms and conditions of such work clear. In addition, employers should ensure that technology and administrative support are in place in the event mass telecommuting becomes necessary. Companies that do not already have video conferencing capabilities chat apps and other technology that makes telecommuting more effective should consider acquiring these now.

  1. Develop a plan for employees who cannot telecommute

Not all employees can telecommute. For example, service workers cannot perform their work remotely. For those employees, a variety of issues need to be considered, including any obligations to pay employees who either cannot or are required not to come to work, and whether they can be required to use sick leave or vacation benefits if they cannot come to work. In California, employees may use paid sick leave and must be compensated consistent with state and local paid sick leave laws. California’s Labor Commissioner has taken the position, however, that employers cannot require employees who are quarantined to exhaust paid sick leave.

Employees in California who report for their regularly scheduled shift but are required to work fewer hours or are sent home, must be compensated for at least two hours or no more than four hours of reporting time pay. For example, a worker who reports to work for an eight-hour shift and only works for one hour must receive four hours of pay, one for the hour worked and three as reporting time pay so that the worker receives pay for at least half of the expected eight-hour shift. An exception to reporting time pay is where operations cannot commence or continued when recommended by civil authorities. Similarly, exempt workers who perform only some work during a workweek due to a shutdown of operations are entitled to a full week’s salary, with deductions permitted for full weeks where no work is performed.

Employers should also consider the broader public relations and morale issues implicated by payment decisions in the context of this worldwide epidemic.

  1. Evaluate options for limiting business travel and managing international employees

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is routinely updating its recommendations regarding travel, often on a daily basis. Review the CDC resources frequently and consider canceling, postponing or limiting nonessential business travel to high-risk locations. In some circumstances, there may be a need to bring home employees who are working internationally. In that case, there may also be a need to evaluate whether those employees immediately return to the workforce or need to work from home for some time.

  1. Don’t discriminate, and evaluate your obligations to provide leaves of absence

Employers should be mindful that COVID-19 implicates various state and federal laws pertaining to discrimination, leaves of absence and reasonable accommodations. For instance, employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabling conditions unless it would impose an undue hardship or pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees. Although a transitory illness like those caused by COVID-19 is not necessarily a disability under federal or state law, each case must be evaluated individually. Similarly, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state law equivalents require covered employers to provide qualified employees time off for serious medical conditions, both for themselves and to care for certain family members.

  1. Be mindful of privacy rights and medical examination guidelines

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and equivalent state laws, employers must be mindful of what constitutes a permissible medical inquiry. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance pertaining to pandemic preparedness in 2009, which advised that taking an employee’s temperature to determine whether the employee has a fever is a medical examination under the ADA; however, if the pandemic has become widespread in the particular community—as determined by the CDC or state and local authorities—employers may measure employees’ body temperature. The full guidance from the EEOC regarding permissible inquiries and reasonable accommodations under the ADA during a pandemic is found here.

Similarly, state law (California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act) and federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) prohibit discrimination on the basis of, among other things, race or national origin. Employers are prohibited from treating employees differently based on national origin (e.g., avoiding or isolating employees because their national origin is associated or connected to a region affected by coronavirus). Employers should be mindful of messaging with respect to COVID-19, including reminding employees of company policies with respect to harassment or discrimination. In the event of alleged harassment or discrimination, employers should be prepared to take swift action to investigate and remediate any issues.

Additionally, while an employer can request that employees inform them if they are planning to travel or have traveled to countries the CDC considers high-risk areas, employers may not generally inquire into areas of medical privacy, unless such an inquiry were part of a voluntary wellness program and/or the inquiry is job-related, consistent with business necessity and there is objective evidence that due to a medical condition, the employee is unable to perform essential job functions or will pose a direct threat to other employees. Likewise, employers may not disclose medical information about an employee—even an infected employee—to other employees. In the event an employee is infected, steps may be taken to protect the workforce without specifically identifying the affected employee.

  1. Have a plan for layoffs and be prepared to provide WARN notices

In the event of a widespread outbreak that disrupts business or prevents business altogether in the case of work that cannot be performed remotely, employers may be required to layoff portions of its workforce. In such cases, generally, employers covered by the state and federal WARN Act must provide 60 days’ notice to affected employees. In unforeseeable circumstances, the company must provide “as much notice as is practicable”—which is a defense to an action brought under the WARN Act.

For employers with group health plans, the plan documents will spell out how long employees may not be working before they are no longer eligible for coverage. In such cases, a COBRA notice must be provided to employees. Similarly, those individuals who are temporarily unemployed due to an outbreak and who are not themselves ill may be eligible to claim unemployment benefits.

  1. Stay up to date on the latest developments

Employers should also keep abreast of various resources and information issued by local, state and federal agencies in response to the outbreak. Some of these resources are:

  1. Know your resources

For additional assistance with respect to compliance and concerns regarding your company’s response to COVID-19, please reach out to a member of the Employment and Labor team at Manatt.

Here’s a March 11 update from the same firm.

Annual Housing Progress Report to HCD is still due April 1
US Forest Service photo, July 2009

Annual Housing Progress Report to HCD is still due April 1

From APA California, March 20, 2020

Although many cities and counties have asked if the deadline can be waived, HCD has responded to the Chapter’s inquiries that HCD has no authority to postpone the Annual Report due date. From a reply by Tom Brinkhuis at California HCD’s Division of Housing Policy Development in Sacramento:

“We … are exploring our options, but the April 1 due date is in statute and HCD cannot change it. … They can submit the APR to us before taking it to their council, and then they can submit a revised APR at any time.”

Brinkhuis reports that he is “currently teleworking and can be reached at (530) 505-1239 during normal business hours.”

Director’s note

Director’s note

Connection, understanding, and vulnerability in trying times

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, March 18, 2020

Like most of you, my daily routine is drastically different now than it was a few weeks ago. There are limits on what businesses I can visit and restrictions on when and for what reason I can leave, and my team and I work from our respective homes.

For you who are working or learning from home, you’ve undoubtedly experienced someone’s family member (human or furry friend) making an unexpected cameo on screen or making a strange noise in the background.

It’s awkward, it’s funny, and it’s just what we need right now.

Earlier this year, my team conducted an exercise where we individually reviewed a deck of values cards and identified the five that best resonate with each of us. We then shared our values and discussed where there was overlap and where there wasn’t. This gave us insight into how we think and approach the world. I finished with a sense of connection, understanding, and vulnerability.

As I settle into my WFH routine, I’m learning much about myself and my colleagues. I’m meeting their families; I better understand their values as I get glimpses into their lives. As we learn more about each other, we can empathize and better understand our respective thought processes, enabling us to work together more effectively.

I’m also striving to find ways to bring in some fun and create some sense of normalcy. I generally maintain my schedule, get dressed as if I’m going to work (often putting on my badge out of muscle memory), and treat my home as if it were the office.

I take breaks and refill my water glass or coffee mug in my version of a microkitchen (tech for break room with snacks and beverages). I have breakout sessions at the kitchen table. I conduct 1:1’s and informal conversations from the couch. I have larger meetings or catch up on emails from my makeshift standing desk using a bar stool stacked with books (dust off those thick planning documents!) and keyboard/mouse, with my laptop connected to the TV. That lets me move around, be more productive, and feel more comfortable doing the task at hand.

We also have a group Workplace page where we can share photos of our families, meals, break time activities, and craft projects. Paraphrasing Facebook, we can do more together and create a sense of community by connecting to each other.

It will take some adjusting to get used to this new normal, but we’re all in this together.

The next time you’re on a video call or conference and someone’s kid has a dance party in the background or a pet nudges the laptop camera, embrace the moment. Laugh, appreciate the deeper connection with your colleagues, and reach out to see if they need anything.

Wash your hands, respond to the Census, wash your hands

While you’re thinking about what to do with the time you would have spent commuting, fill out the Census. As planners, we rely on the information the Census provides. And all of us benefit, from the local level to the state level, from the funding allocations this decennnial population count affects. So please do your civic duty and respond to the Census. When finished, encourage others to respond, whether through social media, or passing someone on bike or on foot (remember to stay at least six feet apart), or while catching up with friends and family via phone or video chat.

Here’s to your health!

Who’s where

Who’s where

By Sajuti Rahman, associate editor, Northern News

The Northern Section Board has elect­ed Floren­tina Craciun, AICP, as Dir­ector-Elect of the sec­tion. A Se­nior Environmental Planner with the Environmental Planning DivisionSan Fran­cisco Plan­ning De­partment, Cra­ciun holds a mas­ter’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and a BA in history from UC Santa Bar­bara. She has served on the Board since 2012, first as membership Director, followed by East Bay RAC (regional activity coordinator, 2013-2014), and Awards Co-direc­tor for APA California-Northern (2015-2020).

Amalia Lorentz Cunning­ham, AICP, was pro­moted to As­sist­ant Dep­uty Dir­ector, Hous­­ing and Com­­munity Im­­prove­­ment, in the De­­part­­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and De­vel­op­ment of Con­tra Cos­ta Coun­ty. The move creates an ex­panded di­vi­sion in the Coun­ty to sup­port af­ford­able housing, federal­ly fund­ed projects, and economic de­vel­op­ment initiatives. Formerly economic development manager for the Coun­ty, Cun­ningham holds a master’s degree in City and Regional planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. She and her family reside in El Cerrito where they are heavy users of the Ohlone Greenway and their Contra Costa branch library. 

Delo Freitas was recently hired as a Se­nior Plan­ner for the City of Arcata where she focus­es on cur­rent and long-range plan­ning ac­tiv­ities as well as his­tor­ic pre­ser­va­tion. She pre­viously was an associate planner for Planwest Partners in Arcata, and before that, was an assistant planner for the City of Eureka. Freitas holds a BA in com­mu­ni­ty and re­gion­­al plan­ning from the University of Washington.  

 

Bri­an Hea­ton, AICP, is a Land Use and En­viron­men­tal Planner at GHD in Eureka. Pre­vi­ous­ly a se­nior plan­ner for the City of Eu­reka, Hea­ton holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in ur­ban and re­gion­al plan­ning from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Mad­ison, a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal studies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta-Duluth, and a certificate in project management from UC Irvine.

James Murphy is an As­sist­ant Plan­ner with the City of Cu­per­tino. Pre­viously a plan­ning tech­ni­cian with the City of San Jose, Mur­phy holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in ur­ban and re­gion­al plan­ning from San Jose State Uni­ver­sity and bach­e­lor’s de­grees in geo­graphy and ur­ban studies from UC Berkeley. When not in the office, James enjoys hik­ing and cycling on the San Fran­cis­co Penin­sula. 

 

Lauren Nin­ko­vich has re­cent­ly been hired as an As­sis­tant Plan­ner at the City of Cu­per­tino. For­mer­ly a plan­ning in­tern at the City of Pough­keep­sie, New York, Nin­ko­vich holds a BA in ur­ban studies from Vas­sar Col­lege. Out­side of work she enjoys play­ing volley­ball and hik­ing.

 

Melis­sa Ruhl is an Emerg­ing Mo­bil­i­ty Re­search­er at Ford’s Re­search and Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing di­vis­ion in Palo Alto. Her work there focuses on new and emerg­ing trans­por­ta­tion trends, such as micro­mobility, micro­transit, and aut­on­o­mous ve­hicles initiatives. Previously, Ruhl was a senior planner for Arup in San Francisco where she managed projects on transportation innovation. Ruhl holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in history from University of Oregon. She regularly speaks in California and nationally on autonomous vehicles and the future of cities. She has published a number of articles on future mobility and most recently co-authored a chapter on mobility as a service in the recently published Disruptive Transport: Driverless Cars, Transport Innovation and the Sustainable City of Tomorrow. In September 2019, Melissa was recognized on the 40 under 40 Mass Transit Magazine list. 

Governor suspends Brown and Bagley-Keene Act meeting requirements
US Forest Service photo, July 2009

Governor suspends Brown and Bagley-Keene Act meeting requirements

By California News Publishers Association, March 12, 2020

“Governor Gavin Newsom [has] issued an Executive Order suspending meeting requirements of the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act in response to the increasing threat posed by the Coronavirus.

“The order authorizes state and local bodies to hold public meetings by teleconference and to make public meetings accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to attend and to address the local or state agencies. …

The order suspends a number of teleconference requirements until the Governor lifts the emergency.

“The Executive Order requires state and local agencies that meet by teleconference under the order to:

“(i) Give advance notice of each public meeting, according to the timeframe otherwise prescribed by the Bagley-Keene Act or the Brown Act, and use the means otherwise prescribed by the Bagley-Keene Act or the Brown Act, as applicable; and

“(ii) Consistent with the notice requirement in paragraph (i), each state or local body must notice at least one publicly accessible location from which members of the public shall have the right to observe and offer public comment at the public meeting, consistent with the public’s rights of access and public comment otherwise provided for by the Bagley­ Keene Act and the Brown Act …

“The Order does not affect other key provisions of either act, including requirements to notify the public on each agenda of what is to be discussed at an open or closed session of the teleconferenced meetings, or the ability of the public to obtain agenda packets or other documents used by decision-makers for the meetings. Nor does the order change what the respective bodies are required to publicly report after they meet in closed session.”

Read more here.

Read the Executive Order here.

CPF Scholarship deadline extended to Sunday, May 31

CPF Scholarship deadline extended to Sunday, May 31

About the scholarships

CPF, the California Planning Foundation, supports outstanding planning students across California who are entering their final year of an eligible undergraduate or graduate degree program. Criteria for the scholarships include academic performance, financial need, increasing diversity in the planning profession, and a commitment to serve the planning profession in California after graduation.

About the 2020-2021 CPF Scholarships

For planning students enrolled at eligible professional planning degree programs in the state of California. Scholarships are awarded to students seeking to enter the planning profession based on an application and selection process.

Designed for continuing students entering their final year of an eligible undergraduate or graduate degree program. Criteria include academic performance, financial need, increasing diversity in the planning profession, and a commitment to serve the planning profession in California after graduation.

The deadline to apply for 2020 CPF Scholarships has been extended to Sunday, May 31, 2020, 11:59 pm, PDT.

Applicants need only apply once to be reviewed for all scholarships for which they are eligible. Scholarship awards will be announced during the summer. Scholarship winners will be honored at the Annual CPF Scholarship Luncheon on Saturday, September 12, 2020, in Riverside, California, in conjunction with the APA California Annual Conference. The Chapter’s 2020 Conference will be held September 12-15, 2020 at the Riverside Convention Center.

How to apply

The 2020 CPF Scholarship Application is online! You can apply here.

The application form uses Google Drive to store attachments that applicants upload (e.g., recommendation letters, essay responses, etc.). Applicants will be required to log in using their Google ID. (If you do not have one, please create a free account or contact the scholarship committee.) If you share a file from your Google Drive account, no member of the California Planning Foundation will have access to that file on your system. The system creates a copy of the file and stores it in the CPF Drive. Your Google Drive is never accessible to CPF.

You can also simply upload a file from your computer without it being in Google Drive, but you still need to log into your Google Account. You will be able to edit your application responses, but all applicants are encouraged to preview the application form first so that you know what questions are asked and can gather all of the necessary application materials.

In addition to the application form, applicants will need to submit the following:

  • Résumé
  • Budget, using this Excel template
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Two recommendation letters (one from a faculty member; one from a professional reference), and responses to two essay questions. Please note that members of the CPF Board are not able to provide recommendation letters.

If you are unable to complete the application form online for accessibility reasons, please contact Hilary Nixon, Ph.D., at hilary.nixon@sjsu.edu.

Complete information on the available scholarships, eligible degree programs, and past scholarship recipients can be found here.

Northern Section postpones planning tour to Middle East

Northern Section postpones planning tour to Middle East

International Directors Alex Hinds and Hing Wong, AICP, have postponed until 2021 Northern Section’s previously scheduled 2020 tour to the Middle East.

“Our decision reflects the value we place on the health and safety of all those who travel with us and the severity of and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said in a report to the Northern Section Board.

“We are considering, however, an international planning collaboration to be conducted online later this year. Although not confirmed, a potential project has been identified to exchange information on public engagement strategies with an advisory committee appointed by the municipality of Puebla, Mexico.”