Questions & Answers
Question: We are working on a plan to assist our employees during the coronavirus situation. I was wondering if you had received any information from local employers about how they are handling this - specifically, how they are paying employees who have to take off work due to self-isolation or caring for children while the school systems are closed. Is there any type of discussion board where ideas can be shared?
Answer: Thank you for reaching out, many organizations in the area share your concern and are wondering how to respond. We recommend checking out the Chamber website for resources on how employers should respond to Covid-19. SHRM also has been sending out information on a daily basis to help equip HR professionals for guiding their organization during these challenging times. If you are a member of Fort Worth HR we offer free access to HR Connection discussion form which is managed by our friends at Dallas HR. Here is a resource from the Department of Labor that may be helpful:
Question: We have an employee that was around a family member over the weekend. This family member is in healthcare and is now running a fever of 102. This employee has used the majority of her PTO already. If we send her home, what is our obligation for paying her? Are we required to pay her for 14 days if we require her to self-quarantine?
Answer: You are currently not under a FLSA or legal obligation to pay her but may certainly choose to do so. If there is a possibility of remote work for her position that would be worth considering as well. Here's what one organization in the area is doing.
Employee Leave Policy & Pay
Your health is a top priority, and we want any employee who is experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay home. Therefore, we have created a COVID-19 leave policy, which is effective immediately, to ensure you have the support you need:
"During this uncertain time, if you are required to quarantine by a government agency or by our organization, you will receive up to two weeks of pay, and absences during the time you are out will not count against attendance. We have chosen two weeks because it matches the recommended time for quarantines related to this virus."
Question: Hi, I am trying to find specific information about temporary laying off employees in Texas. Has the TWC offered any additional benefits?
Answer: Thanks for reaching out, here's what I have seen so far from the DOL and TWC. Looks like they are going to help out it's just a matter of how much. As this unfolds, there may be additional government intervention to assist employees who are unable to work due to the Pandemic.
Question: What safety precautions does the CDC suggest for employee crews that ride together to worksites in pickup trucks, single cab and crew cabs?
Answer: Excellent question, as far as I have heard the social distancing roles of staying about 6 feet apart would still apply which would be difficult in a vehicle. We have a large fleet of vehicles and have equipped everyone with hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. Here is a link to the OSHA guidelines so far.
Question: What are the regulations and policies for hotels to follow? Breakfast offerings, bar, common open places and future events/banquets?
Answer: My understanding is that the only option for places that serve food is to offer a take away option. Future events and banquets are being postponed due to the restrictions on large groups. Here's what one hotel chain is doing:
The safety of our guests and our team members is our top priority. There are a few changes to our services we’d like to make you aware of:
- Breakfast will be served weekdays from 6:30-9 am and on weekends from 7-9:30 am.
- Breakfast and 5:30 Kickback® will be offered in a grab-and-go format. Please let our friendly food & beverage team know if you have any questions.
- In order to comply with CDC recommendations for social distancing, we ask all guests to enjoy food and beverage options in their rooms and to avoid congregating in public areas.
- Rooms with occupancy for more than one night by the same guest will only be cleaned upon request. Between guests, rooms will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
Question: Please inform me of any options available for employees of a small business to get paid while being quarantined.
Answer: Employees who are currently experiencing loss of or reduced work can apply for benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission. Governor Abbott has also waived the waiting period to reduce the amount of time someone has to wait to receive a check. For more information, please visit the following link.
Question: Most of my employees are part-time employees. Do they qualify for Unemployment Benefits? And do I have to terminate their employment (and subsequently rehire them upon opening), or can I just reduce their hours to 0 and still have them receive unemployment benefits?
Answer: Your part time employees could potentially qualify for unemployment benefits. Governor Abbott has waived the waiting period due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well. You can leave them active or terminate them without it making a difference to the Texas Workforce Commission because they will mainly focus on earnings lost.
Question: For companies who have candidates scheduled to start during this time and are non-essential, is it best to postpone their start date indefinitely or rescind their offers and let them know they're at the top of the list when hiring resumes?
Answer: It really depends on the organization. Some have decided not to rescind any offers but inquired if they could delay the start date a bit. For essential roles, companies have brought their new hires into the office and maintained appropriate distance for a modified orientation. Of course, if someone is not comfortable coming into the office given the circumstances then delaying may be the only option. If you have to rescind an offer, I like the idea of letting them know they are on the shortlist when business resume and would suggest sharing the following TWC resources with them since they may be unemployed for a period of time.
- Update on new hires: The Department of Homeland Security has announced new guidelines for I-9 verification in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Partial or Not Remote Employers: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/How-to-Complete-I9-Verification-During-Coronavirus-Pandemic.aspx
- Fully Remote: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/DHS-Relaxes-Form-I9-Review-Requirements-COVID-coronavirus.aspx