Last Week in Congress: HR Legal Updates for May 11, 2020

Updated: May 25, 2020

This week is luckily legal-update-light; a welcome change from weeks past! Only one new act has been introduced that might have potential impact for HR professionals. Two acts have seen new cosponsors attached and have a very low potential for being enacted as they are currently written. A short synopsis of each act is listed below with potential implications for HR professionals.

*As a note, I do my best to provide unbiased updates to provide you with a bipartisan view and so you can decide what is/isn't impactful for you. My goal is not to tell you what to think but provide you with information so you can decide specific actions for yourself! With that said, I will typically indicate whether something would or would not be beneficial for HR professionals and why.*

Legal updates that happened over the course of last week include:

H.R. 6631: Essential Worker Protection Act of 2020

Apr 28, 2020 — Introduced

  • This bill was recently introduced to Congress and will be seen by a committee before it can be sent to the House floor for voting, so it's very early days for this bill.

  • Essentially this bill would provide guidance and protections for Americans who are considered essential workers, as defined by the parameters set forth in the bill. It would also provide avenues for better communication of information from the CDC to companies/employees. There aren't many guidelines currently in the bill, so expect more developments in the next few weeks as the bill continues on to committee review.

  • This bill has a 1% chance of being enacted as it is currently written. As it's in the initial stage of the process, this is likely to change in the coming weeks.

H.R. 6442: Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act of 2020

May 3, 2020 — New Cosponsor

  • This bill would repeal sections C, E, and G of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) and instate immediate immediate reimbursement for employers whose employees have utilized paid sick leave under the FFCRA's provisions. It would also provide specific guidelines for who is eligible under the FFCRA's additions to the Emergency FMLA provisions.

  • An additional section would touch on the topic of domestic violence including stalking, broadening access to victim service organizations and resources, and coverage of a domestic violence related absences including absences related to legal actions/appointments.

  • Additional process guidance for employers requesting sick leave reimbursement for public health emergencies is also provided, clarifying the original guidelines given in the FFCRA. This will be a welcome sight for employers who did not feel confident with the previously given guidance and will cover more situations that were omitted initially, such as home schooling support, school schedule support for working parents with school aged children at home, covered entities would specifically include public agencies, and an explicit timeline for reimbursement requests.

  • There's quite a bit to this bill (it's currently at 91 pages!) so unfortunately it's not possible to outline all of the critical changes being proposed. However, it will be important to keep an eye on how this progresses over the next few weeks as I expect the contents to change drastically during the review process.

  • This bill has a 36% chance of being enacted as it is currently written. More updates will be in the works as this bill progresses through the House and Congress!

H.R. 6484: Hazard Pay for the Frontlines During Health Emergencies Act

May 1, 2020 — New Cosponsor

  • This bill would institute mandatory hazard pay for all healthcare employees during public health emergencies, including COVID-19 and any future public health emergencies.

  • There are specific clauses addressing excess payment refundability as well as employment tax considerations for eligible employers.

  • Although not fully fleshed out, the current bill sets the groundwork for who is considered an eligible employee and how employers can obtain tax breaks as well as special credits/funding. The bill currently defers to section 3 of the FLSA guidelines for healthcare employees and has a lengthy list of excluded employees including: dentists, most classifications of therapists (occupations, recreational, mental health, radiation, and physical, to name a few), chiropractors, veterinary staff, and many others. This list will likely change as individuals advocate for the validity of their roles in emergency healthcare services.

  • As of May 9, 2020, this bill also does not provide specific hazard pay amounts or formulas.

  • This bill has a 1% chance of being enacted as it is currently written. As it's in the initial stage of the process, this is likely to change in the coming weeks.

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As always, if you ever want to see a full listing of what's happening and when, take a look at the Gov Tracker page: