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COVID-19 in 19: U.S. Employer Guidance for Reopening the Workplace

Increased discussion of reopening the U.S. economy has raised numerous questions as employers prepare to return their employees to the workplace. In just the last week, President Trump’s White House issued its Opening Up America Again three-phased approach for re-opening the economy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance about returning to work, and the states of Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Vermont have issued plans to rescind their shelter in place orders in phases – all while other states have extended their shelter in place orders. While there is no single roadmap to reopening in these continuing uncertain times, employers should begin to consider what measures will help ensure a safe, orderly return to business.

Join us for this 19-minute discussion on these and other rapidly changing guidelines.

Event Details

Date Tuesday, April 28, 2020 Time 1 p.m. to 1:19 p.m. PDT 2 p.m. to 2:19 p.m. MDT 3 p.m. to 3:19 p.m. CDT 4 p.m. to 4:19 p.m. EDT

Register for the teleconference >

Proposed House Bill Could Save Cannabis Businesses Suffering During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 24, 2020

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The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act (the “Act”), introduced by House Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), could help an industry which employs at least 250,000 Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite being designated an “essential service,” cannabis businesses, and those businesses serving the cannabis industry, are largely shut out from receiving financial assistance under the recently passed CARES Act. The lack of equal access leaves an industry already suffering disproportionate financial burdens under normal conditions, especially vulnerable. The Act as proposed clears the way for cannabis businesses to apply for and receive access to federal programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which offer forgivable federal loans for business expenses, including, payroll, rent, debt obligations and utility payments. Given that cannabis remains federally illegal as a Schedule I drug, it remains to be seen whether the Act will be passed and the necessary aid distributed. However, the Act is a light at the end of an otherwise gloomy tunnel for an industry providing medical services to thousands of Americans daily.

U.S. COVID-19: Preparing a Reopening Plan – Five Steps to Take Right Now

As state governments and businesses look towards restarting the economy, the consensus is that as the U.S. gradually re-opens, the look and feel of businesses will change dramatically. Before the world can return to its full pre-COVID-19 normal, this interim period between the lifting of shelter in place orders and the broad distribution of vaccines or effective treatments is projected by experts to last at least one, and possibly as long as two years. This client communication will focus on public facing businesses which must significantly change their operations to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. Non-healthcare businesses which have frequent contact with the general public, such as retailers, are deemed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to be medium exposure risk. Before such businesses re-open, they should have a comprehensive reopening plan addressing the following:

1. Monitor Best Health Practices and Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sets national standards and guidelines for responding to COVID-19. The CDC uses its website to communicate with the public, which is updated frequently as their recommendations change based on circumstances. CDC recommendations are widely deemed to be standard practice for the United States, and cover a range of topics such as social distancing, treatment of surfaces and use of materials; they also contain specific guidance for both healthcare and non-healthcare related businesses. While the guidelines have changed over time as the situation has evolved, reliance on their recommendations offers a measure of protection as the CDC guidelines are the

U.S. COVID-19: New CDC Guidance Allows Potentially-Exposed “Critical Infrastructure Workers” to Remain at Work – with Precautions

April 23, 2020

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recently issued guidance applicable to “critical infrastructure workers,” and safety precautions employers should take when those workers are potentially exposed to COVID-19.

The CDC has generally recommended that any individual who has recently been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 (someone in their household or family member) should “self-quarantine” at home for at least 14 days, self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and check his or her temperature twice a day. Some employers have been applying this guidance to their employees, instructing any employee with a potential exposure to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

Recognizing that certain essential businesses and functions need to continue operating even during the pandemic, the CDC has now updated its guidance for “critical infrastructure workers,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”). Personnel (including contracted vendors) in 16 different sectors of work are considered “critical,” including:

  • Federal, state, & local law enforcement;
  • 911 call center employees;
  • Janitorial staff and other custodial staff; and
  • Other designated workers in the following sectors: chemical, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, materials and waste, transportation systems, and water and wastewater.

Under the new guidance, critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue working following a potential exposure to COVID-19. A potential exposure means being in a household or

Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme online portal now open / employee consent

April 20, 2020

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Online portal

Today, the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’) online portal has opened for employers to make applications for furlough grants.  You can find the portal here.

Claims can only be made in respect of furloughed employees who were on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and who were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.  Employees who were employed as at 28 February 2020 and on payroll (that is, notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28 February 2020) and who were made redundant or stopped working for the employer after that date, but prior to 19 March 2020, will also qualify for the CJRS if the employer re-employs them and puts them on furlough.

In relation to claims made under the CJRS, employers should retain all records and calculations in respect of its claims, including records of the amount claimed for each furloughed employee and the period for which each employee is furloughed.

If an employer is furloughing less than 100 employees, in addition to providing certain employer-related details, it is required to enter various employee-specific information. This includes the employee’s name, National Insurance number, claim period and claim amount, and payroll/employee number (optional).  If an employer is furloughing 100 or more employees, it can upload a file with the above information rather than input it directly into the portal.  HMRC will accept .xls .xlsx .csv .ods file types.

Is the California Attorney General Delaying or Loosening Enforcement of the CCPA due to Covid-19? (United States)

April 17, 2020

Categories

Not at this time.

In light of Covid-19, many companies are deciding whether they can (or should) put their compliance plans on hold in order to handle more pressing matters. As things currently stand, the California AG has not indicated that there will be any delay in enforcement, slated to begin on July 1, 2020. Although there is a large push from the business community to delay, an unidentified advisor from the AG’s office recently stated that their office is “committed to enforcing the law upon finalizing the rules or July 1, whichever comes first.”

While the AG’s position could change as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, companies should assume the deadline for enforcement will remain in place and should continue moving toward full compliance (to the extent practical) with the CCPA by July 1.  Although enforcement is slated to begin in July, it is important to remember that compliance began on January 1, 2020. To the extent priorities need to be established, companies should consider the following:

  • Make sure to comply with deadlines for responding to data subject access, deletion, opt-out requests.
  • Review your publicly-facing documents (e.g., privacy notices) for compliance with the CCPA. If the final regulations have not come out by May 15, 2020, begin the process of reviewing and revising based upon the then-current draft of the regulations. At this point, and presuming that there are no further proposals, that would be the Second Modified Proposed Regulations.
  • Make sure that you have a cookie-compliance strategy,
  • U.S. Economic Stimulus Under the Main Street Lending Program

    April 16, 2020

    Categories

    On April 9, 2020, the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) announced that it is taking additional action to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy through various programs, including the Main Street Lending Program (“MSLP”).  The Fed intends that the MSLP will ensure credit flow to small and mid-sized businesses by providing support to businesses that were in good financial standing prior to the COVID-19 crisis, on terms and conditions to be set by the Federal Reserve Board.  Funds for MSLP were appropriated pursuant to Section 4027 of Title IV of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), and the program is being established under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. § 344).

    MSLP consists of two facilities:

    • The Main Street New Loan Facility (“MSNLF”) for unsecured term loans originated on or after April 8, 2020; and
    • The Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (“MSELF”) for upsize tranches of secured or unsecured term loans originated before April 8, 2020 (provided the upsize is on or after April 8, 2020).

    As detailed below, the collateral packages and maximum loan sizes are the primary differences between the two facilities.

    A Federal Reserve Bank will commit to lend funds (in an amount expected to result in up to $600 billion in MSLP loan purchases) to a special purpose vehicle (“SPV”) that the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) will capitalize with a $75 billion equity investment using its Exchange Stabilization Fund, made available under Section 4027 of

    Preparing to Return U.S. Employees to the Workplace

    April 15, 2020

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    Preparing to Return U.S. Employees to the Workplace

    April 15, 2020

    Authored by: BCLP

    As we approach the one month anniversary of the first “stay-at-home” orders, many are asking when we can get back to work and what will it look like when we do?  In response, companies are beginning to consider the logistics of returning employees to the workplace.  Just as the “stay-at-home” orders vary widely from state to state, any regulatory return to work orders issued by the states, or any guidance issued by any federal agencies, will likely vary widely as well. Employers with multiple locations may again find themselves juggling different requirements in different facilities, with no single approach fitting an entire multi-location business.

    Though “stay-at-home” states have not yet issued guidance on how or when they will allow non-essential businesses to begin operating again, such a return could commence at any time.  In order to assist companies with preparing in the absence of regulatory guidance, we have developed the following suggestions for employers’ consideration as they plan to return employees to the workplace and seek to be positioned to do so, when permissible, as efficiently and quickly as possible:

    • Be prepared to comply with the CDC’s Guidelines in effect at the time of a return to work. For current example, employers should ensure they have sufficient handwashing stations and supplies, tissue disposal options and appropriate postings regarding sanitation and hygiene.
    • Consider improved infection control/sanitization practices for high-touch areas such as equipment, machinery, restrooms and breakrooms, and sanitization materials for workers and visitors.
    • It is likely that in every

    US COVID-19: Workplace Temperature Screening: How To Develop and Implement A Screening Protocol

    April 14, 2020

    Categories

    The notion that U.S. employers would engage in broad-scale temperature screening of employees would have once been essentially unthinkable.  But the realities of COVID-19 are changing the workplace, as least for the time-being.  With the encouragement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and some state and local governments, and in light of the blessing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), more employers are now considering the implementation of daily temperature screening[1] before employees enter the workplace.

    In Part 1 of our two-part series on temperature screening, we addressed the question of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol.  Here, in Part 2, we address the question of how to implement such a protocol, i.e. what procedures for temperature screening in the workplace should employers implement? Below are a number of issues for employers to consider:

  • Decide who will be screened. Some employers are screening only critical infrastructure workers who were or may have been exposed to a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.  Other employers are screening all employees, and often are also screening any contract workers and visitors who enter the workplace, unless doing so would be virtually impossible (e.g., a grocery store screening all customers).  Although deciding who will be screened is essentially a business decision, at all times, employers must ensure that employees are selected for screening on a nondiscriminatory basis.
  • Decide who will do the screening. The options for who will do the screening range from the employee taking their own temperature and showing
  • US COVID-19: Employee Temperature Screening: What Employers Need To Consider When Deciding Whether To Implement a Screening Process

    April 14, 2020

    Categories

    In light of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the workplace, employers are confronting important questions pertaining to the screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including as it pertains to taking employees’ temperatures: May (or must) we screen employees for fevers, and if so, how should we implement such a practice?

    In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we address issues relating to the decision of whether employers may (or must) implement a temperature screening protocol.  In Part 2, we will provide guidance on how to do so.

    Non-Discriminatory Temperature Screening Is Permitted

    Taking an employee’s temperature is considered a medical exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and would normally be subject to strict restrictions. However, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has expressly stated in updated guidance that employers are permitted to screen employees for fevers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some state agencies are following suit; for example, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently issued guidance indicating that temperature checks are permissible and non-discriminatory under the present circumstances, so long as they are conducted on all personnel entering a facility.

    Federal Guidance Supports Temperature Screening In Certain Circumstances

    At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has advised all employers to consider “community level spread” of COVID-19 when determining appropriate workplace precautions, stating that workplaces in communities with minimal to moderate community spreading should, among other things, “[c]onsider regular health checks (e.g.,

    COVID-19 in 19: Proactively Safeguarding Your Business from Potential Allegations of Price Gouging in the U.S.

    April 10, 2020

    Categories

    Continuing in our series of concise COVID-19 teleconferences, BCLP’s Susan Brice and Zeke Katz will briefly discuss the evolving impact of price gouging laws at the state and federal level in the United States, and what businesses can do in order to best protect themselves from price gouging claims, investigations and penalties.

    Date Monday, April 13, 2020 Time 1 p.m. to 1:19 p.m. PDT 2 p.m. to 2:19 p.m. MDT 3 p.m. to 3:19 p.m. CDT 4 p.m. to 4:19 p.m. EDT

    Register

    COVID-19 in 19: Paycheck Protection Program

    April 9, 2020

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    COVID-19 in 19: Paycheck Protection Program

    April 9, 2020

    Authored by: BCLP

    As part of our continuing series of 19-minute teleconferences on the impacts of COVID-19, lawyers with BCLP will address the CARES Act’s forgivable loan program for small businesses. Topics addressed will include terms of the program, eligibility requirements, and how small businesses can have their loan forgiven.

    Date Thursday, April 9, 2020 Time 12 p.m. to 12:19 p.m. PDT 1 p.m. to 1:19 p.m. MDT 2 p.m. to 2:19 p.m. CDT 3 p.m. to 3:19 p.m. EDT

    Register to attend >

     

    U.S. FDA Relaxes Menu and Nutrition Facts Labeling Requirements in Response to Pandemic

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has temporarily relaxed some of its requirements concerning menu and nutrition labeling, and extended certain enforcement deadlines.

    Menu Labeling

    The FDA has announced that it “will not object” if, during this public health emergency, restaurants and retail food establishments do not meet menu labeling requirements requiring disclosure of calories and other nutritional information.

    The FDA regulations  typically apply to restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.

    The FDA stated that this policy is intended to provide flexibility to restaurants and food establishments that may have to rapidly transition to take-out only or that are experiencing disruptions in their supply chains requiring substitutions. To provide further guidance, it has issued Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Chain Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

    Nutrition Facts Label Enforcement

    As we previously reported, although January 1, 2020, was the deadline for many companies to implement the new Nutrition Facts label, the FDA earlier stated that it would not take any enforcement action for the first six months, or until after July 1, 2020. The FDA has now announced that it intends to work cooperatively with manufacturers for the remainder of the year, and “will not focus on enforcement actions

    FDA and FTC Warn Against Making Unapproved COVID-19 Claims

    April 8, 2020

    Categories

    In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued several new warning letters to companies claiming their products prevent, treat or cure the novel coronavirus. This follows the seven warning letters jointly issued by the agencies in early March.

    • Gaia’s Whole Healing Essentials LLC was warned for selling colloidal silver products with claims that the products can build immunity and possess anti-viral properties for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
    • Homeomart Indibuy was warned for claiming that its homeopathic drug products treat respiratory illnesses and act as a prophylactic to protect from COVID-19 infection.
    • Health Mastery Systems DBA Pure Plant Essentials was warned for selling essential oils with claims that the products are safe and/or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. In addition to identifying improper claims made on the manufacturer’s website, the warning letter also scrutinized the express and implied claims made in social media posts including the following hashtags: “#coronavirus #covid #prevention #preventativehealth #symptoms #essentialoil #aromatherapy.”
    • NeuroXPF was warned for advertising that its cannabidiol (CBD) product prevents and treats COVID-19. Given the existing regulatory scrutiny on the growing CBD industry, we expect particularly aggressive enforcement against CBD manufacturers who make unsubstantiated and/or unapproved claims regarding COVID-19.

    States have also begun enforcement actions. Last month, the Missouri Attorney General sued televangelist Jim Bakker and his company, Morningside Church Productions Inc., for claiming, on a broadcast featuring a naturopathic doctor, that the product Silver Solution

    Several U.S. Retailers Forced to Close by Law Enforcement as Non-Essential

    Several U.S. retailers that remained open in the face of state and local shutdown orders have now been forced to close by local law enforcement.

    Retailers that remain open should ensure that they qualify as “essential” under applicable state and local orders, that they have proper documentation for their employees and facilities demonstrating that they are essential, and that they comply with any health safety and social distancing requirements. BCLP is tracking these orders and the developing guidance, and a map of states with stay-at-home orders is available here.

    Businesses forced to close include several national craft and fabric store chains, and specialty stores that sell video games, sports equipment, furniture, clothing and accessories, shoes, books, music, jewelry, and luggage.

    What qualifies as an “essential business” may vary under each order, and the approach taken by enforcement agencies may also vary. For example, stores selling CBD products have been allowed to remain open in some jurisdictions, but forced to close in others.

    Law enforcement actions also varied against firearms and ammunition retailers, until the federal government last week updated its Guidance on the Essential Critical Workforce (the “Guidance”) to include “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges.”

    Some statewide orders, such as California, base their definition of an essential business on the Guidance while others, such as Oregon, do not. In updating the Guidance, Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), stated “this advisory list

    NAAG Polices COVID-19 Price Gouging, Demands Fair Pricing Policies and Actions

    April 6, 2020

    Categories

    The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is actively monitoring consumer product prices and working to eliminate price gouging in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 33 attorneys general signed on to letters issued recently to a number of major online retailers and online sales platforms.

    The letters indicate that while the AGs “appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging,…we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity.”

    Specifically, the letters ask for three concrete actions:

  • Set policies and enforce restrictions on unconscionable price gouging during emergencies.
  • Trigger price gouging protections independent of, or prior to an emergency declaration.
  • Create and maintain a ‘Fair Pricing’ Page/ Portal where consumers can report price gouging incidents to you directly.
  • In connection with these actions, the AGs are asking companies to proactively monitor consumer sales activity, to track spikes in pricing and stop or block such activity, with the goal to “prevent unconscionable and unjustified price increases.”

    The AGs hope to work with retailers to develop a system whereby the retailers will provide consumer’s complaints of price gouging to the AGs’ offices to “facilitate appropriate referrals for enforcement or prosecution.”

    On the NAAG consumer protection website consumers can find a link to submit a complaint to their AG. The site also highlights a number of specific enforcement actions various AGs have taken. These include:

    • Missouri AG obtaining a TRO to stop sales
    The attorneys of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner make this site available to you only for the educational purposes of imparting general information and a general understanding of the law. This site does not offer specific legal advice. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Bryan Cave LLP or any of its attorneys. Do not use this site as a substitute for specific legal advice from a licensed attorney. Much of the information on this site is based upon preliminary discussions in the absence of definitive advice or policy statements and therefore may change as soon as more definitive advice is available. Please review our full disclaimer.