Fridays with Frank – April 17, 2020

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Hello! How are you? I hope you and everyone you know and love are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.  

In the midst of the biggest health crisis in a century, Becky and I were blessed with the birth of our second grandchild. Our perfect angel, Mackenzie Grace, is happy, healthy, and safe at home with her parents and big brother. 

In a move Becky and I are convinced was intended to keep us from being with our new granddaughter, Gov. Cuomo extended NY on PAUSE until at least May 15. Although it doesn’t feel like it right now, there will come a day in the relatively near future when we’ll spend some time with Mackenzie…sorry, when our workplaces will reopen to our employees and others. Regardless of exactly which day that will be, today is the day employers should develop plans to keep employees and everyone who enters their workplaces safe and healthy when that time comes.   

To help you begin thinking about a plan, we’re going to start with a group exercise. (I hate group exercises, isn’t there a checklist you can give me?) Repeat after me: “I understand work can’t go back to the way it was before COVID-19, and I accept responsibility for making significant and necessary changes to our workplace.” Once more, and I want to hear everybody this time! “I understand work can’t go back to the way it was before COVID-19, and I accept responsibility for making significant and necessary changes to our workplace.” (OK, I said it; happy now?) Awesome!  

That was the easy part. The rest is going to require we set aside many of our beliefs about work and workplaces. There is no single “right” way to transition back, because every situation, employee, employer, workplace, industry, and location will be somewhat unique. But there are many common starting points.

Before I go any further, I need to ask for your indulgence (I don’t like where this is going). When I don’t sleep much, as I haven’t in weeks, I sometimes default to gameshow mode. I don’t know exactly where this is going (great; anybody want to sneak out the back door with me?), but let’s see what happens!  

Welcome to, What the Hell Do We Do Now? Post-COVID-19 Workplace Edition!   

The point of this haphazardly created gameshow is to either help employers begin to develop a return-to-work plan, or completely confuse them. There’s a 50-50 chance of either right now.

Time to meet our contestants. Let’s have a round of applause for Connor and Mackenzie!  (Wait, those are your grandchildren!)

To determine who goes first, we checked their diapers. Since Connor needs a change (desperately), Mackenzie will go first.

Question 1: What is one important step employers should take to prepare for reopening their workplaces?

Mackenzie: [Silent stare…then cute baby noises.]

I’m sorry, time’s up!  One correct answer is to place orders now for supplies like hand soap, disinfectants, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer. It will likely take weeks for delivery, so waiting until you have a firm back-to-work date isn’t advised.

I see Connor is back with a fresh diaper, so the next question is his.

Question 2: Will employees be required to wear masks in the workplace?

Connor: VROOM! [loud screech followed by crashing noises] Papa, look at the big crash! VROOM!

Close, but not the answer we were looking for. Based on current information and examples from other parts of the world, employers should be prepared to require everyone in the workplace to wear some type of face covering or mask in the workplace. Given a recent Executive Order from Gov. Cuomo, it appears likely that employers in NY State may be required to provide face coverings, or at least make them available to all employees at no cost. I also expect that all visitors and others in the workplace will be required to wear face coverings to help keep everyone healthy.

It’s a tight game, with Connor and Mackenzie tied at zero. In the next round, points are doubled. (Hey, Pythagoras, two times zero is still zero.) Back to Mackenzie.

Question 3: How should employers address situations where employees aren’t comfortable returning to the office when it reopens?

Mackenzie: [Sucking on three fingers and then beginning to cry, which is immediately identified by her mother as her “I’M HUNGRY” cry.]

Oh, sorry, the answer is not an “I’M HUNGRY” cry. Employers should consider these concerns on a case-by-case basis. There may be underlying health reasons causing the employee’s reluctance. They may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; have a compromised immune system, or live with, or care for a loved one who is especially vulnerable to severe or life-threatening complications from COVID-19 exposure. They may need to stay home and care for their children. These, and many more, are good reasons not to return to the workplace. Reasonable accommodations are necessary in these, and other situations. If work can be done remotely, then allow employees to continue doing so. If that’s not possible, job-protected paid leave or a leave of absence may be necessary.

Connor has the chance to take a commanding lead over his infant sister with this question!

What are three ways the workplace is likely to change after COVID-19?

Connor: Papa Mimi! Papa Mimi! Papa Mimi!

Let me check with the judges…no, yelling the names of your favorite grandparents three times is not a correct response.

First, social distancing will have a significant impact on the way employees interact with coworkers for the foreseeable future. Desks and workstations should be moved further apart. Employees won’t be conducting or attending conferences or seminars, meetings with more than a few people, group new hire orientations, or gatherings in the lobby for birthday cake. Secondly, handshakes are a thing of the past—at least for quite a while. Finally, and likely most impactful, attitudes about going to work sick, and others being sick while at work will dramatically change when workplaces reopen. After this experience, many employers will be more open to remote and flexible work arrangements because their employees—many of whom have been asking for a long time—have proven they work.

OK, a quick recap of our scores; Mackenzie zero, Connor zero. That means our last question is a winner-take-all! The first child to utter a sound will win incredible prizes and family bragging rights.

When and what should employers communicate with employees?

Mackenzie: [Several light pats on her back produces an almost imperceptible burp.]

CONGRATULATIONS Mackenzie! Only two days old and already following in her Papa’s footsteps as an HR expert! (Unless burping is the latest and greatest employee communications tool, you’re daft.)

Employers should already be communicating with all employees and continue to do so regularly. Regardless of whether employees are working, they need to hear from company leaders often throughout this crisis. Consider a weekly email, electronic “town hall” meeting, conference call, or a rotating schedule of each. Anticipate, and prepare responses to employee questions, such as:

  • When can we get back to work and “normal” business operations?
  • How are the current circumstances impacting the company?
  • What actions is management taking to mitigate the impact?
  • Did the company apply for/receive a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program?
  • Are some employees working?
  • Is the company paying employees who are not working, their full wages? If yes, why?
  • Is it true that some people are making more from unemployment benefits than if they were working?

Thanks for joining Connor, Mackenzie, and me for, What the Hell Do We Do Now? Post-COVID-19 Workplace Edition!  These, and many other FAQs, will soon be available on the HR Compliance Experts website at, https://hrcexperts.com/coronavirus-covid-19-resources/.

Stay well…


Posted by Frank Cania, president of HR Compliance Experts LLC.

© 2020 HR Compliance Experts LLC

Please feel free to contact Frank at frank@hrcexperts.com, or 585-380-1566 with questions or for more information.


Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute a legal opinion, and is not legal advice. The facts of each situation should be considered and analyzed individually. Therefore, you should always consult with competent employment counsel regarding any issues discussed here.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Frank Cania and HR Compliance Experts LLC.

Fridays with Frank – April 10, 2020

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COVID-19 moneyHello! How are you? I hope you and everyone you know and love are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.  

Earlier, I was cleaning up this site and saw an earlier post, which began, “It’s March, and I couldn’t be happier!” Clearly, I was a little premature with that celebration! (Ya think?)

I apologize for being absent last week. As some of you know, I’ve been sending a daily update email on everything  COVID-19 to a few hundred people for weeks. So, by the time last Friday came around, I needed a break from thinking and writing. But, I’m back! (We’ll see if that’s good news or not.)

 If you’ve had children home with you for a few weeks, I’m guessing you’ve heard, “that’s not fair!” a time or two. When our kids were young, and fairness challenged, I told them, “life is never fair, it’s just more obvious when you can’t have something you want.” (Right. I’ll bet that calms a screaming five-year-old instantly.) But, what is the appropriate response when adults feel shortchanged?

More than a few clients have called and emailed concerning CARES-envy. (I know you made that name up.) This soon-to-be wide-spread issue occurs when employees who are, and have been, working during the COVID-19 crisis learn that co-workers are being paid their full wages—or more—even though they’re not working. From my conversations, I’ve identified two forms of this malady:

  • CARES-envy UI; and
  • CARES-envy PPP. 

CARES-envy UI (Are you serious? That sounds like a Law & Order knock-off.) This occurs when an employee, who has continued to work during the COVID-19 crisis, learns that their furloughed/laid-off co-workers are collecting weekly state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, PLUS an additional $600/week federal emergency UI benefit authorized by the CARES Act. In NY, state weekly UI benefits range from $104 to $504. Under the CARES Act, workers will receive a $600 emergency UI benefit in any week they are eligible for $1 or more in underlying UI benefits. (Wait, $1 is a typo, right?) For example, a furloughed worker whose regular weekly wages were $620, will receive a weekly state UI benefit of approximately $310, PLUS $600, for a total weekly UI benefit of $910. That’s $290/week more than their wages would have been if they were working. 

CARES-envy PPP occurs when an employee who has continued to work during the COVID-19 crisis learns that their employer is going to pay employees, who are not working, their regular weekly wage. This will happen because, an employer approved for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) must use at least 75 percent of the loan for payroll and related expenses, and maintain the number of workers employed before the COVID-19 crisis began. If the employer uses the money as required, the loan will be forgiven. For example, Barb’s Bears, a company that creates and produces Teddy bears and other plush toys, had 50 employees at the beginning of February. Because it is not an essential business, all the manufacturing employees, a total of 40, were furloughed on March 20. Eight of the remaining employees are able to work from home, and two maintenance professionals work separate shifts at the factory to ensure the building and equipment are safe and secure. Soon after being approved for a PPP loan, Barb, the owner, notified all the employees that the company received the loan and the furlough will end April 26. She explained that, although none of the furloughed employees will be able to return to work, the company is required to use the proceeds from the PPP loan to pay their wages for the next eight weeks. Shortly after the announcement, Barb received calls from three employees who have, and will continue to work from home. Each told Barb they were angry that they had to continue working while almost all the other employees will be paid to sit home and do nothing. “It’s not fair!”   

Here’s the rub as I see it. In some ways, these employees are not wrong. I’m not saying they’re right, just not entirely wrong. (OK…wait, what?) What’s worse, as business owners, HR professionals, managers, and responsible adults, we don’t have a good answer to, “it’s not fair!” In part, because it isn’t fair. We can try to explain that, “these are unintended consequences of the federal government’s actions to financially protect the unemployed and small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.” (Ummm, was it really unintended? There was that well-known senator from VT who threatened to block a vote on the bill if any changes were made to the $600/week UI benefit.) But, already upset, employees are going to hear, “blah, blah, blah— it’s not my fault—blah, blah, blah—blame the government—blah, blah, blah.” I strongly suggest you not get frustrated and say something like, “quit your bitching, you’re lucky to have a job!” At best, that will make the situation much worse. Or, you might hear, “Lucky? Screw you! Lucky is getting paid not to work, or making more on unemployment than you’re paying me to work during a F&%KING PANDEMIC! (Excuse me, language!)

Do you have any ideas? If so, I’d love to hear them! Please email me at frank@hrcexperts.com.  

Stay well…


Posted by Frank Cania, president of HR Compliance Experts LLC.

© 2020 HR Compliance Experts LLC

Please feel free to contact Frank at frank@hrcexperts.com, or 585-380-1566 with questions or for more information.


Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute a legal opinion, and is not legal advice. The facts of each situation should be considered and analyzed individually. Therefore, you should always consult with competent employment counsel regarding any issues discussed here.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Frank Cania and HR Compliance Experts LLC.