Another week, another round of governors ordering residents to shelter in place and hunker down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Another round, too, of course closures and, for some superintendents and directors across the country, difficult decisions to cut back hours for crew members or even let people go.
“As the crisis continues,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said Monday during the association’s second weekly town hall webinar, “many of you will face more uncertainty.” Evans quoted the legendary basketball coach John Wooden when he told viewers that confidence comes from being prepared. He did not mention the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who was most famous for the axiom that “the only constant is change.”
Evans said that 39 states have ordered all non-essential workers to stay at home — that number is now higher after the governors of Florida and Georgia followed suit Wednesday — and that 26 states are still allowing both play and maintenance, though, “in some cases, new information is coming in hourly.”
The second GCSAA town hall webinar opened with advocacy updates from Chava McKell, Bob Helland, and Michael Lee, all a part of the association’s government affairs team, but focused far more on employment issues and human relations.
Kerri Reisdorff, who concentrates on the labor and employment arena in the exclusive representation of management for Ogletree Deakins in Kansas City, dived into a variety of new legislation that will affect golf courses — along with most other businesses — at least the rest of this year. Among the highlights:
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, in effect from April 1 through Dec. 31, will reimburse private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Reisdorff said that employers with fewer than 50 are not exempt from the law but the Labor Department might release the requirement to provide paid school closure leave if a business is able to show that doing so would jeopardize its ability to continue as a going concern.
- All employers with less than 500 employees, and all employees, are also covered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Qualifying events include a state or local quarantine order, a self-quarantine at the advice of a healthcare provider, caring for an individual subject to quarantine/isolation order, caring for a child whose school or day care has been closed, when experiencing a “substantially similar condition” as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Fulltime employees receive 80 hours, while part-time employees receive the number of hours they work on average over two weeks. Intermittent leave can be allowed but is not required.
- Many employers are opting for furloughs over RIF (reduction-in-force, or the temporary or permanent separation of employment) just because of future uncertainties. Be aware of the differences between the two, including exempt and non-exempt employees and state mini-WARN laws, state laws related to payment of accrued paid time off, benefit eligibility, and unemployment eligibility.
- Don’t make promises of eligibility for unemployment benefits. States determine that, not employers.
- While answering questions from viewers, Reisdorff affirmed that, yes, employers can temperature screen employees and can send home employees who have Covid-19 symptoms. They can also also send home employees who have been in close contact with potential exposed to Covid-19, and they can but should not require a doctor’s note before allowing employers to go home or return to work (because offices are so overwhelmed right now and will continue to be overwhelmed). …
- Also, you may not release the name of any employee with Covid-19 or person who has come into contact with those with Covid-19. You may release where they were in the workspace and when they were there, to aid those determining if they came into contact with them.
Many clubs have already started weekly or even daily meetings superintendents. If yours has not, “You need to be aware of what the most up-to-date information is in your area,” Lee said. “Compliance will be important in the coming weeks.”
“To say there’s more to come is an understatement,” Helland said. “What we see in Washington will not stop until this crisis is finished.”