Americans and the rest of the world are hoping that in 2021 every-day life will begin normalizing. With the rolling-out of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, many feel they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, even though the vaccine has reinstated hope in many, it still raises additional questions. Many have wondered whether employers can make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for their employees. The answer appears to be yes.

A guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated that employers can require employee vaccination to go to work. However, this does not necessarily mean that an employee would be automatically terminated. For example, the employee may be entitled to work remotely. Employers also may have to make exceptions for employees with religious objections and disabilities.

Employers should proceed with caution

Although employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccination, the questions remains whether they will or whether they should. It will likely be challenging for employers to ensure their employees comply with the mandate. Employers requiring the vaccine may also receive some push-back.


Continue Reading Can Employers Require Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

We are already in February 2021! Can you believe it? Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers were crowned Super Bowl Champs, spring is upon us, yet we are still wearing masks, vaccinations are being provided to Floridians as fast as possible, yet it still looks a lot like 2020 in many ways.

What’s happening in Florida Legislature?

  • New protections for health care providers. A senate committee has successfully cleared legislation on February 10, 2021, that would create COVID-19 liability protections for Florida health care providers. Senate Bill 74 (SB 74) was advanced with a 6-4 vote. The proposal would require plaintiffs to prove a provider acted with “gross negligence or intentional misconduct instead of simple negligence.” Further, the evidentiary standard would also be “clear and convincing evidence” as opposed to the much lower bar of the “greater weight of the evidence.” All in all, the legislation was proposed to provide protections to Florida’s health care industry. Other similar measures are being advanced through the Republican-controlled legislature to extend protections to schools, churches, and businesses.
  • Potential immunity from liability. Senate Bill 72 (SB 72) advanced through the Senate Judiciary and would provide liability protection to businesses to be applied retroactively to a newly filed lawsuit. Plaintiffs would be required to obtain affidavits from Florida physicians attesting that defendants’ acts or omissions caused the damages, injuries or deaths. If businesses have “substantially” complied with government-issued health standards or guidance, the business would be immune from liability. A companion bill, House Bill 7 (HB 7) has advanced through the Florida House of Representatives which would raise the bar for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 and provide immunity for businesses and entities that made a “good faith” prevention effort.

What’s the impact on Florida’s economy?


Continue Reading A 360 degree look at COVID-19 in Florida — from the Legislature to the Courts

On Tuesday, January 26, 2021 (at 9:00 a.m.), Labor & Employment Attorney Scott Atwood will provide an update for business owners and HR professionals on the state of employments laws.

With the introduction of COVID vaccines resulting in many employers returning their workforces to the office, they will likely face a multitude of questions. In this one-hour webinar, attendees will learn:

  • the most recent EEOC and CDC guidance on COVID return-to-work and discrimination issues;
  • the fate of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act; and,
  • the general status of employment laws under the new Biden Administration.


Continue Reading Webinar: 2021 Back to Work HR Law Update

In the ever-emerging business interruption coverage world, Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr., a North Carolina Judge, ruled that Cincinnati Insurance Company owes a group of restaurants coverage for losses which flowed from a North Carolina mandated COVID-19 shutdown, in the matter of North State Deli LLC et al. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Co., 20-CVS-02569, in the State of North Carolina General Court of Justice for the County of Durham. This ruling appears to be the first decision to hold that a government-ordered shutdown to contain the virus caused a “physical loss.”

In previous blog posts (Recent COVID-19 Business Interruption Decision is a Win for Insurers and What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Coverage), I have set forth that these cases are being fought on the issue of whether there is a “physical loss” which would trigger coverage under many business policies. Judge Hudson Jr. stated that the term direct physical loss includes an:

inability to utilize…something in the real, material or bodily world, resulting from a given cause.”

In sum, physical damage or alteration is not needed to trigger the coverage.


Continue Reading Trend or Outlier: North Carolina Restaurants, the First to Get Physical Loss COVID-19 Coverage

On July 1, 2020, an Ingham Michigan Judge dismissed a claim of first impression, ruling in favor of an insurer’s decision to deny business interruption coverage due to the finding that the insured business owner did not suffer a direct physical loss under the policy.

Similar to many lawsuits on this uniquely 2020 issue, the case (Gavrilides Management Company v. Michigan Insurance Company) focused on whether there was a “direct physical loss of or damage to the insured’s property” which would trigger the coverage for business interruption. This particular claim centered on a business owners’ two restaurants in Lansing Michigan in the amount of $650,000.

The insurer argued that the business interruption coverage kicks in by an occurrence that actually alters or damages the property, which apparently did not occur. The claimant argued that non-destructive losses are also covered by the policy.
Continue Reading Recent COVID-19 Business Interruption Decision is a Win for Insurers

The coronavirus has impacted more than an individual’s health and well-being. In the wake of this global pandemic, many businesses have been impacted — whether it be from an order from local or state government or because it has been directly hit with employees or customers who were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Businesses have had to grapple with the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” and alter their budget to purchase PPE and other sanitary items. Projections for revenue for 2020 were obliterated in the process leaving business owners with difficult decisions in terms of whether it is worthwhile to remain open in a limited capacity, temporary closure, furloughs, layoffs, bankruptcy, or in some cases going out of business. The Payroll Protection Program instituted by the Federal Government has provided a temporary salve, however, in many cases business losses continue in big and small ways.

Business Interruption Insurance

The natural offshoot of this business and economic disruption for businesses is whether their business insurance coverage, for which its owners paid premiums month in and month out, ‘owe’ for business income lost, and additional expenses, due to a viral pandemic such as to COVID-19.

Multiple insurers are facing federal class action lawsuits for denying business interruption claims. Further, claims by business owners for business disruption losses have increased exponentially. This post endeavors to examine some of the issues that will be at the forefront for business owners, and carriers, as it pertains to COVID-19.

Coverage


Continue Reading What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Coverage

An injured worker may seek to establish compensability of the contraction of COVID-19 under two legal theories:

  1. Exposure; and,
  2. Occupational disease.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes §440.02(1), an injury or disease:

caused by exposure to a toxic substance is generally not an injury or accident arising out of employment.”

Although this section has not been utilized in the context of a virus, it is assumed, for the purposes of this discussion, that the virus is considered a toxic substance.

Exposure


Continue Reading Is an employer liable for a workers’ compensation claim if an employee contracts COVID-19 at work?

Taxpayers have until today (July 15) to request an extension to file their 2019 federal tax return. If an extension is approved, taxpayers could have until October 15 to file, but any taxes owed are due by July 15.

Common Tax Return Errors

The IRS has noted the following common tax return errors:

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers
  • Math errors
  • Inaccurate filing status
  • Incorrect calculation of credits or deductions
  • Unsigned returns
  • Filing with an expired individual taxpayer identification number

The IRS highly encourages taxpayers to use the e-file or IRS Free File system. The IRS software will formulate calculations, flag common errors, and prompt taxpayers for missing information, all of which ultimately reduces tax return errors. A tax return containing errors can delay refunds.

What if I can’t pay my tax bill?


Continue Reading IRS Provides Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers

June 4 Update

House Bill H.R. 7010 passed the Senate and is now on its way to the President to sign. In addition to amendments relating to the PPP loan program, the bill provides that the deferral of employment taxes is now available even for taxpayers who have PPP loans that re forgiven under the CARES Act. This will allow taxpayers who obtain PPP loans and intend to apply for loan forgiveness to also defer the applicable employment taxes.

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On May 13, 2020, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) issued anxiously awaited guidance outlining the agency’s perspective on the good faith certifications made by Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) applicants. (See, PPP Frequently Asked Questions, #46).

PPP recipients of loans less than $2 million found relief in the SBA’s statement that it would deem those recipients to have made the certification in good faith.

For those with PPP loans at or above $2 million, the SBA will require the recipient to adequately support its certification. If the recipient fails to do so, the SBA indicated it will seek repayment of the loan in full, but the agency will not pursue administrative enforcement or refer the matter to other agencies.


Continue Reading SBA Issues New Guidance Addressing PPP Loan “Good Faith” Certification

Two Fort Myers tax lawyers will once again host a complimentary webinar to help the Southwest Florida community understand the tax law changes in light of the COVID-19 crisis. On Friday, May 1, 2020, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, Lindsay Sablan, a journalist and WINK News morning anchor, will serve as moderator, with speakers attorney Shanthy Bala, the Tax Clinic Director and Supervising Associate at Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., and Sara Qureshi, a business and tax attorney at Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., will present “Tax Law Changes Amidst COVID-19: Further Guidance Providing Relief to Individuals and Small Businesses” in association with the Lee County Bar Association and its Pro Bono Committee.

This one-hour session will go over recent updates and frequently asked questions regarding federal tax relief available for individuals and businesses during COVID-19, including questions that were submitted to the clinic after the last webinar on April 3rd. Questions may be submitted in advance by email to Shanthy.Bala@FRLS.org.

Continuing Education


Continue Reading May 1 Webinar to Provide Guidance on COVID-19 Tax Relief for Individuals and Small Businesses