Over the past month, the state of Georgia took several measures in response to COVID-19, primarily affecting unemployment and business operations. Below is an update of these nationwide developments.
With two emergency rules1 passed by the Georgia Department of Labor (Department), partial unemployment claims filed on or after March 15, 2020 must be submitted online2 by the employer for “every week3 that an employee is working less than full time, partial or full Company shutdown due to COVID-19 public health emergency. “4 This means employers should file partial claims for full-time and part-time workers who are temporarily laid off or whose working hours have been temporarily reduced due to a shortage of work due to COVID-19. However, employees must be expected to return to work after the COVID-19 emergency ends. Employers are not required to make claims for specific categories of workers, including the following:
- Employed by a temporary employment agency and currently working at the employer’s place of business;
- On paid vacation or vacation;
- Employed in another country for the past 18 months;
- Employed in the federal government or in active military service in the last 18 months;
- 1099 independent contractors;
- Voluntarily unemployed (e.g. dismissal, requested leave of absence, self-quarantine, etc.), unless they fall into certain categories of employees specifically determined by the department; or
- Permanently separated from work and not expected to return to work.
For submission, employers need the following information for each employee: name; Social security number; Address; Date of birth; whether or not the employee wishes federal and / or state income tax withheld; and revenue, including requested information. Although employers are not billed for partial claims benefits they make due to COVID-19, any employer found to be in breach of non-filing must reimburse the ministry for the full amount of unemployment benefit paid to an employee.
Employers should also keep in mind that when submitting partial applications on behalf of their employees, they do not need to file a mass segregation notice 5 or issue a partial unemployment form (No. 408) from the Department.
Employees who have been identified as ineligible by the Department of Government Benefits will be provided with additional information from the Department on how to submit an application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for Potential Benefits under the CARES Act. The department is also currently working on the implementation of the pandemic unemployment compensation system.
Things to consider
While Georgia has no government-mandated severance payment requirements, employers should be aware of the terms of their paid time off and / or vacation policies, as is most often the case with employer policy control. Employers wishing to make changes to their paid time off and / or vacation policies or practices should consult an experienced lawyer.
Recently, on April 20, 2020, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order (EO) to reopen certain businesses, including but not limited to gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, beauticians, hair designers, and those licensed to practice Individuals massage therapy by April 24, 2020. The EO instructed that such companies should take measures to reduce the exposure and spread of COVID-19, but did not provide detailed requirements.
However, a day before some companies reopen, Governor Kemp issued another EO that provides additional guidance on reopening companies. While this PO required some companies to remain closed, it opened non-critical companies 6 and lifted the previously imposed restrictions on “minimum basic operations” 7. Such companies now need to take 21 steps to reduce the exposure and spread of COVID-19. The PO also defines additional mitigation measures that either must or should be taken for specific industries. Finally, the PO offers some basic measures that all companies should consider to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
On April 27, 2020, Governor Kemp issued another EO that extended certain schedules for routine inspections and defined hand sanitisers so that any hand antiseptics, hand massages, soaps or agents were applied to the hands to remove common pathogens.
Given the continued updates in response to COVID-19, employers should contact an experienced lawyer with any questions.