The Department of Labor (the “DOL”), the Treasury Department (the “Treasury”), and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”)  have recently issued guidance extending certain deadlines and providing certain relief for retirement plans in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Discussed below are (1) EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01, (2) DOL “COVID-19 FAQs for Participants and Beneficiaries,” (3) IRS Notice 2020-23, and (4)  IRS “Coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs questions and answers.”
Continue Reading Guidance and Relief for Retirement Plans Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued two noteworthy enforcement memos. The first memo announced the reversal of OSHA’s April 10, 2020 policy that limited the requirement to track on-the-job cases of COVID-19 to health-care facilities, emergency response providers, and corrections facilities. The new policy, which goes into effect on May 26, 2020, mandates that all employers who are required to maintain OSHA injury and illness logs determine whether employees’ cases of the COVID-19 virus are “work-related” and record those that meet certain requirements. Specifically, employers subject to OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements must record a case of COVID-19 as job-related if (1) it is a confirmed case of the virus as defined by the CDC, (2) it is “work-related” in that an event or exposure in the work environment either contributed to or caused an employee to contract the virus, and (3) it results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness or involves a significant diagnosed injury or illness. Employers who have no recordkeeping obligations need only report work-related COVID-19 illnesses resulting in an employee’s death or in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
Continue Reading OSHA Addresses Reporting COVID-19 Cases as Job-Related and In-Person Workplace Inspections

Updated August 31, 2020

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which established, in relevant part, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program that offers eligible borrowers the potential for loan forgiveness. For more information on the PPP and other CARES Act lending programs, click here, and for information about applying for PPP loans, click here.

On June 5, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (the Flexibility Act), which amends the CARES Act to make certain changes to PPP loans and to provide more flexibility to borrowers. For an overview of the changes made by the Flexibility Act, click here. To the extent available, this blog post has been updated to incorporate the changes made by the Flexibility Act.


Continue Reading Applying for Loan Forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Updated August 31, 2020

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which provides for various economic stimulus measures, including a new loan program regulated by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). You can read more about the PPP and the other stimulus programs here.

On June 5, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (the Flexibility Act), which amends the CARES Act to make certain changes to PPP loans and to provide more flexibility to borrowers. For an overview of the changes made by the Flexibility Act, click here. This blog post has been updated to incorporate the changes made by the Flexibility Act.

On July 4, 2020, President Trump signed into law a bill that extends the application period for PPP loans from June 30, 2020, to August 8, 2020, which provides eligible borrowers additional time to contact participating lenders to facilitate a PPP application.


Continue Reading Applying for a Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Day-to-day life has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and many businesses have been forced to close or limit their service to slow the spread of COVID-19. In response, Congress has passed several pieces of legislation to assist individuals and businesses affected by the virus.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Federal Legislative Response

In a stark reminder of the sanctity of Coast Guard investigations, and the consequences of impeding such investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently took action against a maritime employer for allegedly retaliating against a seaman who cooperated with the Coast Guard in connection with its investigation of a maritime casualty.  On October 20, 2017, Bouchard Transportation’s ATB BUSTER BOUCHARD/B. NO. 255 suffered an explosion and fire while transporting roughly 2,000 barrels of oil off Port Aransas, Texas.  Two crewmembers perished as a result of the casualty.  The brother of one of the deceased crewmembers, who also happened to be a Bouchard Transportation employee, cooperated with the Coast Guard in the ensuing investigation.  Three months later, the surviving brother was terminated without explanation.  OSHA found the termination constituted a retaliatory discharge in violation of the Seaman’s Protection Act (46 U.S.C. §2114) (the “SPA”).  In broad terms, the SPA prohibits maritime employers from terminating or discriminating against seamen who cooperate with Coast Guard, Department of Labor or National Transportation Safety Board investigations.  The obvious intent of the SPA is to guaranty “that, when seamen provide information of dangerous situations to the Coast Guard, they will be free from the “debilitating threat of employment reprisals for publicly asserting company violations” of maritime statutes or regulations.”  Gaffney v. Riverboat Services of Indiana, Inc., 451 F.3d 424, 444 (7th Cir. 2006).  In 2010, Congress empowered OSHA to administer claims arising under the SPA.


Continue Reading OSHA Awards Damages for Retaliatory Discharge of Jones Act Seaman in Violation of Seaman’s Protection Act

Today the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in this landmark case concerning punitive damages.  The six justices in the majority opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit and resolved a circuit split on this issue.  The question presented was whether punitive damages may be awarded to a Jones Act seaman in a personal injury suit alleging a breach of the general maritime duty to provide a seaworthy vessel.  Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Thomas, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.  Justice Ginsburg dissented, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.


Continue Reading SCOTUS Decides Dutra Group v. Batterton

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court issued a June 10 opinion holding that California’s wage-and-hour laws do not apply to workers on oil and gas platforms located in open water on the Outer Continental Shelf. The plaintiffs in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, were offshore rig workers who filed a class action asserting that their employer violated California’s minimum wage and overtime laws by failing to pay them for stand-by time while they were on the drilling platform. Both parties agreed that the platforms were governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), but they disagreed regarding whether the California’s wage-and-hour laws were incorporated into OCSLA and therefore applicable to workers on the platform.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds State Wage and Hour Laws are Inapplicable to Offshore Drilling Platforms

Commercial and employment agreements often include provisions requiring arbitration of disputes between the parties. Some of these agreements contain “delegation clauses” requiring the arbitrator (as opposed to a court) to decide whether the dispute is subject to arbitration. Despite such provisions, one party may sue the other because it perceives an advantage to proceeding in court or wants to test the outer limits of the arbitration provision. The first battle in these suits is over who—the court or an arbitrator—decides whether the dispute must be arbitrated. In unanimous decisions issued over the last week, the Supreme Court addressed two scenarios where the parties fought over this question, despite having delegated questions of “arbitrability” to an arbitrator. Read together, the Court’s decisions clarify that a court should first decide whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to the parties’ agreement. If so, the court must honor the delegation clause and refer the matter to arbitration.


Continue Reading New U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Clarify the Courts’ Authority to Compel Arbitration