Articles Tagged with COVID-19

covid-court-300x200In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State and Federal Court in California have become severely backlogged. For months, the courts were closed entirely, hearing only the most urgent cases (such as domestic violence, restraining orders and other protective order type cases). The courts have slowly expanded operations and started hearing other non-urgent matters by video conference. Unfortunately, jury tirals are still on hold and these limited operations have not begun to make a significant dent in the major backlog of cases to be heard. There is a reported backlog of over a thousand criminal trials in California courts. Criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial, so these cases must generally be given priority over civil matters.

California Statutes That Create Civil Trial Preferences

Without any relief, the current backlog means that it could be months or even years before a civil case is scheduled for trial on a normal court docket. That being said, the California Code of Civil Procedure does create specific categories that allow a civil case to be given preference in trial scheduling. An experienced civil litigator can explain which, if any, of the following circumstances apply to an individual’s case:

AdobeStock_359775405-300x200Tenants across America have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the eviction moratoriums have focused on residential leases, in order to keep Californians home and healthy during these dangerous times. Small business owners have also been granted some eviction protections. Regardless of your business size, you might be surprised to learn just how much leverage you have in your commercial lease. Below are three critical strategies that can help your business try to remain financially healthy during and in the wake of the coronavirus.

Renew Your Current Lease

Businesses that are on relatively strong financial footing, and whose leases are expiring in the next six to eighteen months, may find themselves with greater leverage to negotiate renewal terms. Landlords are hesitant to lease to new tenants (who they may not be able to evict). With the U.S. economy is in downturn and the economic future uncertain, landlords are also worried about their future rental prospects. In such conditions, commercial tenants who have remained in good financial health and standing with their current landlord will be well-positioned to negotiate lease renewals with favorable terms.

AdobeStock_353030662-300x200
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected the American workplace. Throughout the country, employees are working from home, and companies are radically changing the way they get business done. Many of these creative solutions are changing California businesses for the better. Existing employment laws still apply to the new workplace. As an employer, you need to be aware of certain issues that could expose you to liability.

Scheduling Changes

Many companies have been forced to lay off workers or reduce hours to stay in business. Before you make any decisions about firing or layoffs, you should be aware of the potential legal consequences of doing so. Employees who have a written employment contract or are part of a union may have protections against these actions, even in the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic. Even changing shifts or job responsibilities could trigger the provisions of such a contract. Consult with an employment lawyer before implementing changes that could expose your business to liability.

AdobeStock_359915477-300x200Existing employee safety laws can be applied to workers who are exposed to the coronavirus. While it is not yet clear exactly how insurance companies and courts will treat these claims, what is clear is that employers must take precautions to mitigate their liability for COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

How to Minimize Your Liability for Exposure

In almost every type of civil case, the defendant’s conduct is measured against a standard of reasonable behavior. There are a few instances of strict liability, in which the defendant is liable no matter how reasonable their behavior, but these are limited to inherently dangerous scenarios that are clearly defined under existing torts law.

Flatten-Curve-COVID-300x115Is your business in compliance? The guidelines for operating your business while preventing the spread of COVID-19 are constantly changing. As your trusted business advisors, we would like to keep you updated with the most relevant information. It is imperative that you update your business’s Social Distancing Protocol to stay in compliance or your business could be fined by the County or forced to close.

Per the July 13th Statewide Public Health Officer Order, all bars, pubs, breweries and brewhouses whether indoors or outdoors must close. Indoor operations for the following businesses have also been restricted:

  • Dine-in restaurants must close indoor seating, but may continue operating outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.

AdobeStock_330926552-300x203We are beginning to see hopeful signs about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the conversation about when and how to reopen the U.S. economy is beginning in earnest.  In the meantime, however, the restrictions remain in effect.  What can businesses do to try to increase their odds of surviving the crisis?

  • Assess all costs and expenses to determine if any costs can be eliminated or delayed. Cut back or cut out expenses that are entirely within your control to adjust.  Where you don’t have the right to cut back, speak with vendors to see if they will agree to temporarily modify terms, perhaps in return for longer terms or other compromises.  Evaluate force majeure provisions to see if the coronavirus pandemic might provide grounds to terminate or renegotiate unfavorable agreements.  Determine if any counterparties are failing to perform under your agreements, and if such nonperformance might allow you to terminate or renegotiate those agreements. Weigh the potential long term costs and potential short term benefits of breaching agreements.  Note renewal and expiration dates of all agreements.  Discuss all of these potential actions with an attorney to make sure that you fully understand the potential risk of taking any of these measures.
  • Review existing lines of credit and other sources of cash, and consider drawing down on those lines in full to increase cash reserves. Speak with existing creditors about potentially delaying payments or other forbearance.

FFCRA-300x200The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) includes an expansion of both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).  The FFCRA is in part designed to combat negative effects of COVID-19 on the workforce.  The Act includes providing qualifying employers (under 500 employees) with certain incentives and tax credits to offset the cost of providing employee paid sick-leave for COVID-19 related reasons.

The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering these portions of the FFCRA and is promulgating regulations to implement same to assist working families facing public health emergencies arising out of the pandemic.  The provisions are set to expire on December 31, 2020 and therefore the rules are (currently) effective starting April 1, 2020 through the end of the current year, 2020.

The Department, in addition to issuing rules and providing direction for administration of EPSLA (which requires certain employers provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave under certain conditions), has stated the following qualifying conditions for assistance:

AdobeStock_327922973-300x200Don’t let a data security issue become a public relations nightmare for your enterprise.  Huge gains in efficiency and productivity are in the cards for any enterprise that can keep pace with technology.  However, with any technological advance, risks and pitfalls are abound.  Especially when it comes to Data Security.  Indeed, many have already succumbed to these pitfalls; think healthcare agencies, credit reporting agencies, and even the US Government (remember Edward Snowden?).  Considering most businesses and industries are currently in some form of lock-down, Data Security and Data Security Practices are crucial.  If your enterprise is fortunate enough to have remote work capability and your current Data Security practices are somewhat lacking, consider these basic tips for our current COVID-19 Era.

  • Learn from your prior mistakes. It is said we can learn much more form our failures compared to our successes.  If your organization has already been the victim of a Data Security issue, hopefully you have already implemented practices to prevent the same occurrence in the future.  Continually revisiting your Data Security practices is important in many respects, to name just a few:  1) It serves to minimize future occurrences, 2) It serves to reinforce your polices, 3) It demonstrates the importance of the issue to your workforce, and 4) It could serve to cut-off (or at least limit) liability/damages in the event of a failure.  Make regular review of your practices a priority.
  • Limit who has access. Does everyone in your organization need access to all your critical systems and information?  Probably not.  Considering who needs access, and what information they need access to, is an important consideration.

AdobeStock_333866940-300x200The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020.  It includes provisions that are helpful to individuals who find themselves laid off by their employers during this unprecedented time.

The law adds an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government on top of whatever benefits one would be entitled under state law.  In California, that means individuals could receive up to $1,050 per week, from the date the CARES Act was signed up until July 31, 2020.

The CARES Act also provides for one-time payments to individuals and families.  Individuals making $75,000 per year or less can expect a payment of $1,200.  Married couples filing jointly earning less than $150,000 can expect $2,400, in addition to a $500 payment for each child.  The amounts paid out decrease depending on how much one earns and completely phase-out for individuals earning more than $99,000 and married couples earning more than $198,000.

AdobeStock_328389408-300x183In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. federal government passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at softening the economic distress suffered by American businesses and individuals.  The massive stimulus package authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

When can you apply?

Starting Friday, April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other specified expenses through Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.  Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive similar loans.

Contact Information