News & Events

Friday, June 25th

TOOLKIT: Employee Vaccination Status Verification Process

To support our clients in navigating the revisions to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), effective June 17, 2021, we have created several tools you can use to establish a process that best suits your business needs. It is important to note that an employer is not compelled to use any specific method of documenting employee vaccination status and is not obligated to require employees to submit proof of being fully vaccinated. Documentation is required for a “fully vaccinated” employee to work without a face covering indoors.  

Employers have two (2) options:

  1. Choose to not ask employees their vaccination status and treat everyone as “unvaccinated” or 
  2. Develop a documentation process and operate based on the vaccination status employees choose to provide to you.

Should you choose to move forward with a documentation process, the provided toolkit is developed to provide a sample framework, allowing employers to make business decisions around COVID-19 prevention measures in their workplace while ensuring the wellbeing of your employees.


The video below provides additional instructions on how best to utilize the documents in the toolkit. 


Friday, June 18th

Changes to the Cal OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

Following the June 17 vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt the revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to allow the revisions to immediately take effect on June 17. The revised regulations reflect the state’s latest COVID-19 public health guidance.

Here are just some of the key revisions:

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear them. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors. For persons vaccinated outside the United States, a vaccine will be valid if listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Upon request, employers shall provide respirators for voluntary use in compliance with subsection 5144(c)(2) to all employees who are not fully vaccinated and who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person, at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be offered testing or excluded from work after close contact unless they have COVID-19 symptoms. This also extends to employees if they had COVID-19 within the last 90 days and have remained symptom-free.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be offered testing by their employer.
  • Employees may bring a wage claim to recover unpaid “continued earnings” when excluded from the workplace. The revisions also specify that employees must be paid their regular rate of pay by the next regular pay day.
  • After providing written notice of a COVID-19 case in the workplace, employers will be required to provide “verbal notice” if they reasonably know that an employee has not received the written notice or has limited literacy in the language in which the written notice was provided.
  • Employers must review the Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.
  • Employer-provided housing and transportation are exempt from the regulations where all employees are fully vaccinated.

In addition to the above, other revisions include modifications to key definitions, newly imposed training requirements, and other updates. The revised standard should be reviewed in detail.  

Next steps:

  • Review the revised standard
  • Register and attend a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) Update webinar hosted by Cal/OSHA Consultation. 
  • If you haven’t already, carefully determine how you are going to confidentially document vaccination status in the workplace with the help of legal counsel.
  • Evaluate your supply of N95 respirators
    • Businesses seeking assistance to provide N95 respirators for unvaccinated employees as required by the revised Emergency Temporary Standards can find distribution locations for a one month supply of state provided N95 respirators here. Distribution details are still developing. Check back regularly for updates.
    • In addition, Cal/OSHA lists some but not all vendors that sell N95 respirators in large quantities (vendors able to fulfill orders of more than 100,000 units). There are many vendors who have N95s available in smaller quantities.
  • Update your written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP), training, and internal procedures.  

We will continue to closely monitor developments and communicate any additional explanation, resources, and tools as they become available. Please reach out to our office for any questions relating to workplace safety or Cal OSHA compliance.


Thursday, June 17th

Congratulations Louise and Welcome Kely!

After more than 22 years of dedicated service, Louise Matheny will be retiring from her role as HR Business Consultant at Morris & Garritano. Louise has been an invaluable member of our team and family, providing education, resources, and a listening ear to our clients and our community. We will miss her greatly but are excited for all the adventures she has yet to come! 

Louise joined Morris & Garritano in 1999, coming from a career in healthcare. At the time the agencyonly had 55 employees and no dedicated HR department, which meant Louise was not only responsible for assisting clients with inquiries but also for managing the internal HR duties of a growing company. Through her employer-education focused approach, her dedicated involvement in our business community, and her engaging charm, Louise quickly became a go-to source for all things HR. 

As any California employer knows, these last few years have been challenging with the revolving door of labor law changes. But through it all, Louise remained dedicated to learning and researching the regulations so that she could inform and educate our clients when they needed us the most. Louise did note, “We have the best clients! They made my job easier because they always want to do the right thing and take care of their employees. It has been a true pleasure.” 

We recognize the value that Louise’s service and proficiency provides to our clients, which is why we made it a priority to find the right HR professional to fill this critical role. We are thrilled to announce that Kely Blackburn has joined the M&G Team as our new HR Business Consultant. 

Kely has built a strong career in Human Resources and Operations providing her with the knowledge and expertise to tackle important HR topics, including employee and labor relations, recruiting, and organizational development. Prior to joining Morris & Garritano, she was responsible for the management of a compensation portfolio for over 3,200 employees along with advising on compliance, HR policies and practices. She is well versed in the HR needs of various industries and remains at the forefront of the ever-changing regulations that the pandemic has brought about. 

Kely is a Central Coast native who is active in our business community, is a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and volunteers with the Kiwanis Club of Pismo Beach. Louise and Kely will be working closely together over the next month to provide you with a seamless transition of services. We have full confidence that Kely will grow and thrive as our HR Business Consultant, ensuring that the education and care you have come to know and love from Louise will continue on. 

Please help us in congratulating Louise on her retirement and welcoming Kely to Morris & Garritano. 

Should you have any questions, please reach out to your Account Manager or email HRConsulting@morrisgarritano.com


Friday, April 30th

Webinars & Updates | April 30, 2021

This week we’re sharing opportunities to learn more about your local government and how you can excel at customer service in our new hybrid virtual/in-person world.

Other updates include:

  • How to apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund
  • IRS fact sheet on tax credit for PTO used for COVID-19 vaccinations

Check it out here.


Friday, April 30th

Blue Cross Blue Shield Settle Antitrust Lawsuit

In October 2020, the national Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) healthcare association entered into a tentative settlement in a class action lawsuit that alleged violation of federal antitrust laws. The settlement will result in the dismissal of the case and a finding of no liability against BCBS for the claims, which BCBS continues to reject in their statement regarding the litigation.

The settlement provides that BCBS will make operational changes, as well as payments to class members involved in the case from a $2.67 billion dollar fund.

Individual subscribers and employer policy holders have started receiving communications from the Settlement Administrator – JND Legal Administration.

Here’s what employers need to know.

Summary

Policy subscribers alleged that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association violated several provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into an unlawful agreement that interfered with competition in the healthcare market by:

  1. Limiting subscriber choice by allocating geographic territories among members.
  2. Placing unfair business and competition rules on Blue member plans.
  3. Restricting sales of Blue plans to non-BCBSA members.
  4. Agreeing to other constraints of fair competition.

The subscribers alleged that these anti-competitive practices led to inflated premiums and sought monetary damages as well as changes in business practices (injunctive relief).

The Settlement

After nearly five years of negotiation, the parties agreed to a proposed settlement of $2.67 billion payable to qualified policyholders and employees of insured groups (including self-funded plans) covered by a Blue-branded policy between February 2008 and October 2020. This may include medical, pharmacy, and dental and vision services, regardless of whether the individual contributed to the cost of coverage.

Settlement Classes

Class members who submit valid claims may receive a cash payment from the Settlement Fund (after attorney fees and expenses) and are referred to as the Damages Class.

The Value of Monetary Awards

Individual payment amounts are difficult to determine at this time and will depend on several factors such as the numbers of claims filed, the premiums paid during the class period, and whether the health plan was fully insured or self-funded. It is anticipated that individual claims payments will be relatively small.

Key Dates

Spring 2021: Notices to Individuals and Employers

July 28, 2021: Deadline to Object to Settlement

July 28, 2021: Opt-Out Deadline (Damages Class Only)

October 20, 2021: Fairness Court Hearing

November 5, 2021: Claims Filing Deadline (Damages Class Only)

Action Items

There is no immediate action to be taken by individuals or employer groups until receipt of an official notice from the Settlement Administrator. That notice may come by way of email or postcard. Once official notice is received, the recipient must determine if they will opt out, object, or file a claim for payment. If you do nothing, you will remain a member of the Settlement Class and will be bound to the terms of the Settlement but will not receive a payment.

The easiest way to file a claim is through the Online Portal at the BCBS Settlement Website.

To file a claim, an employer will need the following information:

  • The Unique ID contained in the email or postcard received.
  • Demographic information
  • Name of Blue-branded entity (i.e. Blue Cross of California)
  • Group #, coverage start and end dates.
  • Information regarding premiums charged to employees if choosing the Alternative Option

Premium information is not required if choosing the Default Method (refer to the BCBS Settlement Website for further information for employers).

To file a claim, an employee will need the following information:

  • The Unique ID contained in the email or postcard received.
  • Demographic information
  • Name of Blue-branded entity (i.e. Blue Cross of California)
  • Group #, Subscriber ID #, coverage start and end dates.

Additional Information

The Court has appointed JND Legal Administration to administer settlement claims. Information regarding claims processing and additional details can be found as follows:


Wednesday, March 24th

American Rescue Plan Act Signed Into Law

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which is the latest bill to address the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19, has been signed into law. Most aspects of the law do not directly affect the HR function, but those that do—optional extension of sick and family leave and establishment of COBRA subsidies—are outlined below.

Optional Extension of Sick and Family Leaves

Part of ARPA is an extension of the current tax credit scheme for Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA required many employers to provide EPSL and EFMLA in 2020, but became optional when it was previously extended to cover January 1 through March 31, 2021.

The new extension under ARPA takes effect April 1, 2021, and lasts through September 30, 2021. Like the current version, it remains optional. In addition, tax credits are available but only to employers with fewer than 500 employees and up to certain caps. To receive the tax credit, employers are required to follow the original provisions of the FFCRA. For example, they can’t deny EPSL or EFMLA to an employee if they’re otherwise eligible, can’t terminate them for taking EPSL or EFMLA, and have to continue their health insurance during these leaves.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) Changes

Here are the key changes to EPSL, in effect from April 1 through September 30, 2021:

  • Employees can take EPSL to get the COVID vaccine and to recover from any related side effects.
  • Employees can take EPSL when seeking or waiting for a COVID-19 diagnosis or test result if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or if the employer has asked them to get a diagnosis or test. (Previously, time spent waiting on test results was not necessarily covered, which seemed like an oversight.)
  • Employees will be eligible for a new bank of leave on April 1. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours while part-time employees are entitled to a prorated amount.
  • Employers can’t provide EPSL in a manner that favors highly compensated employees or full-time employees or that discriminates based on how long employees have worked for the employer. (Be aware that any inconsistencies in the granting of leave could potentially lead to a discrimination claim.)

Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) Changes

Here are the key changes to EFMLA, in effect from April 1 through September 30, 2021:

  • EFMLA can now be used for any EPSL reason, in addition to the original childcare reasons. This includes the two new EPSL reasons noted above.
  • The 10-day unpaid waiting period has been eliminated.
  • The cap on the reimbursable tax credit for EFMLA has been increased to $12,000 (from $10,000). This applies to all EFMLA taken by an employee, beginning April 1, 2020. This change accounts for the additional 10 days of paid time off—the daily cap of $200 remains the same.
  • The law isn’t clear as to whether employees are entitled to a new 12-week bank of EFMLA. We anticipate that the IRS, DOL, or both will provide guidance on this question soon. It is possible that an employee will be entitled to additional unpaid protected time off, even if they already received the maximum reimbursable amount during previous EFMLA leave(s). We will update our materials if and when new information is available.
  • Employers can’t provide EFMLA in a manner that favors highly compensated employees or full-time employees or that is based on how long employees have worked for the employer. (Again, be aware that any inconsistencies in the granting of leave could potentially lead to a discrimination claim.)

Reasons for Using EPSL and EFMLA

Starting on April 1, employees can take EPSL or EFMLA for the same set of reasons, which is a useful simplification. The following are acceptable reasons for taking these leaves:

  1. When quarantined or isolated subject to federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order
  2. When advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine because of COVID-19
  3. When the employee is:
    • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis
    • Seeking or awaiting the results of a diagnostic test for, or a medical diagnosis of, COVID-19 because they have been exposed or because their employer has requested the test or diagnosis
    • Obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination or recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to the vaccination
  4. When caring for another person who is isolating or quarantining on government or doctor’s orders
  5. When caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19

Employees and employers will—in most cases—want to exhaust EPSL first, since it has a higher tax credit, except when used to care for others.

Tax Credit Review

The tax credits available between April 1 and September 30 are the same as under the original FFCRA, except for the increased aggregate cap for EFMLA. Tax credits are available as described below, regardless of how much EPSL or EFMLA an employee used prior to April 1.

  • The credit available for EPSL when used for reasons 1, 2, or 3 (self-care) is up to 100% of an employee’s regular pay, with a limit of $511 per day.
  • The credit available for EPSL when used for reasons 4 or 5 (care for another) is up to 2/3 of an employee’s regular rate of pay, with a limit of $200 per day.
  • The credit available for EFMLA for any reason is up to 2/3 of an employee’s regular pay, with a limit of $200 per day and a cap of $12,000 per employee.

Employers can also claim a credit for their share of Medicare tax on the employee’s wages and the cost of maintaining the employee’s health insurance (qualified health plan expenses) during their absence.

COBRA Subsidies

Another important aspect of the law employers should understand is the creation of COBRA subsidies.

Employees and families enrolled in the employer’s group health plans may lose coverage if the employee’s work hours are reduced or employment is terminated. They can elect to continue coverage under COBRA, but the high premium cost can make it difficult to afford this coverage.

ARPA provides a 100% COBRA subsidy if the employee’s work reduction or termination was involuntary. The subsidy applies for up to six months of coverage from April 2021 through September 2021 (unless the individual’s maximum COBRA period expires earlier).

For group plans subject to the federal COBRA rules, the employer will be required to pay the COBRA premium but then will be reimbursed through a refundable payroll tax credit.

Employers with fewer than 20 workers usually are exempt from the federal COBRA rules, but their group medical insurance plans may be subject to a state’s mini-COBRA law. In that case, it appears the subsidy will be administered by the carrier. The carrier will pay the premium and then be reimbursed by the government.

Employers will need to work with their group health plan carriers and vendors on how to administer the new subsidy provision. Although it takes effect April 1, 2021, employees who were terminated earlier but are still in their COBRA election window also are included. Federal guidance is expected to be released by April 10, including model notices that plans can tailor for their use.

Note that the COBRA subsidy doesn’t apply during FFCRA leaves because employees are entitled to maintain their health insurance during those leaves on the same terms as though they had continued to work.

Source: ThinkHR


Wednesday, March 10th

Vulnerabilities with On-Premises Versions of Microsoft Exchange Server

Early last week, Microsoft revealed that suspected state-sponsored hackers from China were exploiting four previously unknown vulnerabilities being used to attack on-premises versions of Microsoft Exchange Server. This has enabled access to email accounts, and allowed installation of additional malware to facilitate long-term access to victim environments. 

Since that disclosure, other hackers have used automated programs to scan the internet, looking for companies that have yet to install the fix. Microsoft has urged IT administrators and customers to apply the security fixes immediately. However, just because fixes are applied now, this does not mean that servers have not already been compromised.

Microsoft has listed indicators of compromise here. Admins can also use this script from Microsoft to test if their environments are affected. 

For more information about these vulnerabilities and how to defend against their exploitation, see:

What Action Should You Take?

For businesses potentially impacted, we strongly advise consulting with a cybersecurity expert. For those with cyber insurance, you may have access to complimentary cybersecurity resources through your insurance provider. Please reach out to our office if you have any questions on your cyber insurance coverage or to submit a claim.  

To learn find more about cyber insurance or request a quote, please visit our website:

This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Monday, March 1st

COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace: Insurance Implications

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, many employers will be faced with difficult decisions on how to address vaccination in the workplace. On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance indicating that employers can require their workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine within the legal confines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, even while under the Emergency Use Authorization.

There are many advantages to having a vaccinated workforce, including reduced employee illness and being able to reassure customers that every possible measure is being taken to assure their safety. At the same time, a mandatory vaccination program is ripe with potential pitfalls, and the decision to implement such a program should not be taken lightly. Here are just a few things to keep in mind, particularly when it comes to insurance:

  • Employers that require the COVID-19 vaccine must consider reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or religious objections. The employer must engage in the interactive process and try to find a reasonable accommodation without presenting a significant risk to other employees. If the interactive process fails to produce an outcome that is agreeable to all parties or is conducted in an inconsistent manner, the employer may be subject to claims alleging discrimination and/or retaliation
  • Although the EEOC does not consider the act of administering vaccination a “medical exam,” employers should be aware that the vaccination pre-screening questions may implicate the ADA’s provisions on disability related inquiries. Failure to ensure that these questions are “job-related and consistent with business necessity” may lead to claims alleging invasion of privacy, or illegally eliciting information protected under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). 
  • Failure to appropriately compensate employees for their time or cover costs associated with an employer-mandated vaccine could potentially lead to wage and hour claims. Employers may also need to evaluate paid time for post-vaccination symptoms. 
  • Any employee injuries (e.g. adverse reaction) due to taking an employer-mandated vaccine would likely be covered by workers compensation. Coverage could be triggered by a variety of scenarios, including requiring vaccination for continued employment or as a condition for physically returning to work, providing vaccinations to employees directly, or even by simply facilitating employees’ vaccinations (e.g. paying for vaccinations, setting appointments, providing on-site vaccinations).
  • If vaccination is required and an employee refuses to comply, the employer may ultimately have to terminate the employee, which could result in a wrongful termination claim. 

Employers will need to determine whether to mandate, encourage, or remain neutral. Regardless, every situation is unique, and employers must weigh the risks and benefits of workplace safety, while balancing business needs, employee morale, and legal exposure.

Any new employment policy or practice needs to be reviewed with counsel to be sure all potential avenues of legal exposure are identified and managed. Counsel will also be able to address the legality of alternatives strategies, such as vaccine incentives.

Employers should continue to monitor the EEOC for any updates as well as California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing for state specific vaccine mandate guidance. Employers should also monitor all federal, state, and local workplace safety guidance and standards for vaccination updates to assure compliance. 

This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Thursday, February 18th

The Power of Multi-Factor Authentication: Passwords Aren’t Enough

P@ssw0rd123! Look familiar? It doesn’t matter if you replace your vowels with symbols, include the name of your first pet, or use a complex combination of letters and numbers – these days, passwords aren’t enough. And when you are running a business and dealing with sensitive data, you have an added responsibility to protect that information from cyber-attacks. That’s where MFA comes into play.

What is Multi Factor Authentication? (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security measure that requires two or more forms of identification to access an account. This involves a combination of:

What should my business protect with MFA?

Any account with access to critical data, applications, and systems within your business should be protected.  Here are some critical areas to address:

  1. Remote network access
  2. Privileged/administrative account access
  3. Business email
  4. Customer relationship management (CRM) system 

MFA and Cyber Insurance

Enabling MFA is a strong indicator of proactive risk management practices.  This, along with other measures can have a significant impact on the availability and affordability of coverage. Due to rising claims frequency, MFA is becoming a more common condition to qualify for coverage. MFA has the potential to prevent claims, which over the long term can result in preferential pricing and coverage terms.

MFA can block over 99.9% of
account compromise attacks.

Microsoft

How to Implement MFA

The vast majority of MFA is free and several common platforms (Gmail, Outlook, Dropbox) offer it internally. For 3rd party platforms, there are also several apps available that allow you to set up MFA free of charge.

It’s best to engage with your IT department or IT vendor to set up an implementation plan that not only establishes MFA but educates your employees on using the feature and explains the purpose and need for added security.

Contact Morris & Garritano at info@morrisgarritano.com to learn how implementing MFA can help your business or check out our Cyber Coverage Resources for more information.

Additional Resources:
MFA Explained in Under 2 minutes
How to implement Multi Factor Authentication (Microsoft)
Enable MFA in Outlook | Enable MFA in Gmail | Enable MFA for Apple ID


Wednesday, December 2nd

Cal/OSHA Emergency Regulations to Protect Workers from COVID-19

Cal/OSHA has adopted emergency regulations – effective immediately – requiring all employers take additional action to protect their employees from COVID-related hazards. Cal/OSHA can enforce non-compliance with the new Standard through civil penalties, ranging in size depending on the severity of the violation. The official press release from the DIR can be read here

Does this regulation apply to you?

The emergency standards apply to all employees and places of employment with three exceptions:

  • Workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people
  • Employees who are working from home
  • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard

What do you need to do?

  • Refer to Cal/OSHA Resources
  • Develop, implement and maintain a written COVID Prevention Program, either as part of your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) or as a stand-alone document.
  • Investigate COVID-19 cases, notify and provide testing to potentially exposed employees.
  • Require physical distancing, mask wearing, improve ventilation, and maximize outdoor air.
  • Don’t allow employees to return to the worksite until quarantine ends, and pay employees throughout quarantines.
  • Report all outbreaks – 3 or more cases in two weeks – to public health department, and provide continuous testing at least weekly to all on site employees. For major outbreaks – 20 or more cases in 30 days, provide twice a week testing.
  • In employer provided housing, beds must be spaced, and daily disinfection is required.
  • In employer provided transportation, workers get screened before boarding, sit apart from each other and wear face coverings.

We understand this places additional burden on employers during already trying times. We will continue to evaluate the details of the regulation and keep you apprised to any new developments or resources as they become available. Given the scope of these provisions and the connection with other recently passed legislation such as AB 685, we encourage employers to evaluate these provisions with collaborative input from operation teams, safety personnel, human resources, and legal counsel. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office for questions regarding Cal/OSHA compliance or employer obligations.