The good news is that Oregon dental practices can reopen on May 1 and their Washington colleagues after May 18th. We know you are eager to see patients and to take a step toward normalcy. We also know your team will have questions regarding their employment and safety.
What follows are commonly asked questions followed by answers and links to resources.
- If team members refuse to return to work after the practice reopens, can they still receive unemployment benefits?
The State of Oregon Employment Department has issued a helpful pdf file about this topic: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Documents/Employer_Resuming_Operations-FAQs.pdf The link will answer most questions.
We expect the State of Washington to issue updated guidelines soon.
2. If an employee refuses to return to work, can you fill the position with someone who wants to work?
First, make sure you clearly understand why the employee does not want to return to work. Someone not wanting to return due to childcare issues, medical concerns, or pregnancy will be handled differently than someone who simply wants to keep collecting unemployment. Second, consider what you can do to address the concerns. For example, are you implementing ADA guidelines for reopening the practice to address concerns about infection control?
Next, determine what kind of hardship exists by not having the employee at the practice? Is the position essential? Finally, if you need the position filled and you are unable to mitigate the employee’s concerns about returning, we strongly recommend that you contact your employment attorney. Your attorney can guide you regarding the next steps to take.
3. How can you best address the safety concerns of patients and the team?
We recommend that you request the American Dental Association’s Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit. Please visit the ADA website at www.ada.org and click on the link for the toolkit.
4. How will working part-time impact an employee’s unemployment benefits and the additional $600 federal boost?
Some practices may not be busy enough to return everyone to full-time. In Oregon, you can earn up to ten times the minimum wage ($125) or one-third your weekly unemployment benefit, whichever is more, before unemployment benefits are reduced (and then benefits are reduced dollar for dollar). Washington uses an earnings deduction chart. Most employees in Oregon and Washington will see an unemployment benefit reduction if they work more than 6 – 8 hours per week.
Most sources indicated the $600 federal unemployment boost (which runs through July 25, 2020) is still available for those receiving $1 or more of unemployment benefits. However, there are still some unanswered questions around partial employment and the $600 federal boost. We recommend that employees contact the employment department with their specific questions.
5. How does the reopening of the practice affect an employee’s eligibility for paid leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
We believe dental practices will remain exempt from FFCRA. Here are the rules regarding exemptions. Please remember you must be able to document why you are exempt.
When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?
An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing (a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons and (b) expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:
- The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
- The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
- There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the:
- employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
- leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
- an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described in Question 58 is satisfied.
If you have specific questions about FFCRA, we recommend contacting your attorney.
6. How will the PPP loan affect when I get employees back on payroll?
We are still waiting on additional information from the Treasury Department regarding the use of the PPP loan, which incentivizes practices to get everyone back on payroll. As soon as we know more, we will share guidelines with you.