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Lisa Brauner: Coronavirus & Nonprofits
My guest for this special, short episode is attorney Lisa Brauner. We cover the laws that govern your organization and the policies you may need to enact. Staying level-headed, how do you handle travel, your workplaces, parent employees, freaked out employees, and keep all your stakeholders safe? Lisa is a partner at Perlman+Perlman law firm in New York City.
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Hello and welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host. This is a special short episode of non profit radio Corona virus and nonprofits. My guest is attorney Lisa Bronner. We cover the laws that govern your organization and the policies you may need to enact staying level headed. How do you handle travel your workplaces? Parent employees freaked out employees and keep all your stakeholders safe. Lisa is a partner at Permanent Perlman Law Firm in New York City, were sponsored by wegner-C.P.As. Guiding you beyond the numbers wegner-C.P.As dot com My Cougar Mountain Software Denali Fund Is there complete accounting solution made for nonprofits tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant Mountain for a free 60 day trial and by turned to communications, PR and content for nonprofits, your story is their mission. Turn hyphen to dot CEO. It’s a pleasure to welcome back to the Cheryl Lisa Brauner. She’s an attorney and partner at permanent Perlman Law Firm in New York City. From dedicated to working with nonprofits, her practice focuses on employment law, advising and representing employers in workplace law related matters. She has extensive experience preparing employee handbooks and policies. The firm is at Perlman and perlman dot com and at tax exempt lawyer Lisa, welcome back to the show.
Thanks, tony. I’m delighted to be here. [00:02:25.31] spk_2:
Thank you. Um, and we’re talking about a special topic, which it’s like the elephant in the room that needs no introduction. We all know Corona virus is running all over the globe. Um, just for context. Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. So we want to talk about what nonprofits need to keep in mind. Let me just start with what? What advice are you giving clients is, you know, broadly [00:04:37.70] spk_5:
so broadly? Uh, well, first of all, the situation as we’re hearing is changing on a daily basis. So even advice I gave a few days ago, maybe changing, as as the situation develops in terms of what in terms of what non profits should be doing in their workplace, I think one of the really key things is that because things were changing so rapidly that nonprofits are speaking on a daily basis with their employees about whatever information the nonprofits may have, and also providing resource is to them. So one of the first things that I and telling non profits is, have both a written communication plan with your employees. And if the employees are all in one location, if it’s a smaller non profit where they can ah, you know, have a a phone conversation or in some way speak with them about what the plan is for the workplace. So definitely they should be thinking about having a written communication to their employees that they should be having written communications to their managers. That may be a separate communication on how managers are supposed to, uh, effectively communicate what needs to happen and keep everybody Come on. DDE not panicking about the situation. I think employees want to know in this time of uncertainty what they can expect in terms of what their work is gonna look like going forward, whether they can be working remotely, whether they should be working remotely. So having a written communication plan is a good first step for nonprofits communicating to their employees. What information do we have? Um, how is this gonna affect the workplace? Ah, kind of is a broad general matter. Uh, non plucked profits are providing to their employees information about what the employer is doing, too sanitized the workplace. What are the proper hygiene things that employees should be doing? Like you know, the things that we’re getting from the CDC and information that we’re getting from state and local public health agencies about how to stay safe covering your off Employers are posting posters in the workplace, reminding and reminding employees about about hygiene about, uh, you know, [00:05:02.76] spk_2:
for further good [00:06:30.29] spk_5:
cough etiquette if they feel sick to stay home of those kinds of things. So preparing written communications to their employees, letting their employees no regularly. What’s happening if there’s a plan for remote work, what that’s gonna look like? Employers need to be implementing infectious infectious plans like, How are we gonna address this in our office? How are we gonna ensure that we know who’s coming to the office in terms of, you know, visitors? How are we ensuring that what the policies were putting in place to ensure that if somebody is sick they are staying home? They’re not coming into the workplace. So putting essentially putting policies and plans in place and communicating them two employees putting policies and nice about communicable diseases and how employees, if they’re you know what they should be doing in terms of they are experiencing symptoms of this novel Corona virus or, if they’ve been exposed, dealing with having policies in place for employees who may have returned from Travel Thio countries where there’s been a widespread outbreak or a community spread and things like that. So most importantly, the communications to the employees about what the plans are for controlling and containing infection on how work is going to be handled. What [00:06:31.02] spk_2:
about communications to other stakeholders? Like I’m thinking of the board but actually even put a head of the board before the board, the people that were serving If it’s, ah, service oriented, program oriented non profit, what about keeping in touch with those folks? [00:07:00.38] spk_5:
That’s important, too, and you know, it’s It’s a thing about communication because there’s so much uncertainty. It’s really regular communication as well as two. Here’s what we know here, the precautions that we’re taking [00:07:02.28] spk_2:
it’s reassuring. It’s reassuring to hear from the organizations that are important to you in your life. [00:07:09.29] spk_5:
Exactly. You know that we’re following this, that we’re on top of this, that you have any questions um, here’s what we know. So for here, the sources that we’re looking at, the CDC [00:07:22.54] spk_0:
and the and and [00:07:32.54] spk_5:
OSHA and, uh, the World Health Organization, the CDC is usually CDC, and also state and local public health agencies are often are often good. Resource is CDC [00:07:44.16] spk_2:
website is really is broken down very well. It’s got different different types of industries. It’s got for for people, for offices. No, it’s it’s very well organized. [00:07:59.51] spk_5:
Yeah, they have. They have guidance for different for different categories for schools, for universities, for interim guidance, for business s O. They’re all different categories that they try Thio address. And also there are state and local agencies, [00:08:06.27] spk_2:
your state health, state health agencies [00:08:26.44] spk_5:
and they provide information to so in terms of, you know, communicating with stakeholders. It’s something that can be communicated that, you know, we’re on top of this. Here’s what we know here the things that we’re putting in place to make sure that our that our stakeholders are are kept in the loop about what’s happening [00:08:30.45] spk_0:
and then the you know, [00:08:32.26] spk_5:
the changes that that we’re making. And I think even at the local level like New York City, for instance, and other municipalities, they may have ways for people locally to stay in touch with them. Like, for instance, in New York City. If you text a certain number, you can get you get updates on whatever it is the city’s putting out there about about the you know about the latest spread, about certain safety measures that should be taken, certain hygiene measures and things like that. So I think it’s important that nonprofits are communicating with their stakeholders, including airport members, and using up please [00:09:08.44] spk_2:
and using the resource is that you’ve got you ticked off. A whole bunch of different resource is C. D. C from the world, the country and, you know, state and local. Um, do we have to be concerned about specific laws that that we need to stay on the right side of? [00:10:27.93] spk_5:
Yeah. And employers need to be aware of whether federal laws that deal with disability ah, the Americans with Disabilities Act that applies to employers of 15 or more employees and states and municipalities also have their own anti discrimination laws relating to disability. So those air some things to be careful of in terms of what kind of enquiries can we make about employees? There’s also, you know, what, the At the outset of this, there were concerns about, um that there might be some stigmas or or prejudice towards towards Asian employees because of the of the origin of the virus coming from China. On that, managers really needed to be alert thio and aware of and responsive to, um, any type of any types of discriminatory comments or disparaging comments about Asians or about others that could be that could be directed to somebody because of their race or national Arjuna door or their ethnicity. You [00:10:33.11] spk_2:
gotta you gotta nip that quickly, right? Like supposed There’s someone who’s, um, who’s Chinese and they come into work wearing a mask all of a sudden, [00:10:52.64] spk_5:
right? Exactly. So also understanding cultural differences and managers communicating that as well, so that to prevent, you know, to prevent an employee from feeling stigmatized or ostracized because of their race or national origin or ethnicity. So that so those are some of the other issues that have been coming up actually in the workplace to be alert Thio and for those are some of the laws. [00:11:23.75] spk_2:
What about, um I’m thinking of a parent employees. Their child’s school is closed and they need all kinds of work flexibility that they didn’t need yesterday because their kids are home now. How flexible Doesn’t employer need to be around the work scheduling? [00:12:55.94] spk_5:
Well, I mean, I think that be public health agencies or generally our public health agencies air generally recommending that employers try to be flexible in in the policies that they have, that they apply it in a uniform way but that, you know, they should be communicating if they have. If it’s a different issue, I guess, than a paid sick leave policy, but that they should be, ah, with respect to paid sick leave if somebody sick that employers should be communicating to their employees. We have these policies paid sick leave or other policies that may be relevant, I think, to answer your question directly about that about this issue, uh, I’m seeing more and more employers who are implementing remote work policies, even if on a temporary basis, so that, first of all to help contain, spread and prevent it for safety reasons. Ah, but you do have the logistical. You do have logistical issues with, ah, with schools closing. And I think it’s really just gonna be on a case by case basis in terms of how employers how employers are going to deal with that and also different. Different municipalities also may have particular laws that deal with caregivers believe there’s our municipalities in California, for instance, where caregiving there is a legal obligation to reasonably accommodate a caregiver. So there may actually be in certain jurisdictions lost that address caregiving directly on require accommodation and why, While that may not be the case in most jurisdictions, it may be in some. And so employers need to be non profits have to be aware of where their employees were working and what laws may governed those types of situations and have and have some flexibility where they can with respect to allowing remote working. Uh, at this time way, all [00:14:03.26] spk_2:
gotta be reasonable, right? It transcends whatthe law requires. I mean, this is Ah, this is extraordinary. So, you know, to the extent it’s possible t be flexible. I mean, shouldn’t shouldn’t you try to be, you know, without without breaking the bank or anything. But if someone’s work lens that lends itself to being done remotely, you know, Let’s try to figure out a way to facilitate that. [00:15:01.51] spk_5:
I think I think employers are. I’m seeing more and more of it and and reviewing more and more remote work policies, particularly at this at this time, with everything that’s going on for safety and health reasons. Aside from the caregiving, the safety and health reasons. And Andy and the health agencies are encouraging that everywhere we hear that the health agencies air saying, if your employees can work remotely, let them work remotely. If you can stagger the time that your employees start to reduce, you know, to reduce their traveling at rush hour. Do that. Uh uh. So s so different, so different kinds of things. So they’re encouraging different types of different types of things. Cross train your employees so that if somebody is out sick or somebody can’t get to work, you have You’ve got someone else to cover. I’ve [00:15:25.51] spk_2:
also heard um, uh, organization that was having people bring their work laptops home and try them out before, before we before the organization needs to say people start working from home or before the city. This was in New York or before the city maybe shuts down public transportation or something drastic like that. So figured out now how to get your tech to work from home so that it doesn’t become a crisis when you can’t get you can’t get help from the office. [00:17:57.84] spk_5:
Absolutely. I mean, one of the things that I’m really I’m advising clients on about a lot is plan. Now, do your pre planning from your written communications to your employees to What are we going to do if somebody who you know who does have Cove in 19 comes into the workplace? Make your plans. Now, make your plans now also, what you said about the computers, even if there, even if you don’t yet have a remote situation plan now and figure out not just that, you’re gonna be sending people home with computers. But what are you going to do to ensure that your data is secure? I mean, the that your data is secure as you. All of your work now is transferred to laptops. Do you have data security and data data protection measures in place to prevent that? If you’re gonna have far more people now working remotely as opposed to in the office. Have you locked down those computers? Have you ensured that they’re not gonna be that they can’t be hacked if you have, you know, confidential your confidential information. Obviously, uh, there’s a greater chance of that of that information getting exposed or disclosed, even inadvertently. If you have lots of people out with computers as opposed to have in your office. So it’s there has to be some pre planning on how we’re gonna set this up rather than just sending people off with the computers. What data security measures do we have in place? What time keeping measures do we have in place? Right, there also questions you asked about what laws? Certain employees, non employees that are that are not exempt from the overtime pay laws. They have to track the hours that they worked. So if you have people working remotely, do you have a system in place where you’re gonna be able to track those those employees work hours? It’s important that you’ve you’ve developed that system that you’ve thought about. How does this remote work and I’m gonna work? Do we? Are we set up for videoconferencing? How Are we gonna have these? How are we gonna have the conferences that we ordinarily has, as in person meetings? Um, there are also employers are talking about not just remote work. But what are we gonna do about travel? Should we be limiting travel and all of the public health agencies air recommending that employers are limiting non essential travel for work on? [00:18:14.52] spk_2:
All right, so So, uh, yes for work. Are you allowed to go so far as to say in your office that it would be so much better if you didn’t travel for personal reasons, like, you know, it’s better to stay home? Me. So can you encourage people to not travel at all, including for their own personal travel? Can you say that in office? [00:19:37.52] spk_5:
So there are there certain laws insurance, certain jurisdictions like New York, for instance, where you can’t discriminate against individuals, employees for lawful recreational activity treatment less favorably. But I don’t see that there’s a reason why, in view of this certain of the, you know, the current pandemic that employers couldn’t say to employees in view of everything that we’re hearing and the restrictions on travel from Europe and who knows where else things will be locked down? Um, we discourage. We discourage travel at this time. It’s obviously up to you in terms of what travel. You take personal travel, and but it’s kind of it’s kind of a hard thing to That’s kind of a hard thing to control, because we we have We have this virus spreading throughout the United States on. We don’t know the scope of it right now, so we don’t really know all of the places that are infected or even the extent or scope. Ah, that different places are, are, are are infected so we don’t have enough tests now to even wrote test to test everyone who should be tested. So so that’s a difficult thing to do. But people will hopefully use their common sense about travel in view of whatever news that we’re hearing on a daily basis. You know, people are now going to fewer events because of just changes, things that are happening. We all know if events that we were gonna attend that have now been canceled, so things were kind of changing rapidly on a daily basis, and so there may be, you know, individual employees may decide that they’re not going to [00:20:57.41] spk_2:
may decide on their own. And and that the change of circumstance, um, is another reason for for being open and communicating. And you know what you opened with and and doing it frequently because the situation does change and and even, you know, even if there’s not a change from day to day, it’s just reassure. Like I said, it’s just reassuring that all the all the, uh, constituents, whatever you call them, all the all the year agencies and offices in your network that are important to you are staying in touch with you again. I know I said it earlier, but it’s just it’s just reassuring. I mean, let’s not lose our humanity in all this. It’s good to be communicating about. You know, when there’s something bad happens, you know, it’s it’s good to be talking about it and not ignoring it, because that’s, you know, you become trivial and irrelevant. I just Let’s not use our lose our humanity around all this. [00:21:09.91] spk_5:
I agree with you. I think it’s I think it’s so important that we are regularly in contact with employees and stakeholders to to reassure and to let them know that we’re thinking about them and that we will keep them apprised of any developments we learn about that we think could could impact them or service [00:21:22.26] spk_7:
is to them or, [00:21:24.04] spk_5:
uh, for employees the way in which they’re working, anything that we feel could impact them or be important so that with respect, what’s happening? What if it [00:21:58.44] spk_2:
comes down to, you know, this is gonna be evolving it. We know it’s going to get much worse in the US than it is right now. We’re recording on Thursday, March 12th. It’s gonna get much worse before it gets any better. What about someone just, I don’t know, sort of freaks out in the office and says, I’m not coming to work anymore. I can’t do this anymore, You know, Leaving my home scares the shit out of me. I can’t I can’t get out. What? What? What do you What do you say to somebody like that who was just freaking out? Whether it’s with their home or their in the office, and they say they’re not coming in again or if somebody just gets really worked up in panic, [00:23:19.48] spk_5:
I think it’s I mean, I think it’s going to depend on a case by case basis. And I say that because the reasonableness of whatever their fear is may depend on actually what is actually happening around them. So, for instance, that they’re in a place that’s a containment area like New Rochelle. Ah, and they have certain fears about leaving their house or something like that. Those fears may be greater than if they’re in a place where there isn’t such widespread. Ah ah, widespread community spread. One say so, Um, I mean, e. I think you just have to deal with the situation on it on a case by case basis, and you, like I said before, if there’s a way for not every position is gonna be amenable to remote or but if there is a way where an employer can work with someone whose position is amenable to remote work and the person is anxious about about working outside their home, then they I would recommend that they try to find a solution where the person can work remotely, if that’s a possibility, and I think also just the issue again of reassurance just continuing to keep employees aware of what information, what information [00:23:37.21] spk_0:
be, uh, the [00:23:52.34] spk_5:
employer has about any what they’re getting from the CDC and state and local authorities about the safety of coming to work. You know, the pope authorities haven’t said that it’s unsafe to come to work. It’s entered, In other words, that were following the guidance. Employers are following the guidance that’s being given to us by the public health authorities in our locality, in our locality, specifically because what I tell somebody in New York City or someone in Los Angeles may be different than I tell someone or in Washington state than what I what? What an employer tells someone who was in a place that has not been hit yet by the by the virus. [00:24:59.54] spk_2:
You mentioned some That’s interesting. What about, um, people whose work does not lend itself? Thio Remote work. I’m supposed there’s they’re on site nurse’s aides or nurses or social workers. They go to people’s homes, and that’s how they that’s. That’s what I get paid for. Their work does not lend itself to being remote, um, or even. But let’s you know, maybe that’s not such a good example, cause those air their health care workers so they would have the peopie the personal protective equipment. So that’s not a good example. All right, so I stuck with a mediocre host. I’m sorry. Um, think of an example that you [00:25:01.24] spk_5:
could have somebody work. Yeah. Really? Yeah. [00:25:15.54] spk_2:
Their work just doesn’t lend itself. It has to be done in an office. Do they have to be paid? If if the let’s say that the locality does say, you know offices were closed in this town, do they need to still be paid? How does that work? [00:26:10.38] spk_5:
So how it works if someone is non exempt from overtime pay laws meaning they’re entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a work week, they’re only entitled to be paid when they for the hours they actually work. So in answer to your question, if they’re not working, they’re not getting paid for exempt employees. If they work any portion of a work week, then they have to be paid for that week. But if they’re not working, you know, so that’s another. That’s another situation. But I think what’s gonna happen is or what is happening is, uh, employers. Employees will either use paid leave if they have it. You’re some employers say we’re gonna pay you anyway because of the situation of what’s happening. So it’s just gonna depend on the employer, But legally, you know, with a nonexempt employees, if they’re not, they’re not working. [00:26:14.12] spk_0:
Then they’re not than they. There’s not [00:26:16.72] spk_5:
a requirement for them to be paid. They get paid for the hours that they were [00:27:40.74] spk_2:
okay, and it comes back to let’s not lose our humanity. Let’s you know, I potentially I see a lot of fundraising around this. Um, not not immediately, but sort of after the after effects of it. Um, for nonprofits, you know, I’m I’m thinking of one organization. Ah, well, in 10. And I know they’re not gonna mind being mentioned. They just canceled a conference, which is gonna cost them a lot of money in cancellation fees with the venues with hotels and all kind of, you know, I foreseen I don’t want I’m hesitant to say, fundraising opportunities, fundraising needs for for nonprofits to fill the void. And part of it may very well be because they compensated employees that maybe they didn’t need to legally compensate. Or maybe they could put them on 50% pay for the weeks that they that they ran out of PTO or didn’t never had enough to start with. You know, they did something. They made grants off some type Thio, thio, nonexempt employees, um, to help them, and and they may end up having to fundraise toe to make that up. But they kept their humanity. I mean, they did what was right for employers. I mean, for employees, for their staff. Um, I think I think we’re gonna see some of that when this. When? When the worst of this is over. [00:28:27.25] spk_5:
It’s a good point for for organizations that that have made decisions too close or that or have to close, uh, and want to, you know, I want to still do right by their employees. I think I think that’s a good point. And I think we are seeing I’m seeing as well you know, organisations dealing with the situation of we you know, we need to cancel into that. We need to host an event because ah, because we can’t do it now or people aren’t gonna come. The people who we want to come have been told that can’t go toe large gatherings or we can have, Um we’re just We can’t do it at this time. So So you know, So I’m seeing I’m seeing a lot of that as well that that is a real issue for nonprofits. [00:29:30.34] spk_2:
And I think people are gonna recognize that the need to when we get to that stage of fundraising toe meet these extraordinary expenses wherever they might be, whether their conference cancellation fees or grants toe employees that didn’t have PTO. Um, I think people are gonna hear that need. Um I don’t think I’m naive. I I just haven’t optimism that people in the U. S. Will will come through for the organizations that are that are important to them that did the right thing and and did cancel meetings, conferences or or compromise themselves in some other ways to meet the health crisis. I think donors will recognize that need and will step up to it. When when we get to that stage, which we’re not, we’re not near, but I think it’s coming. Um, Lisa, we still got a couple minutes left. What else? Anything. You want to leave people with that we haven’t even talked about. [00:30:37.84] spk_5:
Well, I mean, I think one of the things that around this also is that they should really should be thinking about what are their plans that they’re putting in place? What are the policies that they’re putting in place? How are they going to communicate with their employees about what’s happening and and kind of keep the employees abreast of the changes that are happening? What are they gonna do with their contracts going forward into Prince of making sure that they’re protected if they did have to cancel the event, making sure that the force majeure and their contracts which which allows cancellation, is going to protect them in the event something like this, uh, we’re toe happen again to be thinking about their contracts to be thinking about remote work agreements that they need with employees and really having plans in place to be prepared. I mean, we think of also all of these universities and schools that are closing and do they have plans for remote education? There has to be, I would just say to employers, Do you make preplanned, make plans on right up your plans and communicate some two employees on what you’re gonna do in this emergency and think about emergencies going forward. And what aspects of your organ what aspects of your organization and the running of your organization. Could this impact your contracts? You’re you’re the staff that you need the supplies that you need to get. Ah, and all of those things. And, uh, [00:31:07.77] spk_2:
and, you know, for this emergency, it’s not too late. I mean, we still have time to put these plans in place. Okay? [00:31:14.33] spk_5:
Exactly. Maybe maybe [00:31:20.79] spk_2:
a little remedial A rushed, Um, it may not be the best. It may not serve you 10 years from now, but you know, you’ll have that time to figure it out after this crisis. But it’s again. It’s Thursday, March 12th. There still is time to be rational and plan and put these things in place that you’re talking about. There’s still time. [00:32:22.94] spk_5:
Absolutely. And I think so. I would say I would say, Tom, yes, they come and get on it and start planning. Make sure that you’re doing these plans and that you are and also the employers air staying alert to what the public health agencies air saying on dhe to communicate that to employees. So, absolutely. As you know, somebody had said, uh, keep calm and wash your hands and and and and make your plans. It’s not too late for employers to be planning. And I think that’s what they need to be focused on making these written communication plans to their employees, reassuring their employees. I’m keeping them employees Ah aware of whatever the latest developments are with the public health agencies at the federal, state and local levels. [00:32:30.84] spk_2:
It’s not too late, but the time is here. [00:32:33.84] spk_5:
The time is now. If they haven’t done, [00:32:49.94] spk_2:
isn’t this thing isn’t going away? So it’s not too late, But the time is now get going exactly at least a brother. We’re gonna leave it there. Thanks so much. At least there’s an attorney and partner at Perlman and Perlman Law Firm. You’ll find the firm at Perlman and perlman dot com. It’s p e. R l permanent perlman dot com and at tax exempt lawyer Lisa. Thanks so much for doing this on the fly. And ah, well done. Thanks so much. [00:33:04.04] spk_5:
You’re welcome. Tony. Take care and be with [00:33:47.74] spk_2:
you. Our creative producer is clear Meyerhoff sama. Liebowitz is the line producer. The show’s social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our Web guy, and this guy’s this music you may not be hearing, but you might be. I’m not sure whether we’re gonna get music in the post production, but anyway, our routine music that you almost always here is by Scott Stein of Brooklyn. Many thanks to Sam and Susan and Mark for helping me get this special episode out to you in short order My thanks again to Lisa Brauner and prominent Perlman for doing this on the fly You with me next to me next time for non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.