Construction Law

4 Questions Contractors Have During Uncertain Times featured image

4 Questions Contractors Have During Uncertain Times

Regardless of the size of your business or your location, if you work in construction, your operations have been impacted in some form by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country. As a construction law firm committed to the industry, we are here to provide contractors with answers to the difficult questions they may have during this challenging time. 

In this article, a Broward contractor attorney will discuss four common questions we are receiving related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re interested in gaining access to an attorney on demand and unlimited phone calls with our construction law firm to answer any questions you may have, learn more about our affordable, monthly subscription plans starting at $599 per month. 

1) Does construction qualify as an essential business?

Yes, in most cases construction work qualifies. There are some statewide exceptions like in New York, and local governments can enforce suspensions on construction projects if jobsites aren’t in compliance with their regulations. Currently, the state of Florida considers construction essential. However, to confirm whether or not your business is essential, begin by reviewing the order from your state, city, or county and consult our Broward contractor attorneys to confirm that you are permitted to continue working. Our attorneys can also provide you and your team with essential business cards that confirm that you are permitted to work during a government-imposed shutdown.

Related: Is Construction Essential?

2) If we need to temporarily cease business operations due to COVID-19 contamination, what are my options?

All taxable employers can request a relief if their business closure is related to COVID-19 contamination. However, whether or not your business qualifies will be determined on an individual basis. As far as paying employees goes, this can be a more challenging topic that requires the attention of a construction lawyer. According to federal wage and hour laws, contractors are not required to pay employees during a project suspension; however, with the creation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), this may no longer be the case in many instances. Moreover, your company handbook may have specific policies for paid time off (PTO). Consult a Central FL construction lawyer to review your employee contract and determine what exactly you owe employees during a COVID-19-related suspension.

Related: Five Common Questions About the FFCRA 

3) What if business slows down because of COVID-19, but my workplace isn’t contaminated?

Along with concerns of a contaminated jobsite, contractors have to consider the economic impact this pandemic will have on their business. With an impacted market, employers may have to make some hard decisions, including releasing employees due to a slowdown in business. If that slowdown isn’t directly related to the pandemic, employees may be eligible to enter a shared work program, allowing you to essentially reduce hours but retain employees. This allows your employees to collect unemployment benefits that replace a portion of their wages. Not every state has a Shared Work program, but Florida does. To learn more about the qualifications, approval process, and eligibility requirements, consult our Central FL contractor lawyers.  

4) What if we need to terminate the employment of employees because of the impact of COVID-19?

Unfortunately, in some cases, construction businesses will need to reduce their payroll permanently to meet business needs because of the impact of COVID-19. Employers have the right to reduce the hours of employees. Moreover, employers are legally obligated to terminate the employment of employees due to business reasons. However, depending on the state you are located in, the employee may have a right to seek unemployment benefits if they are laid off, terminated, or had their hours reduced. 

Here are some best practices for terminating the employment of employees:

  1. Review the Employee Agreement: employers should review the employment contract, company policies, and any other documents that set forth the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment. 
  2. Review the Personnel File: employers should also review employee’s personnel file to confirm that there is no potential wrongful termination claim if they release the employee. 
  3. Schedule a Termination Meeting: employers need to have a plan in place for their termination meeting. Ideally, it’s best to conduct this meeting privately at the end of the work week with a few company representatives present. 
  4. Take These Final Steps: Provide a brief explanation of the reason for termination and communicate post-employment benefits available to the employee. Encourage the employee to sign a termination release before they leave.

One final thing for all employers to consider is that there are many new wage and hour laws that were created for COVID-19-related employment issues, including the FFCRA and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. It’s critical that employers comply with these new paid leave laws and consult an attorney with any questions. Furthermore, employment decisions like releasing employees can impact eligibility for small business loans, so it’s important to have a full understanding of the legal and financial impact any employment decisions will have on the future of your business. For more information on any of these newly enacted laws, consult a coronavirus construction attorney

Related: Employer Guidelines for Employee Terminations 

If you would like to speak with a coronavirus construction lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.