COVID-19 FAQ

LAYOFFS AND FURLOUGHS DUE TO COVID-19 IN OHIO: WHAT ALL EMPLOYEES NEED TO KNOW.

Employers across Ohio are closing their operations due to Gov. DeWine’s declaration of a state of emergency and the “Shelter in Place” Order.  While the emergency declaration and the “Shelter in Place” Order are necessary to #flattenthecurve, many Ohio businesses are reducing their workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic through layoffs, furloughs, reductions in hours, and pay cuts. The business decisions an employer makes have different impacts on its employees.

If you have been laid off, furloughed or had a reduction in hours, you have important rights.

OHIO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

The emergency declaration expands unemployment coverage in Ohio until the emergency declaration is lifted.

  • If you are quarantined due to COVID-19 you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • The one week waiting period to file for unemployment benefits has been waived so an unemployed worker can file for benefits immediately upon being separated.

The online form to apply is found at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/num/JFS00671/pdf/. Applying online will help expedite your application.

If you are working, but have a reduction in hours, you may still be eligible to apply; however, your earnings will be deducted from your maximum benefit amount. This means if what you earn in a week with reduced hours is more than your state maximum benefit, you will not receive unemployment. Maximum Weekly Benefits are:

Number of Dependents If your Average Weekly Wage was: Maximum Weekly Benefit
0 $960 or higher $480
1 or 2 $1,164 or higher $582
3 or more $1,294 or higher $647

 

  • The emergency declaration has waived the requirement that a person receiving unemployment benefits is “actively seeking work.”

THE CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND EMERGENCY SECURITY ACT

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Emergency Security Act or the “CARES Act” that passed on March 27, 2020 impacts your unemployment benefit entitlement and Maximum Weekly Benefits. Under this federal stimulus law, if you have an unemployment claim in Ohio, you are entitled to an additional weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment on top of existing state unemployment benefits for a maximum of thirty-nine weeks, subject to further extension rules. Further, sick employees who have the coronavirus can also collect unemployment if they are not receiving paid leave benefits.

The CARES Act mandates extension of unemployment coverage to an individual who is otherwise able to work and:

  1. who is not eligible for regular compensation or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;
  2. who has exhausted all rights to regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;
  3. who is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because the individual has been diagnosed with COVID–19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. who is caring for a household family member who has been diagnosed with COVID–19;
  5. who is primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and this prevents work;
  6. who is an employee or new hire that is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine or health provider self-quarantine;
  7. who has become the breadwinner or source of major support for a household because the head of the household has died from COVID–19;
  8. who has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19 due to closure of the place of employment; or
  9. who is self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.

WAGE AND HOUR CONSIDERATIONS

No pay means no work.

If you have had your normal work hours reduced, your employer cannot require you to do any work outside of those reduced hours without you getting paid for it.  In other words, if an employer asks an employee to do any work during the reduced hours, then the employee must be compensated for that time.   Things like answering emails, taking phone calls, picking up mail, etc. are all work activities for which employees must be compensated.

Wages

An employer cannot reduce an hourly employee’s pay below the Ohio minimum wage which is currently $8.70 per hour.  Employers cannot reduce a salaried employee’s weekly wage below $684 per week.  Both of these are still violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Ohio Wage Act.

Payment

The Ohio Prompt Pay Act remains in effect.  Employers must still pay employees at least on a bi-weekly basis and cannot make an employee wait more than 30-days for their paycheck.

NEW FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE RIGHTS AND PAID SICK TIME

On March 18, 2020, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) became law.  The law includes two new important provisions for Ohio workers: 1) an emergency expansion to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and 2) a new Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that requires paid leave for employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak in certain circumstances:

EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT

  • Applies to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and to all public employers that are covered by the FMLA regardless of size.
  • An employee is eligible after he or she has been employed for at least 30 calendar days before the first day of the leave.
  • Employees are entitled to 12 weeks of protected leave if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency. A public health emergency means an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a federal, state, or local authority.
  • The first 2 weeks of leave are unpaid, but an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave for unpaid leave.
  • After the first 2 weeks, leave is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, with a cap of $200 per day. For employees with schedules that vary from week to week, a six-month average is to be used to calculate the number of hours to be paid. Employees who have worked for less than six months prior to leave are entitled to the employee’s reasonable expectation at hiring of the average number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work.
  • The Secretary of Labor is empowered to issue regulations to exclude healthcare providers and emergency responders from the definition of employees who are allowed to take such leave, and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.

EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT

Requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers regardless of size to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees on top of what the employer now provides (if any). This new paid sick time applies to employees who are unable to work, or telework, because the employee:

  1. Is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order.
  2. Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  3. Is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine as described above.
  5. Is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care has been closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
  6. Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health & Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Can I Fight Back Against an Administrative Law Judge’s Decision on my SSDI Claim?

Fighting the ALJ’s Decision

Picture this: you have made your way through the long disability determination process. Finally, you have had a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). But unfortunately, the ALJ’s decision is not in your favor, and your claim was denied. You may find yourself asking- what now? At this point, Social Security gives you a couple of choices.

The ALJ Denied My Social Security Benefits – What Are My Options?

Option 1:

Your first option is to appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council  is another component of the SSA, with its headquarters located in Falls Church, VA. The appeal must be filed within 60 days of the ALJ’s decision. You don’t get another hearing at this level. Rather, the Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision, the evidence in your claim file, and legal arguments submitted by your attorney in support of the appeal. The Appeals Council will then make a new decision.

The Appeals Council may uphold the ALJ’s decision and deny your claim again. Alternatively, it may reverse the ALJ’s decision and send your claim back to the ALJ with instructions to take another look at it. This is called a remand. Lastly, the Appeals Council may reverse the ALJ’s decision decision enitrely and award benefits to you directly. Because the Appeals Council handles appeals from ALJs all over the nation, it usually takes 12 to 18 months to receive a decision. For full details on the appeals process, you can check out the SSA’s website.

Option 2:

Your second option is to file a new application for benefits. Social Security no longer allows you to file an appeal and a new application at the same time, except under limited circumstances.

The best decision for you depends on several factors, including the strength of the evidence in your claim; whether you continue to be insured for the disability benefit; the ongoing state of your health; and of course any legal mistakes the ALJ may have made in denying your claim.

This decision is best made in consultation with a Social Security Disability Insurance Attorney who is familiar with your case and can advise you as to your options.

 

Originally published on December 2nd, 2015

 

What is the Onset Date for Social Security Disability Insurance?

The Onset Date is the Date You Became Disabled.

Each SSDI case is different, and so are the onset dates. Firstly, some onset dates are associated with a traumatic event or accident. For example, the date of an accident which led to your inability to work might determine this date. In other scenarios, like chronic illness cases, onset date may be unclear. There is often an unclear timeline for chronic illnesses and disabilities. This may make it more difficult to establish a clear date.

Determining the onset date for a disability, involves consideration of your allegations, work history, if any, and the medical and other evidence concerning the severity of your medical condition. After collecting this information, each aspect of this criteria is weighted by relevancy. Additionally, the available evidence will  depend on your individual case. The day your illness caused you to stop working  is  a key factor in determining this date. Choosing the correct date is very important. It will have an impact on what kind of benefit you could receive. Additional information can be found on the Social Security Administration website.

If you have any question about your disability onset, our Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security attorneys may be able to help. Give Barkan Meizlish, LLP a call today.

 

Originally published on May 13th, 2015.

COVID-19 Updates and Information

To Our Clients, Co-Counsel, Defense Counsel, Friends and the Community:

At Barkan Meizlish, LLP, protecting the health and safety of our personnel and their families and servicing the needs of our clients is of the upmost importance. Barkan Meizlish, LLP is changing the way we do business while our communities, states and our nation deals with the global COVID-19 pandemic.  However, our commitment to providing outstanding client service remains unchanged.  

As of Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Barkan Meizlish, LLP will close its physical offices and transition to a work-from-home operation.  The following measures have been implemented: 

  1. Attorneys and staff are equipped to work remotely with full access to client files; 
  1. Protocols are in place to ensure the confidentiality, privacy and safety of all records and data; 
  1. On a rotating basis, personnel will come to the office to pick up and scan mail to the appropriate attorneys and staff handling your case; 
  1. Communications can occur with attorneys and staff via email, telephone and video conferencing;  
  1. In-person appointments, check disbursements and meetings will occur on a case-by-case basis; and, 
  1. Canceled all non-essential business travel for our attorneys and staff. 

Our Management Team is closely monitoring the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health.  We will adjust our policies as events unfold and further guidance is given from the relevant agencies handling this global COVID-19 pandemic.
Sincerely,

 The Team at Barkan Meizlish DeRose Wentz McInerney Peifer, LLP

How Can I File a Wage and Hour Lawsuit in Ohio?

“A fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work,” is such an ancient principle that versions of it appear in the Bible and even earlier writings. The concept was enshrined in U.S law during the 1930s with adoption of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, which mandates the payment of a minimum wage and eligibility for overtime pay. The general rule for most people is that they earn overtime after they work more 40 hours over the course of a single week.

For nearly 90 years, employers have violated the FLSA. They commit wage theft and refuse to pay overtime in many ways, including

  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors,
  • Miscategorizing hourly workers as managers,
  • Forcing people to work off the clock,
  • Docking pay excessively for supplies and policy violations,
  • Promising but never authorizing comp time leave instead of paying overtime,
  • Stealing tips,
  • Miscalculating tips as part of the hourly wage, and
  • Telling tipped employees they are not eligible for overtime.

The good news is that the FLSA gives workers the right to report wage theft and unpaid overtime. The process of compelling an employer to hand over back pay and compensatory damages often seems daunting, which is why we make our services available as wage and hour attorneys in Ohio.

Know the Rules

During 2020, Ohio set the minimum wage for the majority of workers at $8.70 per hour. Tipped employees could legally be paid $4.35 per hour as long as their tips ensured they averaged a pay rate of at least $8.70 per hour. If the tips come in short, the employer must make up the difference.

Individuals who work for U.S. government agencies in Ohio are guaranteed only the federal minimum wage of $7.25. At all types of employers, people who get paid by the hour and earn less than $455 per week can earn overtime at a rate that starts at 1.5 times their usual hourly pay.

Exemptions apply to eligibility for the Ohio and federal wage and overtime rules, however. For instance, managers and independent contractors do not have rights to demand the minimum wage or overtime. Speaking with an employee rights attorney when an employer says you are not covered by the FLSA can help clarify your situation.

Keep Track and Ask Coworkers

Rules put in place for enforcing the FLSA allow workers to ask their managers and supervisors about hours, wages, and overtime. It is also legal for coworkers to talk to each other about what they are being paid and to compare pay stubs. Such discussions among coworkers can identify patterns of wage theft and unpaid overtime that provide grounds for a collective or class action lawsuit.

As employee rights attorneys, we understand that workers may hesitate to exercise these rights to ask about and advocate for fair pay. Retaliation from managers happens far too frequently. The thing to remember is that penalizing, bullying, or firing a worker for raising issues related to wages is also illegal and can serve as the basis for a lawsuit.

Act Fast and Know Where to Report Wage and Hour Violations

The statute of limitations on filing claims for wage theft and unpaid overtime is two years. The clock starts ticking on the day of the last violation. When a claim is filed, all past instances of unfair pay can be part of the complaint.

Individuals who work under the laws of Ohio must contact the Department of Commerce’s Division of Labor and Worker Safety. Federal employees file their complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Wages and Hours.

Working with an Ohio wage and hour attorney can make going through the process and holding an employer accountable easier. The lawyer will know how to prepare and submit paperwork, and also how to obtain the corporate records that are needed as evidence. Gaining access to those records will be particularly important for determining whether it makes sense to pursue a collective or class action lawsuit.

You can schedule an appointment with a Columbus employment attorney at Barkan Meizlish, LLP, by calling (614) 221-4221 or by connecting with us online. The initial consultation is free, and all communications with potential clients are kept strictly confidential.

Important Updates Regarding Workers’ Compensation for First Responders Diagnosed with PTSD:

For some years now in Ohio, lawmakers have been working on a bill that would allow first responders to apply for workers’ compensation if they receive a PTSD diagnosis. The current legislature in Ohio states that in order to receive compensation for PTSD, a physical injury must also be present. This has historically prevented individuals, like first responders, who witness a traumatic event from receiving benefits despite having their lives impact and work inhibited. Several factors have caused push back on the bill for the last nine years. The anticipated increase in workers’ compensation costs by expanding the eligibility criteria has drawn skepticism, as well as fear of a snowball effect following the expanded guideline.

That all being said, this expansion would allow for many workers affected by PTSD to apply for potentially life-saving benefits. The bill passed in the House on February 12th, 2020 and is scheduled for consideration in the Senate.

Steps to Take After Wrongful Termination in Ohio

Wrongfully Terminated in Ohio? Here Are the Steps to Take

Getting fired hurts. Losing your job creates financial problems and makes you doubt yourself. The pain is even worse if you believe you suffered a wrongful termination.

In Ohio, employers have broad discretion to fire workers for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the reason is not discriminatory. Valid reasons to let an employee go range from poor performance, policy and safety violations, economic considerations, to shifts in priorities that require different skills.

What employers cannot do, however, is fire you in retaliation for exercising your rights to receive fair pay or to work free from discrimination and abuse, or for specifically discriminatory reasons. When that happens, you may have grounds for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit and receiving monetary damages in Ohio. Although, it is important to note, you must have significant proof of the retaliation or discrimination.

Succeeding with a wrongful termination claim is not easy but taking the correct steps when you lose your job will set you on the proper path. Here are five things to do if you suspect your employer fired you illegally.

Do Not Lose Your Cool

No matter how good it feels at the moment, cursing out your boss and threatening to sue will not serve you well in the long run. We understand that remaining calm may be a struggle, especially if you have suffered harassment and other forms of unfair treatment leading up to the final notice of your firing. But you will want to resist any urge to create a scene.

If you file a wrongful termination lawsuit in Ohio, your former employer can cite threatening behavior or damage to equipment as valid reasons for ending your time with the company. Do not give them an excuse that a court could accept.

Ask for an Official Termination Notice

You have the right to know why you are being fired. Also, a company facing a wrongful termination claim must explain why it took what the court will call the adverse employment action.

Getting the stated reason for your termination in writing allows you and your Ohio employment law attorney to build a case for why that reason does not make sense. It may also turn out that the company gives a different reason during the trial then it did when it wrote your termination letter. Calling attention to the shifting explanation can work in your favor.

Save Emails and Texts Related to Your Firing

If you see your wrongful termination coming, forward harassing emails and texts to your personal accounts, keep notes of when and how conversations that you feel are inappropriate occur. Make sure to save performance reviews And other information that reflects well on you as an employee.

Additionally, take notes on threatening or abusive conversations, and keep track of demotions or reassignments that strike you as unfair or done to convince you to quit. All this information can be used to support your wrongful termination claim.

Learn What Justifies a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in Ohio

Employers cannot fire an employee if the principal reason for doing so is one or more the following:

  • Discrimination based on the employee’s race, national origin, sex, religion, genetic profile, or age if older than 40
  • Discrimination based on the employee’s known or suspected disability
  • Requests from the employee for the accommodation of a disability
  • Use of available Family and Medical Leave Act leave by the employee
  • Military service by the employee
  • Pregnancy or childbirth for the employee
  • Retaliation against the employee for reporting or participating in the investigation of discrimination or retaliation
  • Reporting safety problems
  • Reporting violations of laws and regulations
  • Engaging in union or labor organizing activities

Speak With an Ohio Wrongful Termination Lawyer

If you recognize your situation in the list above, it is time to meet with a Columbus wrongful termination attorney and discuss your legal options. Do not wait long. Several different employee rights laws can be cited in wrongful termination lawsuits, and each has a short statute of limitations.

At Barkan Meizlish, LLP, we offer free, confidential, no-pressure consultations to victims of wrongful termination throughout Ohio. Call us at (614) 221-4221 to learn if we can help you. You can also schedule an appointment online.

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