November 2020 Georgia HR Legal Updates

Atlanta COVID-19 Facemask Notice Posting Requirement

What happened?
The City of Atlanta has issued further facemask requirements, now requiring additional signage to be posted by businesses to opt-out of enforcement of facemask mandates on their premises by Atlanta police, as well as send an email notice to the police department.

What are the details?
Issued in late October, the most recent requirements for Atlanta employers include a new worksite posting, and an email requirement.

Employers who wish to opt-out of the City of Atlanta’s Local Option Face Covering requirement will need to post a clearly legible sign in a two-inch or larger font at all public entrances stating the following:

This location does not consent to enforcement of any local face covering requirement upon this property.”

Additionally, employers will need to notify the Atlanta Police Department stating their refusal to consent to enforcement of Atlanta’s Local Option Face Covering Requirement by either emailing a notice to MaskOptOut@AtlantaGa.Gov or sending a written notice to Atlanta Police Department, 226 Peachtree Street SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303.

Employers should note that Georgia already has posting requirements for COVID-19. The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act provides a litigation shield for businesses operating inside the state of Georgia. Employers who do not sell tickets to enter their establishment must, to be protected by this litigation shield, have the following text in at least one-inch Arial font place apart from any other text at all points of entry to their property that states:

Warning
Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

An article covering these changes can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Atlanta employers should review the above requirements and ensure they have the required notices posted at their workplaces, if they wish to opt-out of local mask requirements.

August 2020 Georgia HR Legal Updates

Georgia Businesses May Opt-In or Opt-Out of Local Mask Orders

What happened?
Georgia Governor Kemp issued an August 15 Executive Order — effective through August 31 — that allows local governments to require individuals to wear face coverings, masks, face shields, or PPE if certain conditions are met.

What are the details?
The August 15 Executive Order protects businesses from liability from any local mask order and gives businesses the option to choose not to permit enforcement of a local mask order against individuals on their property.

The August 15 Executive Order allows local governments under a “Local Option Face Covering Requirement” to require individuals to wear face masks or face coverings when not able to maintain physical distancing from non-cohabitating persons if a local government entity meets the “Threshold Requirement.” “Threshold Requirement” is defined as “the prevalence in a county of confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the previous 14 days is equal to or greater than 100 cases per 100,000 people according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.”

The full ordinance can be downloaded by clicking here.

Employers in Georgia should review their face mask policies and determine if they would like to continue requiring masks or opt-out of the ordinance.

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Georgia Expands Lactation Break Law

What happened?
Georgia passed HB 1090 requiring employers to provide reasonable break time to working mothers who desire to express breast milk at their worksite during working hours (“lactation breaks”).

What are the details?
The new law applies to employers with one or more employees and requires that working mothers be provided a location, other than a restroom, where they can express milk in private. It also requires that the lactation breaks be paid at the employee’s regular rate. Where an employee is salaried, employers cannot require employees to use paid leave for such breaks or reduce their salary as a result of such breaks.

The new law largely overlaps with existing federal law. However, there are important differences to consider. Under the federal FLSA, employers are required to provide reasonable unpaid lactation breaks to non-exempt employees for up to one year after a child’s birth.

Unlike federal law, Georgia’s law applies to all employees, requires break time to be paid, and does not contain a one-year time limit on granting of lactation breaks.

HB 1090 can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Georgia employers should review and update their employee handbooks and policies regarding break times for employees.

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Georgia Shields Businesses from COVID-19 Liability

What happened?
Georgia recently became the ninth state to shield businesses from liability stemming from COVID-19. Governor Kemp signed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act on August 5, 2020, and took effect immediately.

What are the details?
The Act amends the Georgia tort claims law to provide new definitions, exceptions, and a presumption against liability. There is a general shield against liability so long as the businesses did not act with gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, or reckless or intentional disregard in relation to someone being exposed and/or contracting COVID-19. Although the law appears focused on healthcare, it applies to any “healthcare facility, healthcare provider, entity, or individual.” The term “Entity” is defined extremely broadly to encompass almost any business.

In addition to the general shield against liability, businesses that provide a written warning are further protected by a rebuttable presumption that the person trying to sue assumed the risk of being exposed or contracting COVID-19 by entering the facility or engaging with the business. To be eligible to assert the presumption, businesses must post the warnings at a point of entry to the premises, and for special events, can print the warning on tickets or wristbands. Posted warnings must be in Arial font of at least one inch, which is 72 points or greater, be placed apart from all other text, and state:

Warning
Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

The new law only provides a defense to lawsuits, meaning plaintiffs can still file suits and businesses will incur defense costs to defend against the lawsuit. The business is also potentially liable for damages if the plaintiff is able to prove the exceptions (gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, etc.) to the shield the statute provides. In addition, the law only protects Georgia businesses and their owners for potential or actual exposures to COVID-19 that occur through July 14, 2021. Georgia joined 21 other attorneys general urging Congress for a similar national law.

The full Act can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Georgia employers should review the act and update their workplace policies to ensure they are following the required steps to defend themselves from COVID-19 litigation using this Act.

July 2020 Georgia HR Legal Updates

Georgia Passes Bill to Limit Liability from COVID-19–Related Claims

What happened?
On June 26, 2020, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill (“SB”) 359 limiting liability for COVID-19– related claims.

What are the details?
SB 359 protects covered entities and individuals from liability for injury or death related to COVID-19 “unless the claimant proves that the actions… showed: gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.” Under the bill, a COVID-19 liability claim includes those for transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure to the virus that results in injury or death of a claimant. Covered entities are defined specifically to include healthcare facilities and healthcare providers, as well as associations, companies, corporations, governmental entities, religious or educational organizations, volunteer organizations, and more.

The full text of SB 359 can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers operating in Georgia should seek legal counsel if they are facing a civil claim.

Introducing Vensure’s New Website Vensure.com and Vensure Social Media!

Dear Valued Client,

Vensure is proud to unveil our new website, vensure.com. Featuring a new design and exciting new features, vensure.com provides a powerful new way to discover the latest information about the Vensure family of products and services. In addition, Vensure is proud to announce our new social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, offering vital information to help you run your business better.

New features:

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  • New Client Center, featuring updated and fillable forms, easier navigation by state, new safety reporting forms and new Workers’ Compensation anti-fraud posters.
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  • Join the conversation online at our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.
  • And continuing in 2012, our newsletter, Vensure Vision will be published quarterly.

“We’re excited to join the online conversation. Social media provides a new way for Vensure to build a deeper relationship with our clients and future customers,” says Carol Marshall, Vensure’s Director of Client Relations & Communications. “We hope our clients join us.”

We think you’ll like our new look, improved navigation and fresh information. While we hope that our online services bring new efficiency and convenience to our valued clients, we still look forward to providing the same level of excellent products and services, with a personal touch.

Please “Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, join us on LinkedIn and read our online newsletter, Vensure Vision. We invite you to send feedback and let us know what you’d like to read. Please submit any questions or comments on our social media sites or by sending an email to vensure@vensure.com.

As always, Vensure is here to offer you valuable service, affordable options and solid information resources to help you successfully run your business.

Vensure.com, the improved resource to help you work smart.

Welcome and Enjoy!

Kind regards,
Tom Lindsay
President/CEO