Senate Approves CARES Act: Key Tax Changes

Late Wednesday evening, the Senate passed a third stimulus bill in the wake of the public health crisis and economic fallout stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.  The new bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (or “CARES”) Act has not yet been voted on by the House, although a vote is expected by Friday.

As it currently stands, the bill provides both individuals and businesses with robust economic support, including through changes to the federal tax code.

Phillips Murrah attorney Jessica Cory

Jessica N. Cory represents businesses and individuals in a wide range of transactional matters, with an emphasis on tax planning.

Two of the key tax changes include:

  • Recovery Rebates for Individual Taxpayers.  The CARES Act would provide a $1,200 refundable tax credit for individuals (or $2,400 for joint taxpayers), plus an additional $500/child for taxpayers with children.  Taxpayers would not have to include these rebates in taxable income on their 2020 tax returns and the rebate would be refundable for taxpayers with no offsetting tax liability.  To be eligible, an individual must have earned qualifying income on a 2018 or 2019 tax return, which includes both earned income and certain retirement benefits, including Social Security payments.  The credit begins to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross income of at least $75,000 (or $150,000 for joint taxpayers, or $112,500 for heads of household), with the credit reduced by 5% for each additional dollar of income over that amount.  Currently, the credit is intended to be a one-time rebate, although lawmakers may consider additional rebates in the event of a prolonged downturn.
  • Employee Retention Credit for Employers.  Under the CARES Act, employers would be eligible to take a 50% refundable payroll tax credit on up to $10,000 of wages paid during the crisis, for a credit of up to $5,000/employee.  This credit would be available to employers whose business is forced to close, or partially close, due to virus-related shutdown orders, or which has a significant decline in gross receipts, meaning a decrease of 50% or more when compared to the same quarter in the prior year.  Employers with more than 100 employees would qualify for the credit for wages paid to employees retained but not currently working due to the crisis.  Smaller employers would qualify for the credit for all employee wages paid.

The CARES Act also includes a number of other helpful provisions for both individuals and businesses.  For example, certain individuals affected by COVID-19 could take up to $100,000 of early distributions from qualified retirement plans without the normal 10% penalty, with the ability to repay these amounts within three years of withdrawal, or recognize the distribution in taxable income over a three-year period.  In addition, the CARES ACT would also create a new above-the-line charitable contribution for individuals who do not itemize, allow individuals who do itemize to take increased charitable contribution deductions, and permit individuals to exclude up to $5,250 of employer-provided student loan repayment from income.  For businesses, the CARES Act would modify the limits on net operating losses for corporations (and the limitation on losses for taxpayers other than corporations) enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “TCJA”), modify the TCJA’s limitation on business interest expense deductions, and make other technical amendments.  Finally, both individuals and businesses would be able to delay certain tax payments, including employer-side Social Security taxes and 50% for self-employed individuals’ Social Security tax.


For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.552.2472 or email me.

Keep up with our ongoing COVID-19 resources, guidance and updates at our RESOURCE CENTER.

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Senate Approves CARES Act: Important SBA Loan Information

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Kara K. Laster

Late last night, the Senate unanimously approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), which is set for a House vote on Friday. The legislation authorizes $349 billion for loans to be distributed under Small Business Administration’s 7(a) program. Some of the important information for small businesses is highlighted below:

Phillips Murrah attorney Kara Laster

Kara K. Laster represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters including real estate and mergers and acquisitions.

  • Eligible businesses are those with 500 or fewer employees.
    • To be eligible, businesses must have been operational as of February 15, 2020.
    • Sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals are also eligible to apply for the loans.
    • Exceptions apply for industries in which the SBA size standard allows more than 500 employees.
  • Small businesses may receive loans of up to $10 million under the new maximum loan amount.
    • Lenders will determine the proper loan amount by using a formula that takes into account past payroll expenses.
  • In addition to existing allowable uses, businesses may use the money from loans for payroll; paid sick, medical, or family leave; continuation of group health care benefits; mortgage, rent, and utility payments; and other debt.
  • Loan forgiveness is available to businesses that retain workers or rehire workers who were laid off.
    • Businesses will not have to repay loans used for payroll costs, interest payments on mortgages incurred before February 15, 2020, rent under a lease in force before February 15, 2020, and utilities for which service began prior to February 15, 2020.
    • Only payments made during the 8-week period beginning on the date of the origination of the loan will be forgiven.
    • The amount forgiven will decrease in proportion to a reduction in the number of employees.
  • Small businesses will be able to apply through banks, credit unions and other lenders.
    • Approximately 1,800 private lenders are already approved to issue 7(a) loans, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that new regulations will make it possible for almost all FDIC-insured banks to make SBA loans.
  • Special terms include a maximum interest rate of 4%, no prepayment penalty, no personal or collateral guarantee requirement, and the ability to defer payments for six months to a year. The maximum term of the loan is 10 years.

The CARES Act also includes assistance for mid-sized businesses with between 500 and 10,000 employees. The Secretary of the Treasury will implement a program that provides financing to banks and other lenders that make direct loans to mid-sized businesses. The annual interest rate for these loans will not exceed 2% and no interest payments will be due for at least 6 months after a loan is made. The funds must be used to retain at least 90% of the workforce with full compensation and benefits until September 30, 2020. In addition, businesses seeking loans must not outsource or offshore jobs for the term of the loan plus 2 years after repayment, and may not issue dividends for up to a year after repayment.


For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.606.4762 or email me.

Keep up with our ongoing COVID-19 resources, guidance and updates at our RESOURCE CENTER.

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Oklahoma Department of Commerce to host teleconference series on SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Kendra M. Norman

For Oklahoma businesses interested in more information about the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, The Oklahoma Department of Commerce is hosting three teleconferences that will cover the application process.

Also, according to their website, Commerce Director of Business Retention and Expansion, Ray Little, and SBA Office of Disaster Assistance Public Information Officer, Susheel Kumar, will be on the calls to provide information and answer questions.

Upcoming Calls will occur on the following three days:

  1. Thursday, March 26 from 2 to 3 p.m.
  2. Tuesday, March 31 from 2 to 3 p.m.
  3. Thursday, April 2 from 2 to 3 p.m.

To register, go to this website: https://www.okcommerce.gov/oklahoma-small-business-teleconference-sba-economic-injury-disaster-loan-application-and-program/

@OKcommerce on Twitter

@OKcommerce on Facebook


Kendra Norman Web

Kendra M. Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.606.4726 or email me.

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Cybersecurity during COVID-19 transition to remote work policies

By Phillips Murrah Director Cody J. Cooper

Cody Cooper online photo

Cody Cooper is a Director in the Intellectual Property Practice Group and represents individuals and companies in a wide range of intellectual property matters, including patent, trademark and copyright matters. His practice also includes commercial litigation.

The pandemic spread of the COVID-19 virus brings with it threats to the physical health of employees and the financial health of employers. It also brings an increased data security risk for both individuals and companies.

If you are like me, you have received countless emails from every store, restaurant or business you have ever visited, passed by or looked at (I still can’t figure out how some of these companies have my email address) explaining how they are address the pandemic situation.

Add in the communications regarding the 2020 census, and there are countless opportunities for ill-intending individuals to try to steal your personal information. It is important to be especially vigilant at these times and not click on emails or links in emails or texts unless you are absolutely certain they are legitimate. The best practice is to err on the side of caution and assume anything remotely questionable should not be opened.

For companies, responding to the pandemic situation means having to rethink traditional work settings and moving employees out of the office and enabling them to work from home. With this comes the obvious preparation to allow employees access to company information outside of the company’s network. But, it is incredibly important to recognize that this comes with an increased risk of data security issues.

Allowing employees access to information outside of a company’s traditional network ultimately means that the company has had to store company information on a medium that is accessible through the Internet. Companies should revisit security policies to make certain that they have in place the appropriate measures to prevent unwanted third-parties from accessing this information or employees’ inadvertent misuse of sensitive information.

Companies can take several steps to put themselves in the best position to allow employees to work remotely and while also putting themselves in the best place to continue to secure the company’s sensitive data.

The easiest and most important steps a company can and should take are:

(1) limit access to only employees that need it and only the data they need to perform their job;

(2) set security settings to require password logins (whether through a company device or personal device);

(3) where possible, turn on multi‑factor authentication to ensure a high level of security over the most sensitive data;

(4) decrease the time before device lock out the user and require re-entry of their password.

For companies with the financial and technology capability, they can also deploy data loss prevention (DLP) products such as mobile device management systems or cloud access security broker to add extra layers of data protection. Companies can also run security tests, i.e. fake phishing attempts, during this time to test which employees are practicing safe data security practices and remind those that are not of their responsibilities. It is always good practice to regularly circulate a newsletter with security updates and reminders, and that practice should continue – or or even increase – while employees are working remotely.

Unfortunately, there may be layoffs of employees during this crisis. While employers hope to avoid this at all costs, it is also important to remember to have a plan in place to protect and recoup company devices and data in the even that remotely working employees are terminated. During that time, it is important to terminate access to company data and to recover any outstanding devices. Hopefully these measures will not be necessary, but it is important to have a plan in the event they do occur.

Companies and individuals are in a state of triage trying to address the most pressing needs as they arise. It is especially important at this time for everyone to remain vigilant about their cybersecurity and data security practices, to be proactive, and put plans in place to address potential developments.


For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.552.2405 or email me.

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Senate reaches bipartisan deal on CARES Act

By Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Barghols Hanna

Early this morning, the Senate reportedly reached a bipartisan deal to finalize and pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), a $2 trillion stimulus package seeking to address the widespread economic damage caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  In addition to directly sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, the legislation reportedly creates a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, supplements state unemployment insurance benefits, directs $150 billion to state and local stimulus funds, and forms a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states.

The Senate is expected to vote on the CARES Act on Wednesday afternoon.

Phillips Murrah will keep you advised as the CARES Act advances through Congress. Keep up with our ongoing COVID-19 resources, guidance and updates at our RESOURCE CENTER.


Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna is an attorney in the Labor & Employment Practice Group. As a part of her employment practice, Lauren counsels and represents management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful discharge claims, whistleblower claims, claims related to employment agreements and theft of trade secrets, and other disputes arising from the workplace.

For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.606.4732 or email me.

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State-by-State breakdown of COVID-19 tax relief to taxpayers

By Phillips Murrah Director Dawn M. Rahme

Over thirty states and municipalities are offering tax relief to taxpayers in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak. Attached (click HERE) is a summary of the various state and local actions as of March 24, 2020 that was prepared by Thompson Reuters Checkpoint.  So far, Oklahoma has provided two relief measures.

First, Oklahoma is following the federal deadlines and will be extending the due date from April 15 to July 15  for filing your Oklahoma income tax return and payment of any Oklahoma income taxes.

Second, for transportation carries of materials, equipment and supplies that are used for direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts for COVID-19, Oklahoma is temporarily suspending any costs and fees for oversize or overweight permits.

More relief efforts are underway, and as they become available, we will share them with you.


Dawn Rahme Oklahoma City tax law

Dawn M. Rahme is a Director and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. She represents individuals and businesses in an array of transactional matters with a focus on assisting corporations, partnerships and individuals in general tax planning.

For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.606.4770 or email me.

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Understanding Paid Sick Leave Tax Credits for Employers

By Phillips Murrah Director Dawn M. Rahme

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and includes both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, which provides for paid sick leave, as well as the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, which provides for expanded paid leave.  The Act provides employers relief in the form of tax credits to offset the cost of wages.

Employer Procedure

Guidance for claiming the tax credits will come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the next 2 weeks. However, we already know a key component of how the tax credits will work. Employers will be allowed to retain payroll tax payments equal to the amount of qualifying paid sick and child care leave that the employer pays, as laid out below.

The tax payments the employer may retain include both the employee and employer shares of social security and Medicare taxes for ALL employees whether or not those employees were paid qualifying sick and child care leave. If the paid sick and child care leave exceed the amount of payroll taxes due, the employer can request a payment from the IRS.

Qualifying employers include all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees. According to the IRS, “The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.”

Dawn Rahme Oklahoma City tax law

Dawn M. Rahme is a Director and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. She represents individuals and businesses in an array of transactional matters with a focus on assisting corporations, partnerships and individuals in general tax planning.

Scenario A: Paid Sick Leave 

Employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis.

Employee Benefit:

100% pay for 10 days (up to 80 hours)

Employer Paid Sick Leave Tax Credit:

Eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days

Scenario B: Emergency Paid Sick Leave 

Employee is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Employee Benefit:

2/3 pay for 10 days (up to 80 hours)

Employer Paid Sick Leave Tax Credit:

Eligible employers will receive a payroll tax credit for 100% of employee’s qualified sick leave, capped at $200 per day for 10 days ($2,000 total); plus eligible employers may receive a tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Self-Employed:

Equivalent income tax credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances.

Scenario C: Emergency FMLA Expansion 

Employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Employee Benefit:

2/3 pay for up to an additional 10 weeks

Employer Child Care Leave Tax Credit:

Eligible employers may receive a payroll tax credit of 100% of eligible wages paid, capped at $200 per day up to $10,000 per employee in total. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit.

Self-Employed:

Equivalent income tax credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances.


For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 405.606.4770 or email me.

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DOL seeks public input on Family First Coronavirus Response Act

Wage and Hour release graphicThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) reached out on Monday seeking pubic input on how to implement The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The feedback will be used to “assist employers and employees in understanding their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA,” according to the release from the DOL’s Wage and Hour division.

Message from the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division release:

The U.S. Department of Labor will be hosting a national online dialogue to provide employers and employees with an innovative opportunity to offer their perspective as the Department develops compliance assistance materials and outreach strategies related to the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

The ideas and comments gathered from this dialogue will inform compliance assistance guidance, resources, and tools, as well as outreach approaches, that assist employers and employees in understanding their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA.

We need your input by March 29, 2020. Anybody who is interested can participate online at https://ffcra.ideascale.com from March 23 through March 29, 2020 or can join a Twitter chat hosted by @ePolicyWorks on March 25, 2020 at 2 p.m. using the hashtag #EPWChat.

WHD is initiating and inviting public engagement for one week via ePolicyWorks Online Dialogue Communities, which helps policymakers collect feedback through online crowdsourcing and social media platforms.

President Trump signed FFCRA into law on Wednesday, Mar 18. It requires certain employers to provide employees with expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. WHD is tasked with administering and enforcing these provisions, which will apply from their effective date through the end of the year.

For more information on this alert and its impact on your business and employees, please call 405.235.4100 or email us.

Keep up with our ongoing COVID-19 resources, guidance and updates at our RESOURCE CENTER.

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COVID-19 Resource Center

Oklahoma Governor Announcement: Healthcare occupational licenses extended during the emergency

By Phillips Murrah attorney Mary Holloway Richard

Announcement for all Licensed Healthcare Providers regarding Expiration of Licenses

Oklahoma Opioid Decision by Phillips Murrah healthcare attorney Mary Holloway

Mary Richard is recognized as a pioneer in healthcare law in Oklahoma. She has represented institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

On March 17, 2020, Governor Stitt issued Amended Executive Order 220-7 which provided additional responses to the current pandemic.  The Order applies to all 77 counties and positions state agencies and departments to respond to the emergency with new hires and purchases as necessary.  One portion of the order focuses on the providers in the front lines—physicians and nurses.  While there is much for health care providers to worry about—office closings, staff, patient access to providers, and safety—providers will likely not be thinking about the status of license applications or the need to renew them.  This executive order offers a grace period by providing the following guidance to providers with those state licensure issues:

Any medical professional who holds a license, certificate, or other permit issued by any state that is a party to the Emergency Management Compact evidencing the meeting of qualifications for the practice of certain medical services, as more particularly described below, shall be deemed licensed to practice in Oklahoma so long as this Order shall be in effect, subject to the following conditions:

    1. This shall only apply to Medical (MD) and Allied Licenses issued by the Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, Licenses issued by State Board of Osteopathic Examiners, and Licenses and Certificates issued by the Board of Nursing, all three shall collectively be referred to as “Boards”;
    2. Any medical professional intending to practice in Oklahoma pursuant to this Order, hereinafter referred to as “Applicant,” shall first apply with and receive approval from appropriate Board;
    3. It is the responsibility of each Board to verify the license status of any applicant and, upon verification of good standing, shall issue a temporary license to practice within this State; and
    4. Any applicant licensed under this Order shall be subject to the oversight and jurisdiction of the licensing Board, which includes the ability of the Board to revoke said license and to initiate any administrative or civil proceeding related to any alleged misconduct of applicant.

All occupational licensed of this type shall be extended during the emergency and shall expire fourteen (14) days following the withdrawal or termination of Amended Executive Order 2002-07.

In addition, this Executive Order, supports The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Section 1135 Waiver in eliminating the current requirement that a preexisting patient relationship exist in order for treatment to continue via telehealth.

(UPDATE Mar19) Emergency Coronavirus Response Bill: Employers Must Provide Paid Leave To Employees Impacted by COVID-19

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

On March 18, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. It applies to all private employers with fewer than 500 employers.  Paid sick time will be permitted to employees regardless of tenure, while employees with at least 30 days on the job will be eligible for the amended FMLA leave connected to the coronavirus.

We expect the effective date for compliance will be April 2, 2020. We will continue to advise as regulations are released.

As of publication, there are more than 240,000+ confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in 135 countries around the world, with the United States currently confirming more than 11,500+ cases.  On Friday, March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national state of emergency in response to this pandemic.  In response, the Department of Labor, CDC, OSHA, and the EEOC have issued helpful guidance for employers seeking to clarify permitted/required office safety measures and leave obligations applicable to employers and offices affected by the coronavirus.

In addition to ensuring free coronavirus testing regardless of insurance coverage and food assistance for needy families, the Coronavirus Response Act provides for expansive and unprecedented employment protections for eligible individuals impacted by COVID-19 who work for employers that employ fewer than 500 employees, including:

  • Paid sick time (up to 80 hours or two weeks of wages)
  • Family and Medical Leave (up to 12 weeks—10 of which shall be paid by the employer)

The below-described employee leave programs and protections must be implemented by covered employers (those who employ fewer than 500 employees) soon after enactment—so employers should begin drafting policies and procedures for full implementation now.

Paid Sick Time

The Act provides that all public employers and all private employers that employ fewer than 500 employees must immediately provide eligible full-time and part-time employees who are unable to work or telework due to the coronavirus up to 80 hours of paid sick time (full-time employees) or 2 weeks of wages (part-time employees), regardless of how long the employee has been employed by an employer.

Although all employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered by the current version of the Act, the Secretary of Labor will have the option of exempting certain small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.  Employers have the authority to exempt certain health care providers and emergency responders from the definition of “eligible employees” under the Act.

Paid sick time may be used by an employee if:

  • Employee must self-isolate after diagnosis with coronavirus or to obtain diagnosis or care for the symptoms of coronavirus,
  • Employee’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because they have been exposed to or have the symptoms of the coronavirus,
  • Employee must care for an individual who must self-isolate after diagnosis with coronavirus or who must obtain medical diagnosis or care related to the coronavirus.
  • Employee must care for their child(ren) if their school or childcare is closed due to the coronavirus or they have been exposed to the coronavirus

All paid sick time must be paid at 100% of the employer’s regular wages for absences related to the employee’s need to self-isolate or seek medical care related to their own exposure to coronavirus.  However, any sick time provided for an employee to care for a family member in connection with exposure to the coronavirus or school/childcare closings must be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular wages.

Paid sick time will be capped at $511/day and up to $5,110 total for absences associated with an employee’s own diagnosis or need to quarantine, with caps of $200/day and up to $2,000 total for all other paid sick time.

An affected employee may first use this paid sick time for eligible purposes related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Employers may not require an employee to use otherwise accrued sick time or other paid leave before using the paid sick time granted by the Act.  Further, an employer may not require that an employee search for or find a replacement to cover the hours taken by the employee as paid sick time.

Employers are prohibited from taking any disciplinary action or discriminating in any manner against an employee who takes leave in accordance with the Act and has filed a complaint or instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding.

Information regarding employee eligibility for paid leave under the Act must be posted where employee notices are customarily posted. The Secretary of Labor will make available a compliant model notice no later than 7 days after the date of enactment of the Act.

An employer who does not permit its eligible employees to take sick leave time under the Act will be deemed to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and be subject to penalties for that violation.

Emergency Paid Leave—Amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Act also amends the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and creates a new subsection of paid medical leave under the FMLA to provide up to 12 weeks of family and medical sick leave during a public health emergency related to the coronavirus to all eligible employees, 10 weeks of which must be paid by the employer at a rate of no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay.  This extended paid leave is available only to employees who work for companies employing fewer than 500 employees.

Although all employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered by the current version of the Act, the Secretary of Labor will have the option of exempting certain small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, if it determines that providing paid leave under the Act “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”  Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees would not be subject to private lawsuits filed by employees for violations of this Act–only actions brought directly by the Department of Labor.

The first 10 days for which an eligible employee impacted by the coronavirus takes the public health emergency FMLA leave related to the coronavirus may be unpaid.  Alternatively, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or accrued sick leave or the above-described paid sick time for the unpaid leave.  However, an employer may not require an employee to substitute paid leave for unpaid public health emergency FMLA leave related to the coronavirus under the Act.

An employee will be eligible for this public health emergency FMLA leave related to the coronavirus if they have been on the job for at least 30 days and the employee needs to stay at home because their child(ren)’s school or childcare facility has closed unexpectedly due to the coronavirus.

Employers have the authority to exempt certain health care providers and emergency responders from the definition of “eligible employees” under the Act.

Examples

Scenario 1:  A long-time employee of a private company with fewer than 500 employees receives news that their elderly parent must self-isolate due to potential exposure to the coronavirus at a doctor appointment.  Employee’s parent is worried that they will not be able to perform all self-care or prepare meals if their friends and home aide must stay away during the incubation period.  Employee decides to move in with their elderly parent for the two-week incubation period to take care of their parent’s daily needs and potentially help if they become symptomatic.  Employee is absent for the duration of their parent’s two week incubation period and then Employee promptly returns to work.

Wages:  Employee would be paid 2/3 of their typical wages (subject to the above-described caps) for the 2 weeks that Employee was caring for their parent as a Paid Sick Time benefit.

 

Scenario 2:  Long-time Employee of a private company with fewer than 500 employees travels to Washington for spring break, returns home, and then learns of a positive test in the area they stayed on spring break.  Based on news reports and a health department press release, Employee believes they may have been in close proximity to one or more persons with a positive COVID-19 test.  Employee and family self-isolate and wait to take the COVID-19 test.  Employee eventually tests negative, but employee’s 17 year old child tests positive.  Employee is absent a total of two weeks for their own self-isolation and another one week caring for their child until the child makes a full recovery.

Wages:  Employee would be paid 100% of their regular wages for the first 80 hours they were absent from work (subject to the above-described caps) due to self-isolation due to their own exposure.  Employee will not be eligible for extended FMLA leave caring for the Employee’s child beyond that two weeks, unless the child’s school is also closed during that period.

 

Scenario 3:     Employee hired sixty days ago has three children and all three children have a school closure from March 13, 2020 through April 15, 2020.  There has been no known exposure to the coronavirus or positive diagnoses of COVID-19 at the children’s school.

Wages: Employee would be eligible for payment of 2/3 of their wages during from March 13, 2020 to March 29, 2020 as paid sick time and 2/3 of their wages (all subject to the above-described caps) from March 30, 2020 to April 15, 2020 under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

Scenario 4:  Employee hired 5 days ago recently traveled through a major airport and begins to develop symptoms of a respiratory infection.  Employee decides to stay at home until they can obtain testing for coronavirus.  Employee ends up testing positive for COVID-19 and must be absent from work for a total of five weeks.

Wages:  Employee would be eligible for payment of 100% of their wages (subject to the above-described caps) for the first two weeks of absences.  After that time, Employee is not eligible for any further paid leave or job protection under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act because they were not employed by the company for at least 30 days prior to their absence.  Before immediately terminating employment, however, the Company must consider whether the Employee may be eligible for other paid/unpaid leave benefits through established company policies, state or local paid leave laws or the ADA (and state equivalents).

 

Scenario 5:  A part-time Employee hired 15 days ago must stay at home to care for their child who has not been exposed to the coronavirus, but whose childcare facility has closed due to multiple diagnoses of COVID-19 in your community.  Employee advises that they cannot return to work for at least a month, as that is when the childcare facility will re-open.

Wages:  Employee is entitled to 2/3 of their usual wages for all scheduled/typically-worked hours over a two-week time period.  After the two weeks have elapsed, the Employee is not eligible for additional paid leave under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act, as they have not worked for the Company at least 30 days.  Employee also would likely not be eligible for ADA or other state or local sick/disability leave, as their absence was not caused by their own or their immediate family’s illness.  Before terminating employment, however, the Company needs to review whether the Employee may be eligible for unpaid leave through any established Company policy or course of performance or state/local leave entitlement.

Refundable Tax Credits for Employers

The Act provides for refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide the above-described paid sick time and paid family and medical leave.  These refundable tax credits will be allowed against the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes.

Under the Act, employers will be entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter for paid sick time. Sick leave wages will be capped at $511 per day (or $200 per day if the leave is for caring for a family member or child) for up to 10 days per employee in each calendar quarter.

Similarly, employers will receive a refundable tax credit equal to the qualified family leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter in accordance with the amended Family and Medical Leave act. However, the family leave wages will be capped at $200 per day for each individual up to $10,000 total per calendar quarter.

Prepare Now for Implementation Within 15 Days

Employers will have to move quickly to achieve full compliance with their paid leave obligations.  The Department of Labor has promised additional guidance soon after enactment.

As with any national health emergency, this situation is fluid and employer best practices evolve with increased understanding of the spread of the coronavirus, both throughout the United States and within specific communities.   Based on today’s statements from both the Senate Majority Leader and the President, it is highly likely that additional measures affecting employers will be put forward by the Senate this week.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor new developments and stand ready to assist your company timely and efficiently implement these expansive new leave obligations as they are signed into law.

 

To find out more about how this affects your business, please contact:

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Oklahoma City
lbhanna@phillipsmurrah.com
405.606.4732

Janet A. Hendrick

Dallas
jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com
214.615.6391

Kathryn D. Terry

Oklahoma City
kdterry@phillipsmurrah.com
405.552.2452

Byrona J. Maule

Oklahoma City
bjmaule@phillipsmurrah.com
405.552.2453

Lauren Symcox Voth

Oklahoma City
lsvoth@phillipsmurrah.com
405.606.4740

 

President Signs Amended Coronavirus Response Act Providing Paid Sick Leave to Eligible Employees

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

On March 18, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. It applies to all private employers with fewer than 500 employers.  Paid sick time will be permitted to employees regardless of tenure, while employees with at least 30 days on the job will be eligible for the amended FMLA leave connected to the coronavirus.

We expect the effective date for compliance will be April 2, 2020. We will continue to advise as regulations are released.

The coronavirus relief package provides the following paid leave benefits to eligible employees:

Paid Sick Time (up to 80 hours/2 weeks paid leave)

  • Employees paid full wages for absences related to their own diagnosis/quarantine and 2/3 of wages for absences related to caring for family members or their child’s school closures
  • Caps to paid sick time are $511/day and up to $5,110 for employee’s own illness/quarantine and $200/day and up to $2,000 total for all other qualifying leave
  • Secretary of Labor has the authority to issue regulations exempting small employers (fewer than 50 employees) from providing paid sick leave. DOL regulations are expected within 7 days of enactment
  • Paid leave time available only to workers who are unable to work or telework due to a more-tightly defined coronavirus-related absence
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency responders may be excluded from eligibility
  • New cap for tax credit permitted for self-employed individuals

Paid FMLA Leave (up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave related to coronavirus emergency)

  • Paid FMLA leave available only to employees who are unable to work or telework due to caring for a minor child due to school closing or childcare unavailability
  • Paid leave capped at 2/3 of an employee’s wages, up to $200/day or $10,000 total
  • Secretary of Labor has the authority to issue regulations exempting small employers (fewer than 50 employees) from providing paid FMLA leave. DOL regulations are expected within 7 days of enactment
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency responders may be excluded from eligibility

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), advised in a speech Wednesday morning just prior to voting for this Act, that he does not consider the above employee protections to go far enough to protect either individual employees or small business owners—and that the Senate will not be adjourning until additional legislation is passed to address additional needs.

Please follow this link to a more detailed article providing additional information regarding the Act and helpful scenarios explaining how leave will be paid under the Act.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor new developments and stand ready to assist your company timely and efficiently implement these new paid leave obligations and answer your other pressing employment questions arising from this national public health emergency.


To find out more about how this affects your business, please contact:

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Oklahoma City
lbhanna@phillipsmurrah.com
405.606.4732

Janet A. Hendrick

Dallas
jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com
214.615.6391

Kathryn D. Terry

Oklahoma City
kdterry@phillipsmurrah.com
405.552.2452

Byrona J. Maule

Oklahoma City
bjmaule@phillipsmurrah.com
405.552.2453

Lauren Symcox Voth

Oklahoma City
lsvoth@phillipsmurrah.com
405.606.4740

 

An update from Phillips Murrah P.C. about health and safety related to COVID-19

ALERT: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

03/18/20

Tom Wolfe

Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah P.C. Managing Partner

As has become apparent, the COVID-19 pandemic is an unstoppable disruptive influence across almost every aspect of our lives. Like so many of our friends and clients, we have been preparing in earnest.

To that end, starting yesterday, our Firm began transitioning to working remotely. As always, our attorneys are accessible to clients via e-mail and phone. Our office is still open in order to deliver the most critical services. Additionally, please be assured that we are taking all appropriate measures to robustly protect and ensure the health and well-being of our attorneys and staff.

I would like to personally reiterate that our plan is designed to ensure continuity of the top-quality, reliable, and safe legal representation that Phillips Murrah’s clients expect. While the playing field constantly changes, our dedication to seamlessly delivering excellent service does not.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about our remote working arrangements or any other concerns with which we can assist. We understand that the uncertainty that unfolds in the wake of this pandemic can be unsettling at best, and understandably frightening to many who wonder what the future holds. Please know that we are here to help.

Please be safe and kind to one another. We are grateful for our relationships and look forward to a brighter day together.

Thank you,

Thomas G. Wolfe
Phillips Murrah P.C.
Managing Partner

 

OUR MEASURES:

  • We are following the Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines regarding how to handle our office operations in the event of an exposure or diagnosis experienced by Phillips Murrah employees and their families.
  • Our Information Technology team has activated our remote access plan to avoid contamination. We are confident in our ability to provide consistent service if total office closure is required.
  • Our Firm is aware of the importance of “social distancing,” and we are practicing these measures. During the pandemic, we are opting for telephone meetings, video depositions and remote closings.
  • If any face-to-face meetings are required, participants are able to remain separated from one another by six feet or more.
  • We have educated and encouraged our employees to implement behavior changes, if necessary, to ensure safety. This includes frequent hand washing, cautious and transparent travel plans and awareness of the value of remaining away from the office during any remote office mandate.

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Can Employers Take an Employee’s Temperature and Other COVID-19 Questions

By Lauren Symcox Voth

Lauren Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth

EEOC Publishes Guidance on Pandemic Preparedness

The World Heath Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 an international pandemic and as a result the Federal, Local, and State governments have declared a state of emergency across the country. Employers have received guidance from multiple sources about what to do next.  In light of the advice given by WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), government officials, doctors, and employers should remember that they must still comply with employment laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published its Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2009, after the H1N1 outbreak. This guidance applies equally to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The EEOC’s guidance outlines questions and answers to guide employers before, during, and after a pandemic.

Here are highlights from the EEOC’s guidance for employers during a pandemic:

  • Employers may send home employees with COVID-19-like symptoms. If an employer sends an employee home with symptoms, employers may permit the employee to take applicable paid leave for the time off work.  At this time Non-Exempt employees are not required to be paid for any time off work.  Exempt employees must be paid for any week in which the employee performs work.  Please see our story: “House Sends Amended Coronavirus Response Act to Senate with Significantly Reduced Employee Paid Leave Protections – Vote Expected Today” for any changes related to employers’ obligations to pay employees for COVID-19 related absences.
  • Employers should not ask employees if they have COVID-19. However, employers may ask employees if they are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath.  Employers must maintain all employee provide health information separately with medical records in compliance with the ADA.
  • Employers may take an employee’s temperature. Under normal conditions, an employer is not permitted to take an employee’s temperature because it is considered a medical examination. However, in this pandemic the EEOC agrees that since the CDC has issued precautions to employers, employers may measure an employee’s temperature. Be aware that, according to the EEOC and CDC, some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.
  • Avoid asking employees to disclose any condition. Employers should not ask employees to disclose any condition that may be vulnerable to COVID-19, as this is still considered a disability-related inquiry. Employees may voluntary disclose conditions that may be vulnerable to COVID-19. Employers may then engage in the interactive reasonable accommodation process and ask the employee if they require any assistance such as telecommuting or other leave as an accommodation.
  • Employers may require employees to provide a doctor’s note certifying the employee’s fitness for duty before returning to work. However, the EEOC states that employers must be flexible and open to other approaches for obtaining a fitness for duty certification.  Doctors will likely be overwhelmed and not able to provide proper documentation immediately or documentation may be on standard return to work forms.

Employers can view the full guidance on Pandemic Preparedness at: https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html#q6.

An EEOC summary on What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19 can be found here:  https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm

 

House Sends Amended Coronavirus Response Act to Senate with Significantly Reduced Employee Paid Leave Protections – Vote Expected Today

banner for coronavirus breaking news red banner

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Late last evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, originally passed by the House on Saturday.  Although the amended bill was labeled as “technical corrections,” it makes broad substantive changes to the paid leave protections originally provided to employees.

Some provisions remain the same.  The amended Act still applies to all private employers with fewer than 500 employers.  Paid sick time will still be permitted to employees regardless of tenure, while employees with at least 30 days on the job will be eligible for the amended FMLA leave connected to the coronavirus.

However, the amended Act made several important revisions, primarily acting to reduce and restrict the benefits previously afforded employees:

Paid Sick Time (up to 80 hours/2 weeks paid leave)

  • Secretary of Labor now has the authority to issue regulations exempting small employers (fewer than 50 employees) from providing paid sick leave
  • Clarifies that paid leave time available only to workers who are unable to work or telework due to a more-tightly defined coronavirus-related absence
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency responders may be excluded from eligibility
  • Introduces new caps to paid sick time ($511/day and up to $5,110 for employee’s illness/quarantine and $200/day and up to $2,000 total for all other qualifying leave)
  • New cap for tax credit permitted for self-employed individuals

Paid FMLA Leave (up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave related to coronavirus emergency)

  • Extended paid FMLA leave is no longer available to employees for their own COVID-19 treatment or quarantine or care for their family members.
  • Paid FMLA leave available only to employees who are unable to work or telework due to caring for a minor child due to school closing or childcare unavailability
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency responders may be excluded from eligibility
  • Tightens the definition of “parent” to remove prior coverage for employees caring for next of kin and grandchildren
  • Paid leave capped at 2/3 of an employee’s wages, up to $200/day or $10,000 total

The bill is set to be taken up by the Senate this morning, with some reports indicating that the Senate is prepared to adopt it in its current form, allowing President Trump to enact it without the delay of a typical reconciliation process.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor new developments and stand ready to assist your company timely and efficiently implement these new paid leave obligations as soon as the final bill is signed into law.

 

Emergency Coronavirus Response Bill: Employers Must Prepare for Potential Paid Leave Obligations

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

As of publication, there are 167,517 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in 135 countries around the world, with the United States currently confirming more than 3,000 cases.  On Friday, President Trump declared a national state of emergency in response to this pandemic.  In response, the Department of Labor issued helpful Q&A guidance for employers seeking to clarify current payroll and leave obligations to employees and offices affected by the coronavirus.

On Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—an emergency spending bill that provides free coronavirus screening tests and paid employment leave for individuals affected by COVID-19.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) received bipartisan support and has already received support from President Trump, who tweeted Friday that he “look[s] forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”  Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has also advised that he believes “the vast majority of senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses.”  The Senate is expected to consider the bill early this week.

In addition to ensuring free coronavirus testing regardless of insurance coverage, the Coronavirus Response Act provides for expansive and unprecedented employment protections for eligible individuals impacted by COVID-19 who work for employers that employ fewer than 500 employees, including:

  • Paid sick time (up to 80 hours or two weeks of wages)
  • Family and Medical Leave (up to 12 weeks—10 of which shall be paid by the employer)

As currently drafted, these employee leave programs and protections must be implemented by covered employers (those who employ fewer than 500 employees) no later than 15 days after enactment—so companies should assess potential implementation challenges now, while waiting for the final version to be passed by the Senate and signed into law.

Paid Sick Time

The Act provides that all public employers and all private employers that employ fewer than 500 employees must immediately provide eligible full-time and part-time employees affected by coronavirus up to 80 hours of paid sick time, regardless of how long the employee has been employed by an employer.

Paid sick time may be used by an employee if:

  • Employee must self-isolate after diagnosis with coronavirus or to obtain diagnosis or care for the symptoms of coronavirus,
  • Employee’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because they have been exposed to or have the symptoms of the coronavirus,
  • Employee must care for their child(ren) if their school or childcare is closed due to the coronavirus or they have been exposed to the coronavirus
  • Employee must care for a family member who must self-isolate after diagnosis with coronavirus or who must obtain medical diagnosis or care related to the coronavirus.

All paid sick time must be paid at 100% of the employee’s regular wages for absences related to the employee’s need to self-isolate or seek medical care related to their own exposure to coronavirus.  However, any sick time provided for an employee to care for a family member in connection with exposure to the coronavirus or school/childcare closings must be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular wages.

With respect to any employer that currently provides paid leave, the paid sick time under this Act must be in addition to the existing paid leave—the employer may not change existing paid leave after enactment of the Act to avoid this provision.  Further, the Act specifically provides that it does not preempt any existing state or local paid sick leave benefits.

An affected employee may first use this paid sick time for eligible purposes related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Employers may not require an employee to use otherwise accrued sick time or other paid leave before using the paid sick time granted by the Act.  Further, an employer may not require that an employee search for or find a replacement to cover the hours taken by the employee as paid sick time.

Employers are prohibited from taking any disciplinary action or discriminating in any manner against an employee who takes leave in accordance with the Act and has filed a complaint or instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding.

Notice Requirements

Information regarding employee eligibility for paid leave under the Act must be posted where employee notices are customarily posted. The Secretary of Labor will make available a compliant model notice no later than 7 days after the date of enactment of the Act.

Penalties

An employer who does not permit its eligible employees to take sick leave time under the Act will be deemed to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and be subject to the penalties for that violation.  An employer who willfully discriminates or retaliates against an employee in connection with this Act will be deemed to have violated Section 15(a)(3) of the FLSA and will be subject to the penalties associated with that violation.

Emergency Paid Leave—Amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act

As approved by the House of Representatives, the Act amends the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and creates a new subsection of paid medical leave under the FMLA to provide up to 12 weeks of family and medical sick leave during a public health emergency related to the coronavirus to all eligible employees, 10 weeks of which must be paid by the employer at a rate of no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay.  This extended paid leave is available only to employees who work for companies employing fewer than 500 employees.

Although all employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered by the current version of the Act, the Secretary of Labor will have the option of exempting certain small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, if it determines that providing paid leave under the Act “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”  Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees would not be subject to private lawsuits filed by employees for violations of this Act–only actions brought directly by the Department of Labor.

The first 14 days for which an eligible employee impacted by the coronavirus takes leave may be unpaid.  Alternatively, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or accrued sick leave or the above-described paid sick time for the unpaid leave.  However, an employer may not require an employee to substitute paid leave for leave under the Act.

An employee will be eligible for this emergency paid sick leave if they have been on the job for at least 30 days and:

  • The employee needs to be quarantined for potential exposure to or treated for COVID-19,
  • The employee needs to stay home from work to care for a family member quarantined due to exposure to or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or
  • The employee needs to stay at home because their child(ren)’s school or childcare facility has closed unexpectedly due to the coronavirus.

Certain health care providers and emergency responders are not included within the definition of “eligible employees” under the Act.

Examples

 

Scenario 1:  A long-time employee of a private company with fewer than 500 employees receives news that their elderly parent must self-isolate due to potential exposure to the coronavirus at a doctor appointment.  Employee’s parent is worried that they will not be able to perform all self-care or prepare meals if their friends and home aide must stay away during the incubation period.  Employee decides to move in with their elderly parent for the two-week incubation period to take care of their parent’s daily needs and potentially help if they become symptomatic.  Employee is absent for the duration of their parent’s two week incubation period and then Employee promptly returns to work.

Wages Employee would be paid 2/3 of their typical wages for the 2 weeks that Employee was caring for their parent as a Paid Sick Time benefit.

 

Scenario 2: Long-time Employee of a private company with fewer than 500 employees travels to Washington for spring break, returns home, and then learns of a positive test in the area they stayed on spring break.  Based on news reports and a health department press release, Employee believes they may have been in close proximity to one or more persons with a positive COVID-19 test.  Employee and family self-isolate and wait to take the COVID-19 test.  Employee eventually tests negative, but employee’s 17 year old child tests positive.  Employee is absent a total of two weeks for their own self-isolation and another one week caring for their child until the child makes a full recovery.

Wages:  Employee would be paid 100% of their regular wages for the first 80 hours/2 weeks they were absent from work due to self-isolation due to their own exposure.  Employee will also receive 2/3 of their typical wages for the third week while caring for their child under the Emergency Paid Leave amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

Scenario 3: Employee hired sixty days ago has three children and all three children have a school closure from March 13, 2020 through April 15, 2020.  There has been no known exposure to the coronavirus or positive diagnoses of COVID-19 at the children’s school.

Wages: Employee would be eligible for payment of 2/3 of their wages during from March 13, 2020 to March 29, 2020 as paid sick time and 2/3 of their wages from March 30, 2020 to April 15, 2020 under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

Scenario 4: Employee hired 5 days ago recently traveled through a major airport and begins to develop symptoms of a respiratory infection.  Employee decides to stay at home until they can obtain testing for coronavirus.  Employee ends up testing positive for COVID-19 and must be absent from work for a total of five weeks.

Wages:  Employee would be eligible for payment of 100% of their wages for the first two weeks of absences.  After that time, Employee is not technically eligible for any further paid leave or job protection under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act because they were not employed by the company for at least 30 days prior to their absence.  Before immediately terminating employment, however, the Company must consider whether the Employee may be eligible for other paid/unpaid leave benefits through established company policies, state or local paid leave laws or the ADA (and state equivalents).

 

Scenario 5:  A part-time Employee hired 15 days ago must stay at home to care for their child who has not been exposed to the coronavirus, but whose childcare facility has closed due to multiple diagnoses of COVID-19 in your community.  Employee advises that they cannot return to work for at least a month, as that is when the childcare facility will re-open.

Wages:  Employee is entitled to 2/3 of their usual wages for all scheduled/typically-worked hours over a two-week time period.  After the two weeks have elapsed, the Employee is not eligible for additional paid leave under the amended Family and Medical Leave Act, as they have not worked for the Company at least 30 days.  Employee also would likely not be eligible for ADA or other state or local sick/disability leave, as their absence was not caused by their own or their immediate family’s illness.  Before terminating employment, however, the Company needs to review whether the Employee may be eligible for unpaid leave through any established Company policy or course of performance or state/local leave entitlement.

Refundable Tax Credits for Employers

The Act provides for refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide the above-described paid sick time and paid family and medical leave.  These refundable tax credits will be allowed against the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes.

Under the Act as currently written, employers will be entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter for paid sick time. Sick leave wages will be capped at $511 per day (or $200 per day if the leave is for caring for a family member or child) for up to 10 days per employee in each calendar quarter.

Similarly, employers will receive a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified family leave wages paid by employers for each calendar quarter in accordance with the amended Family and Medical Leave act. However, the family leave wages will be capped at $200 per day for each individual up to $10,000 total per calendar quarter.

The specifics of the tax credit allowances and when businesses will be able to take advantage of these credits will likely change as the Senate considers the bill this week.

Prepare Now for Potential Implementation Challenges

As with any national health emergency, this situation is fluid and employer best practices evolve with increased understanding of the spread of the coronavirus, both throughout the United States and within specific communities.   Based on the bipartisan support and forward-looking statements from both the Senate Majority Leader and the President, it is highly likely that a version of the Act providing paid sick time and extended paid sick leave for companies with fewer than 500 employees will be enacted in the near future.  The Department of Labor has promised additional guidance upon enactment, but the current bill only allows companies 15 days after enactment to achieve full compliance with their paid leave obligations.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor new developments and stand ready to assist your company timely and efficiently implement these expansive new leave obligations as they are signed into law.

Emergency Coronavirus Response Bill: Brief Overview of Employer-Paid Sick Leave Obligations

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

As of publication, there are 167,517 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in 135 countries around the world, with the United States currently confirming more than 3,000 cases.  On Friday, President Trump declared a national state of emergency.  In response, the Department of Labor issued helpful Q&A guidance for employers seeking to clarify current payroll and leave obligations to employees and offices affected by the coronavirus.

On Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—an emergency spending bill which would provide free coronavirus screening tests and guarantee employer-paid employment leave for individuals affected by COVID-19.  The Senate is expected to consider the bill early this coming week.

As currently drafted, the below provisions will apply to public employers and all private employers with fewer than 500 employees and may be offset by refundable tax credits. Below are the main takeaways of the employer-paid leave provisions of the bill, as it was passed by the House of Representatives:

Paid Sick Time

All employees, regardless of tenure with the company, may take up to two weeks of paid sick leave for the following reasons:

  • To self-isolate due to exposure to or symptoms of the coronavirus;
  • To care for an at-risk family member who is following a required or recommended period of self-isolation due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and
  • To care for a child of the employee, if the child’s school or childcare has been closed or is unavailable due to the coronavirus.

Employees will be paid at 100% of their regular wages to self-isolate due to exposure or to symptoms of the coronavirus and at 2/3 of their regular wages to care for a family member for such purposes or to care for a child whose school or childcare facility is closed or unavailable.

Amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act

Employees who have worked at least 30 days may take up to 12 weeks of leave to be used in any of the circumstances outlined above in the paid sick time section.

After the employee’s first two weeks of leave, employers must provide paid leave for the duration of the employee’s need at a rate of no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay.

Next Steps

As currently drafted, these employee leave programs and protections would need to be implemented by covered employers (those who employ fewer than 500 employees) no later than 15 days after enactment—so companies should begin assessing potential implementation challenges now, while waiting for the final version to be passed by the Senate and signed into law.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor new developments and stand ready to assist your company timely and efficiently implement these expansive new leave obligations as they are signed into law.  For more detailed information about this expansive new employer-paid sick leave program and examples of how paid leave would be calculated in various scenarios, please follow this link.

Phillips Murrah honored as Top Workplace for fifth consecutive year

2019 Phillips Murrah Top WorkplacesThe law firm of Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as one of Oklahoma City’s Top Workplaces for five straight years.

“This is an exciting time for us, each year, to be recognized for our workplace culture,” said Phillips Murrah Marketing Director Dave Rhea. “Our attorneys and staff work hard to help our Firm excel in the legal realm, so it is nice to be recognized for our positive work environment.”

The Firm has previously been recognized as one of Oklahoma’s Top Workplaces in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

In determining the defining criteria of Top Workplaces, The Oklahoman partners with the Philadelphia-based company, Energage, which evaluates companies across the country, pertaining to internal components of healthy workplace dynamics.

“Top Workplaces put the employee at the center of things and focus on creating the right environment to unleash potential and inspire performance,” said Doug Claffey, founder of Energage, The Oklahoman’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

Every year, the newspaper encourages Oklahoma companies and organizations to participate in a survey that employees complete anonomously, detailing employee satisfaction, company values, internal communication, leadership and other various determinates.

To learn more about the workplace culture and opportunities at Phillips Murrah, visit our Careers page: https://phillipsmurrah.com/careers.

Phillips Murrah partners with KGOU and Regional Food Bank to provide 20,000 meals

Phillips Murrah is excited to partner with KGOU and The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to help support community radio while also fighting hunger during this holiday season!

KGOU’s on-air fundraising drive begins on “Giving Tuesday,” Dec 3, and lasts through Thursday, Dec. 5.

All listener donations to KGOU will go directly to support vital community news, information and entertainment programming.

Phillips Murrah partners with KGOU and Regional Food BankEach donation also activates a gift from Phillips Murrah to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to fight holiday hunger.

For each donation, Phillips Murrah will provide funds for 40 meals to help relieve hunger and associated stress for food insecure Oklahomans during the holidays!

The goal is to encourage 500 gifts to KGOU, which will provide 20,000 meals to hungry kids and adults in our state.

All donations made now through the attainment of our goal will be included, including donations made before and after the on-air drive and donations made online.

Donations can be made online HERE or by calling 405-325-5468 (KGOU).

 

Phillips Murrah announces 17 attorneys named to 2019 Super Lawyers list

Super Lawyers

Phillips Murrah is honored to have 17 attorneys in 2019 recognized by the Super Lawyers rating service. Super Lawyers is a division of Thomson Reuters.

2019 Oklahoma Super Lawyers

2019 Rising Stars

Utility companies seek new rates for consumers who sell solar power

Homeowners and businesses interested in utilizing rooftop solar panels to produce their own power should take note. Cases were filed Aug. 19 and Sept. 4 at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that will determine how Oklahoma’s two largest electric utilities compensate customers for self-produced solar power.

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma filed the cases in response to new commission rules. The rules provide that customers who produce surplus electricity that is fed back onto the grid must be compensated, a standard practice in many states across the country. This is a departure from previous rules, which contemplated customers’ ability to offset their own energy usage with self-produced power, but any excess power was treated as a donation to the utility, which then could resell it without paying the homeowner.

As a result of the rule changes, OG&E and PSO are proposing to overhaul the terms and conditions applicable to customers who produce their own power. Among other things, the utilities propose paying for customers’ power based on the wholesale cost the utility would have paid in the market – a cost several cents lower per kilowatt-hour than retail rates.

In determining rates, the commission will consider whether solar customers are paying their fair share to maintain the utility’s grid that continues to support them.

Meanwhile, the commission may consider whether rooftop solar customers are fairly compensated for the value their energy offers to the grid. For example, as customers’ self-produced power reduces overall power demand, utilities will realize cost savings as their power plants operate less, and the need to build new, costly power plants is delayed or even avoided. Moreover, reductions in power demand will reduce the utility’s need for expensive upgrades to power lines, and less electricity is lost in long-distance transmission. These infrastructure-related savings would result in lower rates for all customers.

The commission’s ultimate determination regarding rates applicable to rooftop solar customers will impact whether it makes financial sense for customers to adopt solar to begin with. The issue is notable in Oklahoma, given the state is consistently ranked in the bottom 10 (approx. 46th) in the country in terms of solar energy production, yet it is ranked in the top 10 (approx. 6th) in terms of solar energy potential.

Recognizing this deficit, interim studies are scheduled this fall at the Capitol to explore how Oklahoma can improve its standing in solar production. Benefits of increased solar production include energy diversification, new job opportunities, improved grid resiliency, water conservation, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. With industry projections calling for strong growth of rooftop solar installations nationwide, OG&E’s and PSO’s cases at the commission will impact the extent of that growth, or the risk of zero growth, in Oklahoma.

Those interested in these cases can participate in a number of ways, ranging from emailing comments to the commission, to formally intervening as a party. Formal parties have the right to issue discovery, present witnesses and cross-examine witnesses of other parties, including the utility’s witnesses. By intervening, parties optimize their ability to influence the utilities’ policies and terms of service.

Oklahoma’s solar opportunity is unlike any other form of energy. If the sun shines on your home, farm, or business, you have an opportunity to harness that energy for your own usage. Whether customers are paid fairly for what they share with the grid will affect the technology’s adoption in the future.


This guest column was originally published in The Journal Record on Sept. 9, 2019.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney C. Eric Davis

C. Eric Davis is an attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Phillips Murrah sponsors 2019 Plaza District Festival

The law firm of Phillips Murrah is proud to announce our first year as a sponsor of the Plaza District Festival, which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 2019. Our Firm believes that supporting our community is vitally important. Through our partnership with the Plaza District Association, we are able to help continue the bold efforts that have gone into making Oklahoma City’s Plaza District a great destination.

“I believe the revitalization of the Plaza District is one of the great success stories of Oklahoma City,” said Selena Skorman, Executive Director of the Plaza District Association and the Plaza Business Alliance. “Thanks to investment from the City of Oklahoma City, the surrounding neighborhoods, Lyric Theatre, artists, volunteers and stakeholders, this area has experienced a huge turnaround in a short amount of time.”

“If you claim to care about making Oklahoma City a big-league city, supporting the Plaza District is essential,” said Dave Rhea, Marketing Director at Phillips Murrah. “What they have achieved is a testament to how residents, business owners, investors and developers can come together to rebuild an area and make it authentic and vibrant. I think it is incredibly encouraging.”

Plaza District Festival graphic

What had once been a thriving commercial corridor in the 20s and 30s had sadly devolved into a blighted area since around the 1970s. Around the mid-1990s, the Plaza began its comeback thanks to “a small network of community servants pulling weeds over the weekend and dreaming of a new future for the district,” according to The Plaza District Association website. The Association formally began in 1997, and the recognition began to spread that the historic strip of 16th street between Indiana and Blackwelder Avenues held a lot of potential.

Members and volunteers of the Plaza District Association were eager to bring patrons into the area to introduce a new level of vitality, and thus the Plaza District Festival began.

Now, 21 years later, the Plaza District is home to some of Oklahoma City’s hottest hot-spots, including its historic anchor, Lyric Theatre (a renovated version of the original Plaza Theatre), locally-owned (and locally famous) restaurants, art galleries, bars, retail shops, and a monthly, second-Friday artwalk event called “LIVE! on the Plaza,” featuring live music and featured artists late into the evening.

“We are very lucky,” Skorman enthused. “The next time you visit the district, which I hope will be very soon, just take a second to look around. We have around 50 local businesses in an area of 2.5 blocks. It’s easily walkable – no median to navigate, everything is nicely scrunched together. It’s beautiful with different colors and awnings all lined up.”

Find out more about the Plaza District Festival on their website, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Alison J. Cross, Elaine D. Flores join Phillips Murrah Dallas office

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 8, 2019) – Phillips Murrah P.C. is pleased to announce that Alison J. Cross and Elaine D. Flores have joined the Firm as Directors in its Dallas office. Alison and Elaine are transactional attorneys with an emphasis on commercial lending and real estate matters. They bring the number of Texas-licensed Phillips Murrah attorneys to thirteen.

Image of Alison Cross

Alison Cross

Alison Cross works with both lenders and borrowers in commercial finance transactions. Focused primarily in the areas of commercial and industrial lending, real estate lending and health care lending, she documents loans secured by a variety of collateral, including real property, equipment, inventory, securities accounts and other assets.

Alison has experience with loan workouts and restructurings, as well as foreclosure of commercial real estate, oil and gas interests, and aircraft. Her experience also includes documentation and negotiation of construction loans and loan restructurings. She has represented national and regional banks, healthcare institutions, manufacturing companies, and non-profits, as well as other borrowers and lenders.

Image of Elaine Flores

Elaine Flores

Elaine Flores focuses her practice on a wide variety of commercial lending and real estate transactions. Her experience includes documentation and negotiation of credit facilities for both lenders and borrowers, including acquisitions, single bank and syndicated credit facilities, middle market and asset-based loans, construction financing and loan restructurings.

Elaine’s practice spans multiple industries including healthcare, oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, retail and hospitality.

Both Alison and Elaine have also represented buyers and sellers of commercial, retail and other types of real estate, as well as landlords and tenants in leasing transactions.

Alison is a member of the National Association of Women Lawyers and Texas Wall Street Women as well as a Board Member of the Southwest Association of Bank Counsel. She has served as a member of the United Way Young Leaders Society since 2008.  D Magazine recognized Alison as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas in 2018 and 2019.

Elaine is a member of the Dallas Women Lawyers Association and the Texas Association of Bank Counsel. She is a member of the Junior League of Dallas, the Baylor University Women’s Council of Dallas, and Park Cities Republican Women’s Club. She has also been recognized as one of the Best Lawyers Under 40 by D Magazine and named a Texas Super Lawyers’ Rising Star.

Prior to joining Phillips Murrah, Alison and Elaine practiced with in the Dallas office of an international law firm.


CONTACT:

Phillips Murrah – Dallas Office:
3710 Rawlins Street, Suite 1420
Dallas, Texas 75219

Main: (214) 238-2525
Fax: (214) 434-1370

 

 

 

 

 

2018-2019 OKC Thunder season slideshow

Anyone can take part in utility rate cases in Oklahoma

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney C. Eric Davis discusses the process utility companies must go through to request rate increases and how different parties can participate.

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

Q: Oklahoma’s two largest electric utilities have rate cases ongoing at the Corporation Commission. How does the rate case process work?

A: In Oklahoma, investor-owned electric companies are “rate-regulated” by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Regulating the rates of investor-owned utilities is necessary based on their monopoly status, i.e., customers generally can’t choose among other competing utilities for the same service. As a result, companies like Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service of Oklahoma must seek approval from the three elected Corporation Commissioners before increasing rates. When a utility requests a rate increase, the resulting procedure is referred to as a “rate case.” A rate case is a formal, evidence-based, court-like process, open to the public. In a rate case, the commission determines the amount of revenue a company reasonably needs to operate, and then decides how best to allocate any increase (or decrease) among the company’s customers. This allocation process involves dividing customers into classes (such as residential, commercial, industrial, municipal, public schools), and even subclasses, and then, ideally, assigning rates across classes in an equitable manner.

Q: What types of issues exist in OG&E’s and PSO’s current rate cases?

A: Primary drivers in any rate case include the utility’s operational costs, costs associated with plant investments, and the utility’s right to earn a fair profit. On the generation side, national trends evidence a shift toward renewable and natural gas resources, and conflicts abound concerning how utilities should deal with their existing fleets, including coal plants. In its current rate case, OG&E has requested about $54 million annually to recover the cost of retrofitting its Sooner coal plant to reduce air pollution. Meanwhile, historically low load growth and other market trends are causing electric utilities to reconsider the manner in which they obtain rate increases from the commission. In PSO’s ongoing rate case, the company is proposing a “performance-based rate plan,” in which its earnings would be subject to more frequent, annual reviews, allowing for periodic rate adjustments. Such annual reviews, while occurring with more regularity, would be structured differently and allow for less in-depth analysis than a traditional rate case. However, PSO has proposed a backstop, stating it would file a full-blown rate case after three years.

Q: Who may participate in rate cases?

A: Anyone can take part in a rate case, whether by emailing public comment to the commission, or formally intervening as a party. Formal parties have the right to issue discovery, present witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses of other parties, including the utility’s witnesses. Common parties include the commission’s staff, the attorney general, large industrial customers, AARP, and the Department of Defense. Intervening parties may aim to influence utility policies, or ensure the utility’s costs are reasonable. Parties also may advocate on behalf of particular customer classes during the rate design process, ensuring costs are fairly apportioned among customers.

 

Published: 2/6/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5622090/qa-by-c-eric-davis-anyone-can-take-part-in-utility-rate-cases

Firm selects Employee of the Month for December 2018

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for December 2018.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled,” Donna said. “I feel truly blessed to work for such a great company that I consider a part of my family.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Congratulations to Donna Anderson, a skilled paralegal, working with our legal team to provide top-notch client service to our often anxious family law clients,” Director Nikki Edwards said. “Clients, support staff and all of the attorneys Donna works with describe her similarly as ‘the calm in the storm’.

“We are so happy that Donna deservingly received the December Employee of the Month recognition. Donna’s insight and dedication are evident in all she does.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Donna chose Positive Tomorrows.

“We are so grateful that Donna and Phillips Murrah P.C. have chosen to support Positive Tomorrows in this way,” said Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows President and Principal. “As Oklahoma’s only elementary school and social service agency specifically serving children and families experiencing homelessness, we rely on a generous community to keep our doors open.

“Gifts like this mean that we can continue to provide life-changing services to some of our communities most vulnerable little ones.”

Positive Tomorrows recently broke ground on a new facility in Oklahoma City, and Phillips Murrah has been a supporter of their mission for years.

“I believe children are our future, and the fact that Positive Tomorrows is trying to ensure their success makes this a worthy cause,” Donna said. “Many children would not have the simple pleasures of life such as a meal or a place where they feel safe if it were not for Positive Tomorrows.”

To learn more about Positive Tomorrows, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Premise liability and Intellectual property: a sampling of holiday legal woes

As we find ourselves in the midst of another holiday season, it’s a good time to contemplate the joys this time of year brings. For many, that list includes extra time with loved ones, hearty food, and cozy pajamas.

Phillips Murrah litigation attorney Hillary Clifton discusses holiday legal hazards.

Hilary Hudson Clifton is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters. Click the photo to visit her attorney profile.

Hopefully, holiday-specific “legal woes” are less likely to come to mind. Nevertheless, holidays often have their own unique histories of legal issues that few would equate with the brotherly love and fa-la-la-falderal we expect during this “most wonderful time of the year.”

By this time, those who opened their homes and businesses on Halloween hopefully avoided any incidents associated with the spookier part of the season, like haunted house trip-and-falls or home-made cotton-ball sheep costume fires (see Ferlito v. Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc.).

Premises liability, however, remains a major concern for retailers preparing for the onslaught of holiday shoppers. Though most Black Friday retail giants are now well-acquainted with the safety risks associated with enormous sales and even bigger crowds, smaller retailers should be sure to beef up their safety protocol and brush up on premises liability concepts to keep the shopping season incident-free.

In addition to civil liability, failure to adequately cope with Black Friday madness can result in a business being cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose “Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers” can be found online.

Less tangible injuries to intellectual property rights will often arise in connection with holiday-themed entertainment. One case that has been in the news recently involves the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which puts a darker twist on Sabrina the Teenage Witch), and The Satanic Temple’s claim that a statue featured in the show of the goat-headed Baphomet infringes on the Temple’s copyright of its own monument.

There’s also a fair chance that your favorite Christmas carol continues to generate income as someone’s intellectual property – and that someone would like to keep it that way (think the listless bachelor played by Hugh Grant in About A Boy). Of course, many holiday favorites, like Deck the Halls and Silent Night, have become part of the public domain and are perfect for spreading Christmas cheer. Others, like Frosty the Snowman, are still protected by copyright and require a license for public performances.

Finally, if you have any particularly overzealous family members, you might turn the threat of intellectual property litigation to your advantage, by cautioning that their makeshift mistletoe hats infringe on the “mistletoe supporting headband” patented in 1983 or the “Kiss Me” holiday cap patented in 1999.

Though I wouldn’t recommend Grinch-ing up your holiday parties by casually chatting about all the ways one might get sued before the new year, we should all keep in mind that no season is immune from the unfortunate reality of accidents, disagreements and liabilities – no matter how sincere our sentiments of peace on earth and goodwill toward man.


Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on November 21, 2018.

ALFA International Video

Phillips Murrah is a member of ALFA International, the global legal network. With 145 member firms across the globe (80 in the United States) ALFA International is the premier global network of independent law firms whose success is driven by broad, deep, local relationships all over the world.

Dallas employment attorney Janet A. Hendrick tells Law360 why she joined Phillips Murrah

On Oct. 10, Law360, an in-depth legal industry publication, published an article about Phillips Murrah Director, Janet A. Hendrick, who recently joined our Firm in the Dallas office.

Janet is an employment attorney with almost two decades of experience. She is deeply committed to the advancement of women lawyers and is a thought leader and sought-after speaker on gender diversity in the legal profession.

From the article:

She told Law360 on Wednesday that she was impressed by the firm’s leadership.

Phillips Murrah opens Dallas office“When I met the folks at the firm and understood their commitment to women, and retaining talented women, and putting women in leadership roles with the firm, it was really unparalleled,” she said. “Forty percent of our directors are women, which far surpasses the national average. That’s just something that’s extremely important to me.”

The full-service platform offered by Phillips Murrah — compared with her prior firm’s employment focus — and its competitive rates have prompted positive responses and feedback from clients, she said. Another draw in coming to Phillips Murrah, she said, is the firm’s desire to grow its Texas footprint and the fact that she would have a hand in helping “build something new.”

“Absolutely, the firm is committed to growing the firm in the Dallas office, so we are in discussions with additional individuals now,” she said. “We don’t have a set number, but we plan to bring additional attorneys to fill client needs.”

Janet aggressively defends clients in state and federal courts and in arbitration on a range of matters, and provides counsel on a variety of issues that employers face, including best employment practices and compliance, audits and investigations, employee training, and cutting-edge legal issues surrounding the rapidly expanding gig economy.

Click to read our full release about Janet joining Phillips Murrah.