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Austin’s New COVID-19 Emergency Rules Now in Effect for Construction Sites and Individuals

by Brittany B. Long  Last week, the City of Austin approved two new ordinances giving the City the authority to take legal action and assess civil penalties against businesses and individuals who fail to follow COVID-19 public health requirements. Yesterday, the City signed new emergency rules that go into effect today and remain in effect through November 12, 2020. Work sites that fail to follow these rules could be subject to civil suit, while individuals can be fined up to $2,000 per day.
 
These rules include specific requirements for construction sites and broader requirements for all work sites and individuals. The rules provide for the following specific requirements for construction sites:
  1. Comply with all general requirements; These rules mirror those in previous orders. However, please note that sites are now required to post at least one Austin Public Health “Help Prevent Disease” signs at each entrance and on each restroom door (available for download and print here), in addition to other required signs.
  2. Institute staggered shifts for certain sites and post required notices;
  3. Ensure handwashing station and restroom(s) are spaced at least six feet apart;
  4. No use of community water coolers (provide individual water bottles or have workers bring their own);
  5. Designate an on-site COVID-19 safety monitor; and
  6. Ensure that each worker who enters a jobsite has signed-in, and keep a list of, and contact information for, each on-site worker.
For a full copy of the new emergency rules, click here.
 
Per the Development Services Department and Austin Code Department: “Austin Code Department, along with Austin Fire and Austin Police, will continue to respond to and document all complaints regarding violations at construction sites. Sites with multiple complaints or repeat violations will be referred to the Health Authority for possible legal action."  The Health Authority will review complaints and determine whether to send such complaints to the City Attorney for prosecution.
 
We highly recommend that all project participants working in Austin take immediate action to implement these emergency rules, and ensure that their employees follow the rules onsite in order to mitigate the risk of a civil action, which could lead to extra costs and project delays. ... Read More
Employment
Employment Law Update
by Tony Stergio Unemployment Compensation Update
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced that it will delay the enforcement of the work search requirement for unemployment recipients due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This requirement will likely be suspended until the pandemic eases. The TWC also announced that unemployment benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be charged back to employers. In addition, the federal $600/week supplemental unemployment benefit is scheduled to end in Texas on July 25, 2020.
 
Workers’ Compensation Update
The Texas Department of Insurance has indicated that COVID-19 infections which are shown to have occurred at work are compensable. Thus, an employee’s health care expense and wage replacement (not covered by FFCRA paid leave) will be covered by worker’s compensation. The TDI has indicated, however, that such COVID-19 related worker’s compensation claims will not impact an employer’s worker’s compensation experience ratings.
 
Antibody Testing Update
As I wrote last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that an employer cannot require an employee to undergo COVID-19 antibody testing.  An employer can however, mandate that an employee test for the presence of the actual virus.  The EEOC reasoned that antibody testing does not provide information concerning the actual presence of the virus but only those employees who are possibly immune from contracting the virus in the future.  COVID-19 serology testing, however, can reveal if an employee has early response antibodies (IGM) to the virus and, therefore, may currently have the virus.  Serology tests also reveal whether an employee has long-term antibodies (IGG). ... Read More
Real Estate Webinar Friday
Join Matt Cire and Bret Rycroft for the upcoming Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) Webinar, "Before a Lawsuit Happens," on July 17th.  The $25 session is geared for property managers as they navigate COVID-19 reopenings and protocols. Click on the flyer for registration details. 
Construction
AAA Construction Webinar Series
Bill Andrews of Andrews Myers, Dr. Anamaria Popescu of the Berkeley Research Group, and Brad Gordon of Gilbane Building Company, are faculty in the upcoming AAA Construction Webinar titled "The Best Defense is a Good Offense: The Keys to Claims Prevention and Mitigation," on July 22nd at 1:00 pm CST.

Geared for owners and contractors interested in claims prevention and mitigation, the presentation will cover:
  • Typical project disputes that end up in arbitration
  • Best practices in order to avoid and resolve project disputes
  • Best practices to mitigate project risks
  • Best practices in arbitration
Moderated by Michael Powell, Vice President, Construction Division for the American Arbitration Association, the $50 webinar is CLE accredited.  Register here. 
Important Information on COVID-19

July 10 -- Austin City Council Launches Two New Ordinances
July 02 -- Mask Order and Texas Supreme Court Updates
June 30 -- Andrews Myers Monthly Law Alert | June 2020
June 26 -- The Newest Guidelines for Texas and Houston Residents
June 24 -- Unmasking the Three Mask Orders
June 19 -- Employment Law Update
June 05 -- PPP Flexibility Act
June 04 -- Phase III Texas | OSHA Updates 
May 27 -- PPP Forgiveness | Rent Deferment | Hidalgo Order 
May 19 -- Andrews Myers Monthly Law Alert | May 2020 
May 13 -- Good Faith Certification | EEOC & OSHA Updates 
May 06 -- Governor Abbott Accelerates Plan to Reopen Texas
April 28 -- Governor Abbott's Phased Plan to Reopen Business
April 24 -- New PPP and EIDL Funds | Employee COVID-19 Testing
April 23 -- COVID-19 Update | Harris County Face Cover Order
April 21 -- COVID-19 Update | Legal Update | 4.21.2020
April 17 -- New Orders Issued by Governor | COVID & eDiscovery
April 16 -- PPP Funds Depleted | CDC Update
April 14 -- Austin and Travis County Issue Updated Orders
April 13 -- New Programs for Small Businesses | OSHA Updates
April 07 -- PPP & 250 Billion Boost | EIDL | Austin Jobsite Poster
April 06 -- COVID-19 | Legal Update | 4.06.2020
April 03 -- Revised PPP Application| Webinar | Rising Stars
April 02 -- City of Austin Accepts GA 14 Executive Order
April 01 -- Commercial & Multifamily Construction
March 31 -- Governor Issues Support for Construction Industry
March 31 -- COVID-19 | Legal Update 3.31.2020
March 30 -- The CARES Act of 2020 Further Explained
March 29 -- The CARES Act of 2020
March 27 -- UPDATE | Providing Paid Sick Leave and FMLA
March 25 -- City of Austin Memorandum Causing Confusion
March 24 -- Stay Home, Work Safe
March 24 -- Bankruptcy and Restructuring Options
March 23 -- Not Triggering Force Majeure | Litigation Delays
March 20 -- COVID-19 | Latest Development Impacting our Clients
March 19 -- Texas Governor Issues COVID-19 Executive Order
March 19 -- Mechanic's Liens in the Time of Corona
March 19 -- Trump Signs Law to Grant Paid Sick Leave
March 17 -- CDC Guidelines & The Americans with Disabilities Act
March 16 -- Coronavirus Employment Obligations
March 13 -- COVID-19 & Force Majeure

About Andrews Myers
Celebrating 30 Years in 2020
Founded in 1990, with offices in Houston and Austin, Andrews Myers, Attorneys at Law, is a corporate law firm and recognized market leader in Texas construction law.  The firm focuses on the concentrated disciplines of commercial litigation, construction, commercial real estate, corporate and business transactions, with additional emphasis on related issues including bankruptcy and insolvency, energy, employment and capital formation. A seasoned team of attorneys provides timely and cost-effective solutions to the most complex problems facing entrepreneurs and middle-market industry leaders throughout the state and the nation. For more information please visit www.andrewsmyers.com.
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