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COVID-19 Webinar & Resources for the Legal Community - IndyBar News

IndyBar News


Posted on: Mar 11, 2020

 

For the latest updates, please visit this page.

The Indianapolis Bar Association, in coordination with the Indiana State Bar Association, is monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and is curating credible information and resources as they relate to the legal community.

To ensure the health and well-being of IndyBar members and staff, IndyBar will postpone and reschedule all in-person meetings at least through April 10, 2020. CLE programs scheduled during that time will be presented online for distance education credit.

In addition, IndyBarHQ will be closed to members until April 10, 2020, with the option to reopen if the situation materially changes. IndyBar staff will continue to work from IndyBarHQ so long as circumstances permit. If the situation warrants, IndyBar will close IndyBarHQ to ensure the health and safety of its staff. IndyBar staff is prepared to and capable of working remotely, if necessary.  

In the meantime, IndyBar is exploring additional programming in the coming days and weeks to address legal challenges involving COVID-19. See below for details.

If you need assistance from IndyBar, do not hesitate to contact IndyBar President Andy Campbell or IndyBar Executive Director Julie Armstrong.  


Court & Legal Community Updates

If you have a pertinent update, please send details to Mary Kay Price at mprice@indybar.org.

For a comprehensive listing of state-wide court closures, please click here.

  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana: The Honorable Jane E. Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, issued a General Order on March 13 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and specifically within the Southern District of Indiana. View the order here.
  • Marion Superior and Circuit Courts: In response to concerns about COVID-19, the Marion Circuit and Superior Courts have declared an emergency and enacted a continuity of operations plan, which will change the way the courts operate. See full details here.
  • Families First Coronavirus Act: On Friday, March 13, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with bi-partisan support. Among other things, the bill, if enacted, would provide additional paid and unpaid leave to most employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate early this week.  A summary of the leave-related provisions is linked here. 

WEBINAR: COVID-19 Guidance for Employers & Individuals
Featuring Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Mark R. Bochan, MD, PhD, FIDSAAmy Adolay, Krieg DeVault LLP; Scott Morrisson, Krieg DeVault LLP

View the webinar here.


COVID-19 Resources for the Legal Community

Get Guidance from IndyBar's Law Practice Management Consultant
IndyBar Law Practice Management Consultant Jared Correia has shared an article on how law firms should respond to the crisis. Read the article here. Jared is also available for one-on-one consultations with IndyBar members; this is a benefit of IndyBar membership. Contact Jared here.

IndyBar Meetings and Events
To ensure the health and well-being of IndyBar members and staff, IndyBar will postpone and reschedule all in-person meetings at least through April 10, 2020. CLE programs scheduled during that time will be presented online for distance education credit.

In addition, IndyBarHQ will be closed to members until that time, with the option to reopen if the situation materially changes. IndyBar staff will continue to work from IndyBarHQ so long as circumstances permit. If the situation warrants, IndyBar will close IndyBarHQ to ensure the health and safety of its staff. IndyBar staff is prepared to and capable of working remotely, if necessary.  

In the meantime, IndyBar is exploring additional programming in the coming days and weeks to address legal challenges involving COVID-19. 

If you need assistance from IndyBar, do not hesitate to contact IndyBar President Andy Campbell or IndyBar Executive Director Julie Armstrong.  

COVID-19: What to Know
Since Indiana reported its first known COVID-19 case on March 6 in Marion County, nine other individuals have tested positive around the state, according to the Indiana Department of Health: Adams (1 case), Boone (1 case), Hendricks (2 cases), Howard (1 case), Johnson (3 cases), Marion (1 case), and Noble (1 case) Counties.

Another 43 individuals had been tested as of 11:59 p.m., March 10. There have been no reported deaths.

Thankfully, we have heard of no positive COVID-19 cases within the Indiana legal community.

As of this morning, March 11, Indiana’s appellate courts are open for business and all their events are proceeding as scheduled, according to Chief Administrative Officer Justin Forkner. He said the Court is taking its lead from the Indiana Department of Health on whether (or when) to alter operations. The Supreme Court has encouraged local trial courts to follow the lead of their local emergency management and health agencies.

The best way for local attorneys to determine if their local court has changed course as a result of COVID-19 is to contact the local court directly. Under administrative rules, Forkner said, trial courts have the ability to adjust proceedings and operations in response to emergencies. To help practitioners and the public, the Indiana Supreme Court has created a webpage with useful links to county sites and other resources.

Considering the American Bar Association cancelled its annual Bar Leadership Institute this week – after Illinois declared a proclamation of disaster – it’s prudent to assume more cases will be reported in Indiana. Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a public health emergency after the first case was reported on March 6.

In short, if Hoosier law firms and practitioners haven’t already developed a plan of action regarding COVID-19, now is the time. Below are a few considerations compiled by the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indiana State Bar Association that may help in your planning.

Considerations for Everyone
Communicate
Take time to inform your employees and clients (if appropriate) about the steps you are taking to maximize their safety. In addition, communicate how they can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control include:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when sick
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with tissues or cough into the elbow area, then discard the tissues in the trash and follow up with handwashing
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces regularly

Adopt alternative meeting practices
There are no shortages of free virtual meeting platforms, including Zoom and Skype. If you work in Microsoft Office, its Teams platform has a virtual chat function built in. If all else fails, consider a simple conference call.

If you are a CourtCall customer, then you already have a solution available to you.

Postpone any non-essential in-person meetings (as if such a thing exists)
Although there are no estimates of how long COVID-19 may affect those in the United States, other countries have seen the number of positive cases peak after a few weeks. If you can push meetings back a month or two, consider doing so. Then re-evaluate when the time comes.

Limit visitors to your building
“Social distancing” is the new term being used to minimize social interactions. Practice a form of this by limiting (or eliminating) visitors in your workspace.

Consider telecommuting for you and your staff
SlackMicrosoft Teams and Basecamp are just a few virtual platforms that allow you to stay connected as a team. E-mail is another simple way of communicating. We realize electronic file sharing can be a nightmare scenario for law firms, but consider telecommuting whenever feasible – especially for employees who are sick or are caring for another.

In addition, it’s best to assume that local schools will consider closing their doors – if they haven’t already. Have a plan for working parents that may be forced into difficult situations.

Considerations for Employers
Balancing the need to protect your employees and company can be challenging. Toss in the varying employment laws, and things can get even trickier. Here are a few FAQs curated from various resources, which are shared at the end of this article:

Can an employer restrict travel to all locations under a CDC travel advisory?
An employer may restrict business travel. Employers should continue to consult the CDC’s website: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel” for up-to-date travel notices concerning risk. The CDC advises that employers restrict all nonessential travel to areas with a Warning Level 3, and to exercise caution regarding travel to Warning Level 2 areas.

Level 3 countries include:

  • China
  • Italy
  • Iran
  • South Korea

Level 2 countries include:

  • Japan

Can I restrict my employees from traveling on Spring Break?
No, employers may not restrict personal travel. But employers can ask where the employee has traveled, and if the employee has traveled to an area designated Level 3 by the CDC, you may ask the employee to self-isolate upon return.

Can I require employees to stay home if they are sick?
Yes. The challenge arises regarding whether the employee will be paid during that time, whether that time off is attributed to vacation or other type of paid time off. Each employer will have to find the right answer for itself. The CDC advises that you can require an employee to be fever-and-symptom-free for 24 hours. Consider a temporary suspension on your illness policy; yes, there may be an employee who will abuse this but a generous policy can potentially stop a serious outbreak within your company.

Can I require employees to wash their hands?
Yes, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers have the obligation to provide a reasonably safe workplace. So, you should be encouraging employees to take such measures.

Can I ask employees to disclose if they have a compromised immune system or chronic health condition?
No. An inquiry asking an employee to disclose a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition is disability-related because the response is likely to disclose the existence of a disability. The ADA does not permit such an inquiry in the absence of objective evidence that pandemic symptoms will cause a direct threat. Such evidence is completely absent before a pandemic occurs.

What can I do if I suspect an employee has COVID-19?
You may ask if the employee has symptoms such as fever or a dry cough. You can also direct employees who have virus-like symptoms or who are at high risk for infection (they live in a house where someone else has in infection) to go home.

If the situation in the United States worsens, do some rules change with a pandemic?
Perhaps. The EEOC has advised, for example, that taking the temperature of all employees may violate the ADA under some circumstances, but has indicated that the rules may change during a pandemic such that the illness may pose a “direct threat” to others. However, the CDC has yet to rule COVID-19 an official pandemic in the United States.

Additional Resources

 

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