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Return to Work: Preparing for the Future Amid COVID-19

Companies planning to reopen offices face numerous challenges, including how to handle employee illness, privacy rights, and more. Companies preparing for a return to work amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic face a number of important HR and employment issues, including complying with federal, state, and local regulations; meeting industry-specific requirements; and adopting a return-to-work plan. […]

The post Return to Work: Preparing for the Future Amid COVID-19 appeared first on National Venture Capital Association – NVCA.

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Companies planning to reopen offices face numerous challenges, including how to handle employee illness, privacy rights, and more.

Companies preparing for a return to work amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic face a number of important HR and employment issues, including complying with federal, state, and local regulations; meeting industry-specific requirements; and adopting a return-to-work plan. Such plans can vary significantly, and each approach carries its own set of legal issues and challenges. NVCA and Latham & Watkins recently conducted a webcast, Return to Work: Preparing for the Future Amid COVID-19, to explore these issues. Below are the key takeaways.

Top 10 Employment and Insurance Considerations:

1. Illness among workers and third parties

Employers planning a resumption of in-office business operations say handling illness among employees and third parties is their greatest concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers helpful guidelines for reducing the potential for workplace exposure to illness. Some local officials are adopting the CDC’s guidelines as requirements. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), for example, requires employers to determine if COVID-19 is a workplace hazard in their workspace, and if it is, to amend their existing Illness and Injury Prevention Plan to implement infection control measures, including those recommended by the CDC.

2. Compliance with mandated protocols and development of policies

Employers should refer to CDC guidelines and develop policies in their return-to-work plan that cover social distancing, personal protective devices and sanitation, and employee temperature checks or wellness certifications. Additionally, state and local governments have enacted gubernatorial and county health officer orders, legislation, ordinances, and agency pronouncements and regulations, all of which should be taken into consideration by employers based on their jurisdiction.

3. Worker recall processes

How and when to recall employees will depend on a number of factors, including local health officer orders (e.g., occupancy restrictions and social distancing guidelines) and the nature of the workplace (e.g., high-rise office buildings, open workspaces, communal space).

4. Incident response following a COVID-19 diagnosis

Companies should follow CDC and local health authority guidance and develop a plan for sending home the infected employee for a required quarantine period; notifying those who came in close contact with the employee (on an anonymous basis) that they may have been exposed and potentially requiring their own testing and quarantine period; and closing the affected space for cleaning.

5. Compliance with federal and local laws governing employee rights

Employers should remain compliant with employee medical privacy rights. While employees’ COVID-19-related health information may not constitute “protected health information” for purposes of HIPAA if employers are acting in their capacity as an employer rather than through their employee group health plans, employers still need to be mindful of state and federal laws and regulations governing the privacy and security of employee medical information. When implementing COVID-19 testing programs, employers need to ensure that the collection, use, and disclosure of such information complies with such laws and regulations, and that employees are properly notified of how such information will be used and disclosed. A number of employers are considering using automated contact tracing to enable them to track outbreaks and limit the spread of the virus. Some states prohibit GPS surveillance of employees without consent, and therefore specific permission may be required for Bluetooth-enabled GPS contact tracing.

6. Sick leave, family care leave, and parental leave for reasons related to COVID-19

It is important for companies to understand employee rights under the emergency amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees of companies with less than 500 employees may have rights to partially paid leave due to:

  • Their own illness or evaluation for COVID-19
  • The illness of a household member who has COVID-19
  • School closures or lack of childcare arrangements

These regulations are complex, and employers should consult with counsel.

7. Resistance to returning to the office

A number of companies have surveyed their employees and report significant resistance to the idea of returning to the office in the near term. While employers can require their employees to return to work in the office, they should consider the following:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act and similar local laws may require accommodation of employees whose medical providers support they should continue working from home.
  • Refusing an employee’s request to work from home due to a family member with medical conditions that puts them at greater risk of COVID-19 could lead to a claim of discrimination based upon association with a person who has disabilities.

8. Resistance to working from home
Some companies report employee resistance to working from home, or to company announcements that extend the period that employees are expected to work from home. Employers can and must require employees to adhere to all company policies designed to ensure compliance with applicable laws, including staying home, wearing a face covering, and social distancing. However, as some companies extend their work-from-home directives even when local authorities allow them to reopen their offices, interesting and novel issues are cropping up, such as requests for employer assistance with home office equipment. Some jurisdictions already require employers to reimburse employees for, or provide a stipend designed to cover the cost of, employees’ home internet and phone connections and personal cell phones for business use. Also, employers may be required to accommodate requests for equipment necessary for employees to do their jobs from home without incurring repetitive-stress or ergonomics-related injuries.

9. Employee relocations

Companies are seeing an increase in employee relocations — often unilateral — both within and outside the United States. These can raise unexpected tax issues, including both payroll tax issues and revenue attribution issues. Notably, companies extending out office closures can expect an increasing number of employee relocations. In addition to tax issues, these relocations may create internal pay disparities, as employees who were hired in areas with a high cost of living relocate to areas with a lower cost of living.

10. Insurance considerations

Insurance is an essential risk-management and hedging asset. Premiums are costly, so it behooves companies to utilize the asset fully. Understanding the scope of protection can inform company strategies on how aggressively to return to work, and with what level of precautions. Return-to-work issues are likely to impact the following areas of coverage:

  • Worker’s compensation insurance: Workplace-acquired illnesses are often compensable through the worker’s compensation system, without any showing that the employer did anything wrong. Worker’s Compensation Insurance is required in every state, and the insurance typically reimburses employers for most or all defense costs, medical costs, and lost wages incurred as a result of worker’s compensation claims. However, insurance is often subject to deductibles, and if the deductibles apply on a per-worker basis, they can add up very quickly and leave the employer with a hefty liability. Companies should consult their broker and understand the below points for all states in which they have meaningful operations:
    • How worker’s compensation costs are allocated between the employer and insurer
    • Whether the employer’s exposure for deductibles is subject to an aggregate cap
    • Whether the total available coverage limits are subject to a hard cap
  • Employment practices liability (EPL) coverage: Employers face a variety of workplace liabilities that could emerge as employees return (or don’t return) to work, including (without limit) discrimination claims on the basis of disability, age, race, ethnicity, and other protected categories or suspect practices, and privacy claims on the basis of improper collection of or dissemination of health or other private information. Companies should provide their insurer with prompt or immediate notice of a claim or of factual circumstances likely to give rise to a claim. Many commercial package insurance policies include EPL coverage. If a company does not have EPL coverage, it should request a broker to provide a quote to add it now, or to add it at renewal.
  • Comprehensive general liability (CGL) and excess/umbrella liability coverage: Employers face the risk that employees may contract COVID-19 at work and then spread it in their community. Unlike employees (who generally would be barred from pursuing tort claims outside the worker’s compensation system), infected third parties (g., family members, friends, members of the community) potentially could bring civil lawsuits for money damages based on allegations that negligent workplace safety practices resulted in community spread. Such lawsuits likely would be covered under a company’s liability policies, unless the policy contains a broad virus exclusion. It is important for companies to understand the scope of available coverage and whether there is a virus exclusion, and to provide prompt notice to their insurer of any claims or threats of claims.
  • Cyber coverage: Remote work has been facilitated at breakneck speed, possibly with insufficient attention to electronic security. As a result, cybercriminals worldwide are aggressively seeking to exploit security breaches. Many first- and third-party policies may contain some form of cyber coverage, but often with gaps in coverage and low limits, and coverage can vary widely depending on the policy specifics and the issuing company. Companies should look to enhance cybersecurity and work with their broker to understand their coverage, and press the broker to try to identify insurers that will provide broader coverage and higher available limits. Companies that are breached should:
    • Immediately notify management and their technology department to mitigate harm
    • Promptly notify their broker of a potential claim and cooperate with the insurer’s investigation
    • Contact a coverage attorney to understand their coverage before committing to any factual statements of what happened
  • Directors and officers (D&O) coverage: D&O policies nearly always exclude claims “for bodily injury,” but some exclude claims “in any way relating to bodily injury.” Companies should immediately contact counsel if they have any concerns about stock price drop claims or any claims against the company or its officers and directors (g., due to failure to respond to COVID-19-related issues promptly, to reopen properly, or to reopen when allowed).Companies will need to determine if and when they should, or must, provide notice of an actual or potential claim. If a claim is definitively made, then the policy generally will require the company to give notice to the insurer “promptly,” “as soon as practicable,” or the like (and in any event before the end of the policy period and any applicable extended reporting period). Failure to do so could result in a loss of defense costs incurred prior to notice or even a complete forfeiture of coverage. Other situations may involve facts suggesting the potential for a claim at some point in the future (e.g., a company learns that an employee with a large family has tested positive, but has no information about whether any of the employee’s relatives have tested positive). In such situations, the policy may permit the company to provide a “notice of circumstances” to lock in coverage under that policy with respect to any subsequent claims that arise out of the reported circumstances. In all events, it is advisable to confer with a broker or counsel to determine if and when such a notice should be made.
  • Renewal strategy: Finally, companies should consider starting their insurance renewals early, as the current market is “hard” and may grow increasingly more difficult in the coming weeks and months. Companies should speak with their broker about bolstering the type or amount of their current coverage.

Source: https://nvca.org/return-to-work-preparing-for-the-future-amid-covid-19/

Private Equity

Ordermark Funded $120M to Expand its Virtual Business

Virtual

Ordermark is based in Los Angeles, CA, one of the leading online ordering management solutions for restaurants and virtual restaurant concepts.

Ordermark was funded $120 million series C round funding. The funding was led by prominent technology investor SoftBank Vision Fund and joined by returning investor Act One Ventures. The grant will use to help more restaurants transition to online ordering during the pandemic and beyond.

The company’s software consolidates incoming orders from multiple platforms and sends them to a single printer. Ordermark also operates a company

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The post Ordermark Funded $120M to Expand its Virtual Business appeared first on Funded.com.

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Ordermark is based in Los Angeles, CA, one of the leading online ordering management solutions for restaurants and virtual restaurant concepts.

Ordermark was funded $120 million series C round funding. The funding was led by prominent technology investor SoftBank Vision Fund and joined by returning investor Act One Ventures. The grant will use to help more restaurants transition to online ordering during the pandemic and beyond.

The company’s software consolidates incoming orders from multiple platforms and sends them to a single printer. Ordermark also operates a company called Nextbite, a portfolio of 15 readymade virtual brands such as CraveBurger, Firebelly Wings, and HotBox by Wiz, a collaboration with rapper Wiz Khalifa. Restaurants can offer these delivery-only brands out of existing kitchens, opening up additional revenue streams.

Jeff Housenbold, the Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said. They believe Ordermark is a leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts transform the restaurant industry. And they are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.

The rise of ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants, often referred to as the 3rd wave of food delivery, have paved the way for a broader addressable market for online food delivery.

The statement of Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark 2020, has been a tough year for restaurants. That’s why they are focus on providing products and services to help keep their doors open. This funding allows them to offer more restaurants with innovative ways to reach more consumers.

By: K. Tagura

Author statement:

Funded.com is the leading platform for accredited investors network worldwide. We monitor and provide updates on important funding events. Angel Investors and Venture Funding can be a key growth for a startup or existing business. Whether it is a first, second or third round financing having a strategic alliance with an Angel Investor or Venture Capital financing can propel a business to the next level and give the competitive edge.

Source: https://www.funded.com/blog/2020/10/ordermark-funded-120m-to-expand-its-virtual-business/

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Private Equity

Alternative Investments/ESG: Amundi Launches Sustainable ETF With Exposure To Japanese Stocks

The Amundi Index MSCI Japan SRI UCITS ETF offers exposure to large and mid-cap companies with outstanding Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings in the Japanese market. The new ETF is an extension of Amundi’s range of sustainable ETFs.

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Alternative Investments/ESG: Amundi Launches Sustainable ETF With Exposure To Japanese Stocks

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Amundi’s new ESG ETF invests in large and mid-cap Japanese stocks.

The Amundi Index MSCI Japan SRI UCITS ETF offers exposure to large and mid-cap companies with outstanding Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings in the Japanese market.

The new ETF is an extension of Amundi’s range of sustainable ETFs. (ETF Stream)

Amundi Index MSCI Japan SRI UCITS ETF

The ETF tracks the performance of the MSCI Japan SRI Filtered ex Fossil Fuels Index, which in turn is an equity index based on the MSCI Japan Index (the parent index). The index is representative of the large and midcap stocks of the Japanese market.

It excludes issuers involved in Nuclear, Tobacco, Thermal Coal, Alcohol, Gambling, Controversial Weapons, Conventional Weapons, Civilian Firearms, Oil & Gas, Fossil Fuels, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), and Adult Entertainment.

Its total expense ratio is 0.18%. No performance fees apply.

It is an accumulation fund and will be managed by Amundi Luxembourg SA, an entity that is part of the Amundi group.

The ETF is market-cap weighted and includes a 5% capping on issuer weights. It comprises 68 stocks, compared to 320 names in its parent index.

The fund’s largest holding is Nintendo with 5.6% weighting ahead of Daikin Industries with 5% and Sony with 4.7%.

It is listed on the Deutsche Boerse and Euronext Paris.

ESG ETFs continue record run

European ESG ETFs continued their strong trend and set a record for assets gathered in a month (€3.9 billion), according to the latest Money Monitor report from Lyxor ETF for September.

Related Story:  Amundi Expands ESG Range With Two New ETFs

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Source: https://dailyalts.com/alternative-investments-esg-amundi-launches-sustainable-etf-with-exposure-to-japanese-stocks/

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Private Equity

Artificial Intelligence: Intel First To Deploy AI “On Edge” In Space

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) has the distinction of launching the first onboard AI processing chip into space. Earlier this month, the European Space Agency and Intel announced the successful deployment in space of PhiSat-1, the first-ever satellite with onboard AI-processing capabilities. Launched from a rocket dispenser on September 2, the PhiSat-1 is positioned about 530 km above our heads, moving at a speed of 27,500 km per hour in a sun-synchronous orbit.

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Artificial Intelligence: Intel First To Deploy AI “On Edge” In Space

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A satellite the size of a cereal box, carrying a camera and an AI chip, is now in orbit.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) has the distinction of launching the first onboard AI processing chip into space. Earlier this month, the European Space Agency and Intel announced the successful deployment in space of PhiSat-1, the first-ever satellite with onboard AI-processing capabilities. (Business Insider)

Launched from a rocket dispenser on September 2, the PhiSat-1 is positioned about 530 km above our heads. It is moving at a speed of 27,500 km per hour in a sun-synchronous orbit.

PhiSat-1

The satellite’s objective is to monitor polar ice and soil moisture, as well as to test inter-satellite communication systems.

The satellite carries a hyperspectral-thermal camera and an Intel Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 Vision Processing Unit (VPU). The latter is responsible for the AI heavy lifting operations onboard the spacecraft.

Myriad’s immediate function is to curate the huge mass of data captured by the camera.

AI at the ultimate edge – space

The big problem facing the scientists was the sheer volume of data generated by the hi-fidelity camera onboard the PhiSat-1. The camera unfortunately does not know how to differentiate between a cloudy and clear environment.

It, therefore, takes a large number of photographs that are useless because, at any given time, clouds envelop two-thirds of the earth’s surface.

The junk photos consume precious internet bandwidth to send down to earth. After all that, scientists would likely delete the unclear photos.

The scientists decided to use onboard AI (also known as “on edge” processing) to curate the photos. Myriad-2 would examine the images, trash the useless ones, and send only the good ones to earth.

By discarding the cloudy images at the source, they saved nearly 30% of bandwidth.

“Artificial intelligence at the edge came to rescue us, the cavalry in the Western movie,” says Gianluca Furano, data systems and onboard computing lead at the European Space Agency.

“Space is the ultimate edge,” says Aubrey Dunne, chief technology officer of Ubotica, the Irish startup that built and tested PhiSat-1’s AI technology. “The Myriad was absolutely designed from the ground up to have an impressive compute capability but in a very low power envelope, and that really suits space applications.”

Ubotica worked with cosine, the maker of the camera, in addition to the University of Pisa and Sinergise.

After three weeks of testing, the team could establish that Intel’s Myriad AI onboard the PhiSat-1 was working fine.

ESA then announced “the first-ever hardware-accelerated AI inference of Earth observation images on an in-orbit satellite.”

Satellite-as-a-service!

Scientists can now visualize multiple applications of AI on satellites.

For example, the satellite, during one orbit, could switch from spotting wildfires on land to rogue ships or environmental accidents at sea such as oil spills.

It could measure crops and soil moisture over farms and forests, and assess the ill effect of climate change on melting ice caps.

Related Story:   Satellites and AI Could Together Predict Wildfires Accurately

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Source: https://dailyalts.com/intel-first-to-deploy-ai-on-edge-in-space/

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