As individuals beyond front-line healthcare workers are becoming eligible for the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a toolkit for employers of essential workers, to join those that it previously released for medical centers/clinics/clinicians, and long-term care facilities. Although targeted for these specific employers, the resources provide information and resources that are applicable to employers generally.
Following the shocking events of January 6, 2020, there have been many reports of individuals who have been terminated, suspended or resigned from employment as a consequence due to their involvement in the deadly storming of the Capitol building or their active support of President Trump’s “stolen election” narrative. But what exactly are the parameters of when an employer can take action against an employee for engaging in off-duty activities that an employer may find repugnant? We first blogged about this issue back in 2017, in light of the deadly white nationalist/supremacist rally in Charlottesville. But a refresher seems timely. Continue Reading Can Employers Terminate for Off-Duty Conduct (Say, Like Storming the Capitol)?
On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its Final Rule to provide guidance on the determination of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Final Rule, which largely adopts the Proposed Rule (discussed in our September E-update), is scheduled to take effect on March 8, 2021 – after the change in administration. These so-called “midnight regulations,” issued during the lame-duck period between the election and the new president’s inauguration, can be placed on hold by the incoming President before they take effect – and President-Elect Biden has already indicated that he will issue an executive order that will halt or delay all such midnight regulations.
In addition to the voluntary extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s paid leave provisions, which we discussed in our December 22, 2020 E-lert, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (the Act), included in the massive (5593 page) stimulus bill signed into law on December 27, 2020, expands or extends relief benefits under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, discussed in our March 27, 2020 and March 30, 2020 E-lerts. Specifically, the Act clarifies the tax treatment of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, permits second PPP loans to certain borrowers, expands eligibility for first PPP loans, adds to the list of forgivable expenses; expands the employee retention credit, and extends enhanced unemployment benefits.
The paid sick leave and family leave mandates under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) end on December 31, 2020; however, the stimulus bill passed by Congress on December 22, 2020 permits employers to voluntarily provide those paid leave benefits, and receive the corresponding tax credit, through March 31, 2021. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
Back in March, near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the FFCRA, which, among other things, imposed two leave mandates on employers with fewer than 500 employees: (1) a two-week emergency paid sick leave (“EPSL”) mandate for employees who are unable to work or telework due to six specific COVID-19-related reasons; and (2) a temporary expansion of coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to enable employees to take their twelve weeks of FMLA leave for school and child care closures associated with COVID-19 (EFMLA), including a ten-week paid leave component. Significantly, employers are reimbursed for the cost of the leave(s) through a tax credit.
As distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine begins, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has modified its What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws resource to address the impact of federal non-discrimination laws on an employer’s vaccine requirements. Of particular interest, the EEOC makes the following points with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act:
Notably, the EEOC emphasizes that federal antidiscrimination laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following guidelines and suggestions from the CDC or other governmental public health authorities. The EEOC also refers employers to the FDA’s website for more information on the Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 vaccines, which differs from the normal approval process.
With the COVID-19 vaccine finally becoming a reality, healthcare employers, who were first to receive the vaccine for distribution to their workforce, are addressing questions of how to implement vaccination programs. Other employers are thinking about these issues as well, in preparation for the time when vaccines are more widely available. Below, we have addressed many common, and some not so common, questions about vaccines in the workplace.
With apologies to William Shakespeare, these past couple of weeks have been rather confusing, with two of the major federal agencies leading the battle against COVID-19 – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – issuing somewhat, well, inconsistent guidance on the use of cloth face coverings or masks.
For many months now, the CDC has told us that cloth masks help to control the spread of COVID-19 by providing a barrier to help prevent the wearer’s respiratory droplets from reaching others – but that the masks did not protect the wearer. And because such cloth masks had no protective function, OSHA naturally declared that they were not personal protective equipment (PPE), which is significant because there may be OSHA-mandated employer obligations relating to the use of PPE in the workplace (e,g. fit testing, training, documentation, etc.).
On Wednesday, December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its recommended quarantine period for those individuals who were in close contact with a person with COVID-19. The revised guidance, while still ideally recommending a 14-day quarantine period, now permits exposed individuals to end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test (collected within 48 hours of the final day of quarantine), or 10 days without a test. This development will allow employers to bring exposed employees back into the workplace much faster than before.
Effective February 19, 2021, Montgomery County’s Ban-the-Box law is becoming far more restrictive and will apply to all employers – not just those with 15 or more employees.
As employers with employees in Montgomery County, Maryland should know, Montgomery County had previously enacted a Ban-the-Box law that prohibited inquiries about an applicant’s arrest or conviction record until the end of the first interview. (The “Box” refers to the box, contained on many employment applications, that must be checked if the applicant has a criminal record.) This law has now been amended, with expansive new protections for applicants and employees of all Montgomery County employers.