On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. This law makes sweeping changes to an employer’s legal obligations: (1) imposing a paid sick and safe leave (“PSL”) mandate for COVID-19-related reasons on most employers with fewer than 500 employees; (2) temporarily expanding coverage for school and child care closures associated with COVID-19 and imposing a paid leave requirement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) on these same employers; (3) encouraging states to extend unemployment benefits for reasons associated with COVID-19; and (4) giving a payroll tax credit to employers for the paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave mandates.

While we had previously provided a summary of the Act as it was originally passed by the House, and then another on the House’s substantive “technical amendments” to the Act, we are now summarizing the final law here.


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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has now directly addressed the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak by issuing “What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the Coronavirus.” In this release, the EEOC noted that the rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (the counterpart to the ADA for federal employees and contractors) still apply, but do not interfere with workplace guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (which we discussed in detail in our February 2020 Top Tip).

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The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) announced a Final Rule on joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act that retreats from the broad expansion of the joint employment principle in recent years and returns to its prior, more restrictive standard, which it describes as “carefully balanced.” This Rule will take effect on April 27, 2020.

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As I discussed in a blog post last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been bringing cases on behalf of applicants/employees who use lawfully prescribed opioids (including methadone) against employers who fail to conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant/employee to determine whether those drugs made them unqualified for the position. In EEOC v. Steel Painters LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas held that a reasonable jury could find that the employer did just that.

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And with that obvious (and rather snarky) statement, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made the obvious point that an employee who was asleep or unconscious on the job was unable to perform the essential functions of his job and therefore not qualified for the position under the Americans with Disabilities Act! Now, as my regular readers know, I enjoy a good snark and my blog posts about various court decisions often contain snide comments. But in this case, the (usually quite proper) Fifth Circuit took care of that all on its own…

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On January 30, 2020, the Maryland General Assembly voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the “Ban the Box” bill that was passed in the last legislative session, just as we predicted in our veto E-lert. The law will prohibit employers in Maryland from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until later in the application process. It takes effect on February 29, 2020, and Maryland employers should prepare now to comply with the new requirements.

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Pronouns – those articles of speech referring to the person other than by name – have become complicated. My law firm writes a lot (articles for L&E publications, monthly electronic E-Updates, E-Lerts to report actionable “new stuff” and, of course, this blog). In the “old days” we used the pronoun “he” as the universal. Then, in defiance of the “patriarchy” the term he/she or (s)he was substituted. We came to recognize that the language we use impacts attitudes about “who belongs.” 

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that an employee unable to perform the essential functions of his/her job must be in want of a transfer. And it is also quite clear under the Americans with Disabilities Act that the employer must consider a transfer or reassignment to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. What is less clear is whether the employee automatically gets the position (i.e. an arranged marriage) or whether the employer can require the employee to compete for the position (see, e.g. “The Bachelor”).

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