Legislative Developments

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates that private employers with 500 or fewer employees (with exceptions for certain small employers as well as health care providers and emergency responders) and some public sector employers must provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency Family and Medical Leave Act leave for specific COVID-related reasons. The Act,

I don’t like it when the federal agencies don’t play fair. I previously blogged about the EEOC’s sneaky change in its position on whether sexual orientation discrimination is covered by Title VII (it revised its guidance without any kind of announcement. It was just suddenly… the exact opposite). And now, the Department of Labor has pulled the same trick with regard to its guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act!

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On Sunday, March 15, 2020, we provided a comprehensive summary of the paid leave and other employment-related provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 13. This bill 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 and vastly expanding coverage and imposing a paid leave requirement on these same employers under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for school and child care closures associated with COVID-19; (3) making unemployment benefits available for reasons associated with COVID-19; and (4) giving a tax credit for paid sick and paid family and medical leave.

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In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation providing a wide scope of benefits and rights to individuals impacted by the COVID-19 national emergency. This legislation makes sweeping changes to an employer’s legal obligations: (1) imposing a general paid sick and safe leave mandate on all employers, with additional time for public health emergencies; (2) temporarily and vastly expanding coverage and imposing a paid leave requirement under the Family and Medical Leave Act for reasons associated with COVID-19; (3) making unemployment benefits available for reasons associated with COVID-19; and (4) giving a tax credit for paid sick and paid family and medical leave. Given that President Trump has already tweeted his support for the bill and the Senate is expected to follow suit, it is likely to be enacted in the coming days and would need to be immediately implemented by employers.

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Several years ago, I blogged about Emeryville, California’s paid sick leave ordinance, which  is the only sick leave law that allows employees to take leave specifically to care for a sick service animal. As I noted then, “[t]he concept makes sense – employees can take sick leave because they (or their family member) is temporarily incapacitated because of the illness of the [service animal]. (Not because the dog is a family member!).” I also wondered whether other jurisdictions would adopt similar provisions. But now, I’m not sure they have to.

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My interest is piqued by laws with unusual twists, like the Emeryville, California ordinance that permits the use of sick leave to care for a family member’s service animal (about which I blogged previously). Here’s another one – Pittsburgh recently passed a pregnancy accommodations ordinance that extends protections to the partners of pregnant employees!

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So last month, I blogged about my discovery that the Maryland Code does not actually contain all the laws that have been passed, which caused me to wonder how we were supposed to comply with them. And now, I just learned that in D.C., some laws that are passed end up not being implemented after all! Wait – what?!
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Governor Hogan announced on May 24, 2019 that he was vetoing HB994, the “Ban the Box” bill, as our partner Liz Torphy-Donzella predicted he would do in our webinar on Maryland’s recently enacted employment laws. This means that, absent a veto override, this bill will not become law. The bill, however, passed with veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, so we will likely see a veto override in the next General Assembly session. 
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Debt can alter one’s future trajectory for good or for ill.  The latter is reflected in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  Although they are the most educated generation ever in the U.S., Millennials at the tail end of their generation incurred unprecedented debt for college – often six figure debt – then graduated into the Great Recession.  Their employment opportunities were truncated.  As a result, their income potential (and debt repayment capability) has been damaged, seemingly beyond repair. They have collectively put off home buying and starting families, which has ripple effects for the future, from reduced home buying opportunity to delayed or foregone child rearing. 
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