The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to issue a steady stream of new guidance and information on COVID-19, some of which has specific relevance to the workplace. During the first part of February 2021, such guidance includes new masking recommendations, when workers who are severely immunocompromised can return to work after a COVID-19 diagnosis, and customizable vaccine communications to essential workers (that may eventually be useful for all workers).
So I keep telling my husband that I’m looking forward to going back a normal social life of restaurants, shows, and girls’ nights out, once I’m vaccinated (whenever that will be – I’m at the bottom of the eligibility list). And my husband, who is a doctor and has been vaccinated, keeps saying, “THAT’S NOT HOW THAT WORKS!!!”
In its first opinion letter of 2021, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) addressed a hot topic that seems to frequently trip up employers: exemption from the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The DOL’s opinion letters are official, written opinions by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division that respond to fact-specific scenarios. In this letter, the DOL considered whether account managers employed by a life science products manufacturer are exempt under the FLSA’s administrative employee exemption. Although the DOL’s conclusion is limited to the particular set of facts presented, this letter serves as helpful guidance for any employer that employs individuals in an account manager role.
As promised by the new Biden Administration, on January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provided stronger guidance for employers and employees on COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance provides information to workers about protecting themselves from COVID-19 in the workplace, elements of effective prevention programs, and other recommendations on how to limit the spread of COVID-19.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have implemented flexible work schedules for a litany of reasons including, for example, to limit the number of employees in the office at any given time, to allow employees to obtain medical care for themselves and their family members, and simply to give employees the opportunity to handle the new, daily challenges brought about by this pandemic. As a result, many employees find themselves splitting their time between working from home and working from the office – sometimes on alternating days, and sometimes in the course of a single day. This practice, which is by no means new, but has certainly become more prevalent over the past year, raises the question as to whether travel time on a partial telework day is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
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.