Considering Incentives for Employee COVID-19 Vaccines – Tips and Traps

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employee Handbooks & Policies, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Employment Discrimination Harassment & Retaliation, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, Workplace Safety & OSHA

Despite this week’s well-publicized hiccups with concerns having been raised about the safety of certain COVID-19 vaccines, our country’s march toward widespread community vaccination continues. American employers are eying society’s increasing vaccination rates with interest and optimism, as a critical component of their safe and secure workplace strategies and physical return-to-work operational plans.

Certain large employers are going so far as to leverage available governmental resources to offer vaccines on their physical employer premises. But larger numbers of employers are entering the vaccine discussion in a less direct way. For example, employer-sponsored group health plans are paying for the full cost of the vaccines themselves, as well as the administration charges for those vaccines. Additionally, employers are considering further incentivizing vaccinations outside their group health plans.

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ERISA Plan Sponsors – Watch Your Participants’ Data! DOL Issues New Cybersecurity Guidance for Retirement Plans

Posted in Employee Benefits

In response to a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report recommending federal guidance to mitigate cybersecurity risks in retirement plans and to respond to ever-increasing cyber threats to plan participant data and plan assets, the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) published its first cybersecurity guidance for plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, record keepers, and plan participants of ERISA-covered retirement plans. The guidance issued on April 14, 2021 address the following three topics:

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Growing State and Local Equal Pay Protections

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Employment Discrimination Harassment & Retaliation, Wage & Hour

Pay equity will be a focus of the Biden Administration, as was made clear in the White House Proclamation on Equal Pay Day last week. But states are not waiting on the federal government to act; several are moving forward with pay transparency and equity laws. California is the first state to enact its own pay data reporting law, with the first reporting deadline this week, and more changes are coming.

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Facing Exposure: Dealing with Mask Refusers in the Workplace

Posted in Employee Handbooks & Policies, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Workplace Safety & OSHA

As various states (Texas, Mississippi, Montana, Iowa, and many more) have done away with mask mandates and as vaccinations become more widely disseminated amongst the general population, many individuals may be emboldened to throw their face coverings in the trash and never look back. However, employers may be hesitant to lift mask requirements and other COVID-19 protocol in their workplaces for a variety of (valid) reasons. But can employees refuse to don masks as they return to work in offices and other physical workspaces? What can employers do when employees try to make masks things of the past?

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Paid Leave and Payroll Tax Credits Under the American Rescue Plan

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Medical & Other Leaves

Employers wading through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act may be wondering how it impacts paid leave and payroll tax credits made available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted back in March 2020. Here’s the scoop:

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Be Prepared For Increase In COVID-19 Inspections Under OSHA’s New National Emphasis Program

Posted in Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Workplace Safety & OSHA

On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) designed to significantly reduce worker exposure to COVID-19 by targeting industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close-contact exposures. The new NEP on COVID-19 has two main components:

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New COBRA Obligations for Employers Included in Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus

Posted in Employee Benefits

For employers with group health plans, COBRA obligations under President Biden’s premiere $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “Rescue Plan”) are an early priority. The Rescue Plan was signed by the President on March 11, 2021. Below is an overview of the Rescue Plan’s COBRA relief, which provides a 6-month, 100% premium subsidy for eligible employees who lose group health insurance as a result of either an involuntary termination or a reduction in hours.

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Do the Business Liability Shield Laws Give Employers Immunity From COVID-19 Lawsuits

Posted in Employee Handbooks & Policies, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Employment Litigation, Medical & Other Leaves, Workplace Safety & OSHA

Not really. Like the COVID-19 vaccines, these “business liability shields” may provide a layer of protection for some employers, but they in no way guarantee immunity from lawsuits. Since early last year, business leaders expressed concerns about continuing with operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—mainly because they feared exposing their businesses to lawsuits arising from the transmission of the virus. Indeed, it was this growing business concern that caused Congress to propose the SAFE TO WORK Act (S. 4327) in July 2020. Although the bill ultimately did not pass, many states (30 and counting) have enacted some form of legal protections from COVID-19 liability claims through either legislation or executive orders.

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What Employers Should Do Based on the Revisions to the EEOC’s Compliance Manual Section on Religious Discrimination

Posted in Employee Handbooks & Policies, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Employment Discrimination Harassment & Retaliation

Employers have new obligations and employees have new rights under the EEOC’s newly finalized revisions to the agency’s Compliance Manual Section on Religious Discrimination. The Compliance Manual does not have the force of law, but sets forth how the EEOC analyzes claims under the law, and provides useful guidance to employers. Although a large portion of the Religious Discrimination Section of the Manual remains the same, there are a few noteworthy changes for employers to consider. Further, with the increasing number of available COVID-19 vaccinations, employers may be left wondering how to balance workplace safety, while making the necessary accommodations for employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs preventing them from getting vaccinated. Continue Reading

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