With employers and employees still working under the shadow of COVID-19, the Department of Labor (DOL) is keeping watch on new issues arising from the changing circumstances. But, while the DOL watches issues to provide guidance, a federal judge in New York is watching the DOL. This week, a New York judge vacated four portions of the DOL’s Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) enacted earlier this year. The judge claims that the DOL exceeded its authority when it denied workers benefits when employers do not have work, defined healthcare provider to include “anyone employed at” a facility where medical services are provided, inconsistently interpreted the intermittent leave provision, and required leave documentation that resulted in an “unambiguous conflict.” The extent to which that ruling applies outside of New York is unclear. In any event, although those parts of the FFCRA may now be in question, the remaining portion of the law remains in effect.
As employers continue to navigate these chaotic times, on July 15, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), through its Division of Advice (Advice), issued its first guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the workplace. In the form of five letters from Advice relating to the pandemic, the previously silent NLRB brought some beneficial clarity to employers who have no doubt been struggling with the effects of COVID-19 on their businesses and their workforce.
Do you have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place? If not, you had best get started.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have recommended having such a plan since the beginning of the pandemic, and have recently updated their guidance to spell out exactly what such plans should address. In some cases, such guidance is detailed and specific to certain industries. Importantly, some states, such as New York, require having such a plan, and even provide an online fill-in-the-blank template for creating one.
Over the past few weeks, the CDC has issued updated COVID-19 guidance on a number of topics affecting the workplace, including modifying the criteria employers rely on to determine when an employee with COVID-19 may return to work. As the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance evolves, employers must ensure their COVID-19 plans and policies likewise evolve. Given these recent changes, employers should take immediate steps to modify their COVID-19 plans and policies accordingly. Depending on the location, businesses can face fines or be forced to close down for failing to follow the most recent CDC guidance. Continue Reading
Even before COVID-19 hit the United States, state and local governments were busy passing paid family and/or sick leave laws. Unlike the federal, state, and local leave laws which were enacted in response to COVID-19, these laws do not expire and have a broader application. In 2019, paid family leave laws in Washington, D.C. and Washington state, and paid sick leave laws in Michigan and Westchester County, New York took effect. Even more of these types of laws became or are becoming effective this year.
Summer camp closures and extended school sessions present new challenges for both working parents and for companies employing teens. The Department of Labor has offered new guidance on both issues.
COBRA: an acronym that strikes fear (and understandable confusion) into the hearts of many employers. If you have 20 or more employees, you are subject to the often equivocal requirements of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act—and the consequences of non-compliance can be poisonous. Given the increase in COBRA-related lawsuits and the Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent revisions of its model COBRA coverage notices, this should be on the radar of all employers who may find themselves in the Act’s coils.
The Black Lives Matter movement, protesting racism, police brutality, and the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans, has not only been seen and heard in streets around the world; it has found a new voice in corporate boardrooms as well. The 8-minute, 46-second video of a police officer indifferently kneeling on the neck of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, as he pleaded “I can’t breathe” has prompted a wave of statements from CEOs and business leaders expressing solidarity and a commitment to address the problem of systemic racism. But how?
One thing is clear: companies should acknowledge what is happening in this tumultuous time. Failing to do so may be viewed as complicit by employees and clients alike. But the acknowledgment of support is not enough if the company’s deeds do not match its words. Beyond condemning racism and police brutality, what might an employer do? It is confusing to know how to respond given the issues and varying industries, but the confusion should not lead to paralysis. Here is a sampling of what companies around the country are doing:
As shelter in place restrictions ease and U.S. workplaces begin to reopen, both union and nonunion employers may find themselves facing a host of new challenges. Employers may wonder what they should be doing to keep their employees safe at work. They may wonder what kinds of medical tests they can perform on employees before allowing them into their facilities. They may wonder whether they need to disclose to their employees when one of their coworkers tests positive for the virus. But, what they might not be thinking about is whether their employees’ voiced questions and concerns on these types of issues are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), or whether their employees may seek out unions to protect them in the workplace. Employers should be pondering that with respect to both essential workers who have been working through the pandemic and nonessential workers who may be stepping foot back into their workplaces for the first time in months.
On Monday, President Trump issued a Proclamation restricting certain foreign workers from entering the U.S. through the end of 2020, claiming it is necessary to curb the “economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.” The ban specifically targets work visas that many American employers rely upon to fill U.S. labor shortages. With the stated purpose of reducing competition against Americans for jobs in the U.S. economy, the Proclamation restricts visa issuance to certain H-1B professional specialty occupation workers, H-2B seasonal non-agricultural workers, J exchange visitors, and executives and managers under the L nonimmigrant visa program. The Proclamation excludes healthcare industry workers, foreign nationals providing medical research at United States facilities to combat COVID-19, and those supporting the U.S. food supply chain during the economic recovery, among other temporary workers. The temporary worker suspension becomes effective on June 24, 2020, at 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time and will remain in effect through December 31, 2020.