San Francisco Judge Denies Injunctive Relief Allowing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards to Remain in Place

On February 25, 2021, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman denied applications for preliminary injunctions in their entirety requested by two plaintiffs, thus leaving in place the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The ETS took effect on November 30, 2020.

Long Beach ‘Hero Pay’ Ordinance Survives Preliminary Injunction

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California denied a motion for preliminary injunction brought by the California Grocers Association (CGA) against the City of Long Beach. In California Grocers Association v. City of Long Beach, CGA asked the court to stop the city from enforcing its Premium Pay for Grocery Workers Ordinance, one of the many “hero pay” or “hazard pay” ordinances enacted by California localities in the past several weeks.

Wisconsin Joins States Providing Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 Exposure

On February 25, 2021, Wisconsin joined Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming in enacting a COVID-19 litigation shield law. Governor Tony Evers signed a bill providing entities broad immunity from “civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or [for] damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure, directly or indirectly, to … COVID-19.”

Second Draw Paycheck Protection Program Loans: Answers to Employers’ Frequently Asked Questions

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 includes a provision that modified and extended the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Specifically, Section 311 of the Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief provisions of the CAA provides for PPP second draw loans for eligible businesses. Employers seeking a PPP loan may apply through March 31, 2021. Below are answers to some key questions regarding second draw PPP loans.

Atlantic Canada Versus the Prairies: Tightening and Loosening of COVID-19 Measures

Certain Canadian provinces have been especially hard hit by COVID-19 outbreaks. Most notably, Ontario and Quebec—two of Canada’s most populated provinces—have experienced the highest number of infection counts among the country’s provinces. While Ontario and Quebec have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, other provinces have had a different experience.

California Employers Can Seek One-Month Extension for Reporting 2020 Pay Data, State Agency Says

On February 3, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) to make clear that employers can seek an extension for reporting year 2020—known as a request for an “enforcement deferral period”—as to its newly enacted pay data reporting requirement that reports are otherwise due on March 31, 2021.

Equality Act Reintroduced to U.S. Congress

On February 18, 2021, U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) reintroduced the Equality Act (H.R. 5), a bill that would amend federal law (including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nearly identical version of the Equality Act in 2019,  the bill never gained traction in the U.S. Senate and died in committee.

Company E-Sports Leagues Present New Twist on Traditional Employment Law Issues

A growing trend among employers that are turning to new and updated methods of fostering employee collegiality and team bonding involves e-sports leagues. Similar to the traditional company softball team, e-sports leagues provide a modern method for employees to form teams that compete at video games against squads of workers from other businesses. This competitive medium has gained in prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic as employers seek innovative ways for employees to interact while observing social distancing precautions. Employers can view these competitive outlets as a means of fostering creativity, building rapport, and developing trust among personnel.

San Leandro, California Enacts ‘Hazard Pay’ Ordinance for Large-Chain Retail Food Workers, Including Retail Drug Stores

On February 16, 2021, the City Council of San Leandro, California, passed an ordinance titled “Retail Food Worker Hazard Pay Ordinance,” which establishes premium pay for retail food workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. San Leandro is an incorporated city located in Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Vaccine Volunteers: Is “Thank You” Sufficient Compensation?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees at least minimum wage for all hours worked up to 40 hours in a workweek and time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 hours in the same workweek. An exception to this rule exists for volunteers, who are not categorized as “employees” under the statute. Typically, volunteers are individuals who donate their time to non-profit, civic, religious, and other charitable organizations.

Montebello, California, Passes Premium Pay Ordinance for Grocery and Drug Store Workers

On January 27, 2021, the City Council of Montebello, California, passed an ordinance titled “Premium Pay for Grocery and Drug Store Workers Ordinance.” Montebello is an incorporated city located in Los Angeles County, California. The ordinance requires employers to provide grocery and drug store workers with premium pay of $4.00 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and expires in 180 days, unless otherwise extended.

COVID-19 Reopening Setback for Toronto and Some Other Regions in Ontario

On Friday February 19, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and two other regions will remain in shutdown for at least two more weeks. Among other things, this means that workers who are nonessential to in-person operations must continue to work from home. This represents the province pausing its recent efforts to reopen most of Ontario’s regions.

Cal/OSHA COVID-19–Related Citations May Provide Leverage to Labor Unions and Their Members

A February 2021 California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) press release trumpeted the agency’s enforcement efforts and its recently issued citations for COVID-19–related violations. Cal/OSHA continues to aggressively issue “serious” classification citations to California employers. For example, Cal/OSHA issued “serious” and “willful-serious” citations with hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties against a sister agency, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dba San Quentin State Prison, for COVID-19–related violations.

Coachella’s New COVID-19 Premium Pay Ordinance for Agricultural, Grocery, Restaurant, and Retail Employers

On February 10, 2021, the City Council of Coachella, California, passed the “Premium Pay for Agricultural, Grocery, Restaurant, and Retail Pharmacy Workers Ordinance.” Coachella is located in Riverside County, California. Other cities in the state that have enacted similar measures in 2021 include Montebello, in Los Angeles County, and Oakland, in Alameda County.

Where to Open Shop: New Report Ranks the Best Places to Do Business in the U.S.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the global economy, and employers are increasingly considering which are the most and least employer-friendly places  new offices, distribution centers, and operational locations, both during the pandemic and after emerging from it. The Arizona State University Center for the Study of Economic Liberty recently released Doing Business North America 2020 (DBNA), a report analyzing and comparing data indicative of the regulatory context for business activity in a number of metropolitan areas. The report ranked 130 cities across Canada, Mexico, and the United States, based on 111 variables for determining where the best places to do business are currently (although given the ever-changing local, state, and federal landscapes, the assessment may change frequently). The variables underlying the rankings fall into six broad categories: starting a business; employing workers; obtaining electricity, land and space use; and paying taxes and resolving insolvency.

Illinois Renews Effort to Enact Expansive Restrictive Covenant Legislation

In 2016, Illinois enacted the Illinois Freedom to Work Act (IFWA). In doing so, it became one of the first states to pass legislation in response to the Obama administration’s Call to Action, which asked states to amend their restrictive covenant laws to, among other things, ban covenants not to compete for workers under a certain wage threshold.

CDC’s New (Inconsistent?) Guidance on Quarantining for Fully-Vaccinated Individuals

On February 11, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated materials on its website pertaining to when individuals should quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19. Specifically, on the “When to Quarantine” page on its website, the CDC now states that “[p]eople who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease within the last three months and show no symptoms.”

Federal District Court Order Provides Guidance Related to Disciplining Employees Who Abuse Leaves of Absence

On February 5, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware granted summary judgment in Snyder v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Inc. and Company, No. 18-1266, holding that DuPont did not terminate the employment of its employee, Peggy Snyder, in retaliation for her use of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

5 Key Employee Handbook Updates to Consider in 2021

With the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020, many employers were busy dealing with staffing issues, safety concerns, and COVID-19–related legislation. There may have been little to no time to address handbook policies. With many changes on the horizon in 2021 under President Biden’s administration and the adaptations in the working environment due to COVID-19, it may be a good time for employers to turn to the company handbook to ensure it is up to date. This article will highlight five areas to which employers may want to give special attention in 2021.