Ontario Appellate Court Ruling Leaves Employers Waiting for Determination on Interpretation of COVID-19 Leave Provisions

Employers in Ontario have been waiting for clarification on the interpretation of COVID-19 leave provisions throughout much of the pandemic. Employers had hoped that the Court of Appeal’s decision in Taylor v Hanley Hospitality Inc. would provide clarity on the implications of Employment Standards Act, 2000 infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL) on an employee’s employment status.

Minnesota Enacts Legislation Funding Unemployment Coffers, Authorizing Pay to Frontline Workers, and Requiring Notice

On April 29, 2022, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed Senate File (S.F.) No. 2677 into law, replenishing the state unemployment coffers and authorizing payments to various frontline workers. This new law requires Minnesota employers to provide notice to eligible frontline workers regarding potential additional benefits available to them.

No Vacation From Vacation Pay in Vacationland: Beware, Maine Employers!

In spite of significant opposition from Maine’s business community, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and leaders in the tourism, hospitality, and small business communities, Governor Janet Mills signed into law Legislative Document (L.D.) 225, “An Act Regarding the Treatment of Vacation Time upon the Cessation of Employment” on April 7, 2022.

Eleventh Circuit: Service Charges Are Wages, Not Tips, Under FLSA

On March 18, 2022, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Compere v. Nusret Miami, LLC, a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), that Nusr-et Steakhouse properly used automatically charged fees on bills to pay its employees’ wages because the fees were service charges. The plaintiffs, a group of tipped employees, had argued these fees were not service charges but instead were tips. The distinction is critical because service charges and tips are treated very differently under federal laws and regulations.

California Unmasks—California Department of Public Health Revises Guidance for Use of Face Masks in Indoor Settings

On February 28, 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance, further loosening the rules for wearing COVID-19–related masks in the state. Effective March 1, 2022, unvaccinated individuals are no longer required to mask in indoor public settings, although the CDPH included “a strong recommendation” that all individuals, “regardless of vaccine status, continue indoor masking.”

Los Angeles County and City COVID-19 Masking Orders Move Closer to California Department of Public Health Rules

On February 23, 2022, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) issued an order, effective February 25, 2022, that slightly loosened the rules for wearing COVID-19 masks in the county. One day after the LACDPH order, on February 24, 2022, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued the interim “Public Order Under City of Los Angeles Emergency Authority” that mirrored the new Los Angeles County order. While these revisions make the orders from both the county and city much more similar to the California state masking rules currently in effect, they remain stricter than the current state rules.

New York City Will Lift Mask and ‘Key to NYC’ Requirements

On February 27, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that if COVID-19 indicators continue to display low risk levels, the “Key to NYC” will be lifted, effective March 7, 2022. Individuals will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination to enter certain covered establishments, such as indoor dining, entertainment, and fitness establishments. Former New York City mayor Bill De Blasio implemented the Key to NYC through Emergency Executive Order 225 on August 17, 2021.

New California Bill Aims to Supersize Fast-Food Workers’ Rights

On January 31, 2022, the California State Assembly passed Assembly Bill (AB) No. 257, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Recovery Act), which would potentially provide increased rights to the state’s more than 500,000 fast-food workers. If passed by the California State Senate and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, the FAST Recovery Act would create the Fast Food Sector Council within the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and add new statutory requirements aimed at holding fast-food franchisors liable for certain actions of its franchisees.

Illinois’s Lodging Services Human Trafficking Law Leaves Unanswered Questions for Restaurants and Truck Stops

On January 1, 2022, amendments to Illinois’s Lodging Services Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act (820 ILCS 95/) took effect, ostensibly adding restaurants and truck stops to the act’s purview. Under the amended act, “a lodging establishment, restaurant, or truck stop shall provide its employees with training in the recognition of human trafficking and protocols for reporting observed human trafficking to the appropriate authority.”

Nevada OSHA Targets Hospitality Industry

Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Nevada OSHA) is performing targeted inspections of Nevada’s hospitality establishments. Even though Nevada OSHA’s “Inspection Targeting Plan and Emphasis Programs” document was last updated in August 2021, the programmed inspections are continuing with local emphasis programs related to hotels (NAICS 721110) and casino-hotels (NAICS 721120).

 

New York Extends Mask-or-Vaccine Requirement

On December 13, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul instituted a mandate requiring that masks be worn in indoor public spaces, unless a covered business has implemented a mandatory vaccination requirement. The mandate was set to be reevaluated on January 15, 2022. However, as part of her “Winter Surge Plan 2.0,” and before the mandate’s original expiration date, Governor Hochul extended the mask-or-vaccine requirement for an additional two weeks, until at least February 1, 2022. As part of the announcement, the governor indicated that the state would reassess masking requirements in February 2022.

Twin Cities Issue Vaccine Mandates for Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainment Venues

On January 12, 2022, just one week after issuing mask mandates, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued executive orders mandating that places of public accommodation serving food and drinks indoors require persons to furnish proof of vaccination or negative PCR or antigen tests. Then, on January 13, 2022, and January 14, 2022, respectively, Mayor Carter and Mayor Frey each issued additional emergency regulations amending their January 12, 2022, orders.

New Orleans Revives Mask Mandate, Effective January 12, 2022

New Orleans has revived its mask mandate for indoor spaces, effective January 12, 2022. Citing increased COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates, Mayor Latoya Cantrell has ordered that all individuals over the age of two who do not have breathing complications must wear masks “when in indoor spaces outside the household, unless actively eating or drinking.”

Cook County, Illinois, Issues Proof-of-COVID-19-Vaccination Requirements for Restaurants, Gyms, and Indoor Entertainment Venues

On December 23, 2021, Cook County, Illinois, issued Public Health Order No. 2021-11, joining the City of Chicago in requiring certain indoor establishments (including restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, and entertainment venues) to verify the COVID-19 vaccination status of patrons five years of age and older, effective January 3, 2022.

NYC Releases Guidance on Private-Sector Vaccine Order

On December 6, 2021, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a first-in-the-nation vaccination order for private-sector workers in New York City, set to take effect on December 27, 2021. The New York City commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an order, dated December 13, 2021, requiring COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace, and, on December 15, 2021, the city promulgated guidance regarding how employers should implement the order.  

German Federal Labor Court States Employers Must Provide Employees With Work Equipment

On November 10, 2021, Germany’s Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled (Case No. 5 AZR 334/21) that employers must provide employed bicycle couriers with all the equipment essential for the performance of their work, including bicycles and internet-enabled smartphones. Alternatively, an appropriate financial compensation for the use of a delivery person’s own bicycle and mobile phone may be agreed upon in the employment contract, the court ruled.

NYC Announces Private-Sector Vaccine Mandate

On December 6, 2021, outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced major expansions to New York’s “Key to NYC” program, which was implemented through Emergency Executive Order 225 and became effective on August 17, 2021. The mayor also announced a first-in-the-nation vaccination mandate for private-sector workers in New York City, which is set to take effect on December 27, 2021.

Is the Tide Turning on Website Accessibility Claims? California Court of Appeal Upholds a ‘Bona Fide Intent’ Requirement

The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, recently handed a potentially significant website accessibility win to the business community under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) when it upheld a jury verdict in Thurston v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp. (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2021), finding that the blind user of a hotel’s website reservation mechanism lacked a “bona fide intent” to make a hotel reservation.

DOL Cracks Down, and Opens Cracks, on Employers Keeping Tips

Employers will soon face stricter financial penalties for keeping their employees’ tips under a final rule published by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on September 24, 2021. Section 3(m)(2)(B) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers—including “managers and supervisors”—from keeping employees’ tips “for any purposes,” regardless of whether employers claim a tip credit.

New York City Council Passes Six Bills Protecting Gig Economy Delivery Workers

On September 23, 2021, the New York City Council passed six bills—a first-of-its-kind legislative package directed at gig economy workers—that seeks to provide protections to the city’s food delivery workers. The bills, each of which amend the administrative code of New York City, have been sent to Mayor Bill De Blasio, who has already voiced his support for the legislation. The legislative package is the culmination of a lengthy controversy in New York City regarding the rights and protections that should be afforded to gig workers. Notably, many states, including New York, have been engaged in prolonged legal battles over the questions relating to the treatment of gig workers.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Addresses ‘Service Charges’ Under the Massachusetts Tips Act

Massachusetts is seeing an increase in Tips Act claims, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) just reinforced that a lack of clarity in fee- and tip-related documentation may result in employer liability, including mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees. The Massachusetts Tips Act requires that an employer or person who collects “service charges” or “tips” (as those terms are defined under the act) remit the proceeds of those charges to service employees and waitstaff in proportion to the services the employees provided to the employer.