New York Federal Court Says DOL ‘Jumped the Rail’ When It Issued FFCRA Regulations

On August 3, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York upended several employer-friendly limitations in the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Specifically, the court struck down the DOL’s regulations regarding: (1) the requirement that employers actually have work available for employees in order to be eligible for leave; (2) the broad definition of “health care provider” under the final rule; (3) the requirement that employees obtain employer approval for intermittent leave; and (4) the requirement that employees provide documentation prior to taking FFCRA leave.

20 Tips for U.S. Virgin Islands Employers in 2020: Accommodating Disabled or High-Risk Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part nine of this series addresses the laws relevant to accommodating disabled or high-risk employees in the workplace.

Virginia Enacts Pregnancy Antidiscrimination Law Imposing Mandatory Requirements on Employers

The labor and employment law revolution in the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided robust protection against unlawful discrimination as well as a comprehensive enforcement scheme. As part of that revolution, the state enacted Senate Bill 712, which amended the Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) to require a covered employer to provide reasonable accommodation for the known limitations of an employee related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless such an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

20 Tips for U.S. Virgin Islands Employers in 2020: Addressing COVID-19 Concerns When Employees Return From Vacation

Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part eight of this series addresses COVID-19 concerns that may arise when employees return to work from vacation.

California Releases ‘COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening’

On July 24, 2020, the State of California released its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening.” According to the playbook, its purpose is to help employers “plan and prepare for reopening their business[es] and to support a safe, clean environment for workers and customers.” The Employer Playbook’s table of contents lists four major areas that the playbook addresses: (1) steps employers can take to open safely; (2) what to do if a COVID-19 case occurs in the workplace; (3) enforcement and compliance; and (4) worker education. In addition, the playbook includes three appendixes consisting of employer and worker resources, enforcement and compliance contacts, and case studies illustrating the playbook’s principles.

IRS Issues Instructions on Reporting Emergency Paid Leave Wages

On July 8, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released guidance for employers on reporting qualifying wages paid to employees under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). Both laws are part of the “phase one” coronavirus legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed on March 18, 2020.

Minneapolis’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Applies to All Employees Who Work in City, State Supreme Court Rules

The City of Minneapolis’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance requiring employers with employees who perform at least 80 hours of work in a year in the city with paid time off for illness or other personal matters does not conflict with state laws on the subject, nor does it unlawfully extend the city’s laws outside its geographic boundaries.

Colorado Expands Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act to Require Virtually All Private Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave Benefits

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), Senate Bill 20-205, which will immediately make all Colorado employers, excluding the federal government, subject to the provisions of the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

New York State Imposes Restrictions on Travelers Due to COVID-19 Resurgence

On June 24, 2020, in response to the ongoing risk posed by a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in some states, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order (EO) 205 directing the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to issue a travel advisory for all persons entering New York from states with significant rates of transmission of COVID-19. The travel advisory became effective at 12:01 a.m. on June 25, 2020.

Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: A Narrow Amendment With Broad Implications

The Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance took effect in July 2017. The language of each ordinance largely mirrors the other, and where an employer falls under the jurisdiction of both, the Cook County Interpretative and Procedural Rules provide that the Cook County Commission on Human Rights (the enforcement arm of Cook County) will defer to the jurisdiction of the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (the enforcement arm of the City of Chicago). Effective July 1, 2020, the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is amended in a significant way.

Let the Masking Debate Continue, but Maybe Not in Our Hospitals

In 2015, long before COVID-19 emerged, a hospital disciplined and discharged a recruiter in its HR department who refused to obtain a hospital-required influenza vaccination or to don a mask at work as an alternative. In a case we started to track three years ago, a federal judge entered summary judgment for the employer this week.

California Issues Statewide Guidance for Mandatory Cloth Face Coverings

On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings.” Although the guidance is not an executive order and does not refer to any authorizing legal authority, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “NEW: Californians are now REQUIRED to wear face coverings in public spaces” (Emphasis in the original.)

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave: Draft Revisions to Regulations

On May 14, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) issued revised draft regulations to accompany the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. The draft regulations come approximately one year after the DFML published “final” regulations and contain many substantive revisions, likely in response to the numerous public sessions held over the past year.

Tackling the Realities of COVID-19, Part II: Childcare, Leave, Teleworking, and Tales From a Working Mom

This is the second in a series of articles written from my perspective as a labor and employment lawyer and mother addressing issues raised by the pandemic on multiple levels. My hope is that this series will provide practical guidance on how to deal with COVID-19 concerns based on current federal and state COVID-19–related laws.

Federal Court Decision Highlights Challenges of Dealing With Employee Performance Issues While an Employee Is on FMLA Leave

Addressing performance issues of employees who are on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can present challenges for employers. An employer may discover, for instance, that prior to going out on FMLA leave, an employee engaged in misconduct or performed his or her job in an unsatisfactory manner. A Texas federal court’s recent decision in Kibbie v. Hays Consolidated Independent School District, No. A-19-CV-(April 7, 2020), highlights the difficulty of confronting performance issues discovered while an employee is out on FMLA leave.

EEOC Updates COVID-19 Disability Accommodation Guidance to Address Higher-Risk Employees Returning to Work

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued instructions, statements, and guidance to help employers navigate COVID-19’s workplace impact. On May 5, 2020, the EEOC issued an update to its Technical Assistance Guidance on Disability Accommodation to address questions regarding employees at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

House Democrats Unveil HEROES Act, $3 Trillion Bill Responding to COVID-19 Crisis

On May 12, 2020, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the latest effort to respond to the ongoing coronavirus health care crisis. Among other provisions, the $3 trillion relief package would provide $1 trillion in aid to states, $75 billion for coronavirus testing and related healthcare measures, and another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals.

Employers Beware: COVID-19–Related Employment Lawsuits Are Heating Up

For the last several months, employers have been forced to learn how COVID-19 spreads, how to maintain or resume safe work environments, and how to navigate a complex web of new and existing laws and regulations implicated by the pandemic. Employers have also had to contend with a growing wave of COVID-19–related employment litigation.