The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) recently issued nonbinding guidance on amendments to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA) that will become effective January 1, 2022. The primary point of the guidance is to clarify the CTDOL’s position on eligible employee leave entitlements, when the leave commenced in 2021 continues into 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an explosion of remote work, including for positions traditionally not considered eligible for remote work. As employers have returned employees to office work environments, some employees who historically worked on-site have requested continued work from home as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On September 7, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought its first lawsuit alleging that an employer had discriminated against a disabled employee by failing to accommodate her by allowing work from home due to her increased risk of COVID-19 and by terminating her employment.
On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act Providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave.” The act requires eligible Massachusetts employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work for COVID-19–related reasons.
Under Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 21-15, the state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 will continue in Oregon until December 31, 2021, unless the governor extends the deadline or terminates the state of emergency before the end of the year. Now that school is back in session in Oregon and most schools and students are returning to in-person attendance, the potential exists for school closures and/or student quarantining due to exposures to COVID-19. Employers may want to refamiliarize themselves with leave entitlements that may be available to Oregon employees under the Oregon Sick Leave (OSL) law and/or the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) in the event that the children of employees are subject to quarantine orders or required closures of their schools or places of care.
On September 15, 2021, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer. In Brown v. Austin, the Tenth Circuit found that an employee’s telework, weekend work, and supervisor change request were unreasonable under the federal Rehabilitation Act and that the employee had failed to allege a prima facie case of disability discrimination, retaliation, or constructive discharge.
On August 31, 2021, the Government of Ontario extended the period for the province’s paid infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL) entitlement from its original expiration date of September 25, 2021, to December 31, 2021.
On August 28, 2021, Missouri joined a number of other states in extending unpaid leave and reasonable safety accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or whose family or household members are victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Canadian voters will be going to the polls for a federal general election on September 20, 2021. For employers, this means certain rules under the Canada Elections Act will apply on Election Day. Most importantly, employers must ensure that qualified electors (Canadian citizens 18 years of age and older) are guaranteed a period of time free from work to vote while polls are open.
As the number of new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to grow nationwide, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced, on August 18, 2021, measures to prioritize patient safety in nursing homes and hospitals. Effective August 18, 2021, Maryland is requiring employees in the state’s nursing homes and hospitals to provide proof of vaccination or to adhere to a regular COVID-19 screening and testing protocol. This protocol includes mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing on-site for individuals who fail to show proof of full vaccination status and the required wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the facility.
On May 14, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1065, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), bipartisan legislation that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. The bill’s provisions are intended to clarify protections for pregnant workers under federal antidiscrimination laws.
Growing numbers of private businesses and public entities have announced policies requiring employees and others to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or as a condition of access to facilities or services. In response to this trend, some have argued that employers and other organizations may not lawfully mandate COVID-19 vaccines that have been only approved for use under an emergency use authorization (EUA) as opposed to full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Commentators and legal advisors have been divided over whether the EUA approval precludes mandating the vaccine. On July 6, 2021, the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memorandum opining that private businesses and public entities are not prohibited from mandating COVID-19 vaccines that have only received approval for use under an EUA.
The pandemic continues to loom large over the California legislature this year, as indicated by the bills advancing through the legislative process. Below is a summary of the major employment law bills that are working their way through the state Assembly and Senate. The bills pertain to the expansion of medical and sick leave, postings for employees working remotely, and warehouse production quotas for facilities that have ramped up operations during the pandemic.
Louisiana’s nondiscrimination law protecting “pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions” in employment (La. R.S. 23:341–42) was recently amended primarily by including an express reasonable accommodation requirement and adding a definition section providing reasonable accommodation examples, La. R.S. 23:341.1. The pregnancy nondiscrimination statutes are part of the larger body of laws making up the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law at La. R.S. 23:301, et seq.
As the United States gradually emerges from the pandemic, employers (and especially those in the tech sector whose workforces can easily work remotely) are looking for ways to help frazzled and burned-out employees. In addition, many employees are seeking opportunities to preserve the flexibility they gained during pandemic remote-work arrangements. Time off, company holidays, and workday flexibility are among the top remedies for these concerns. But outmoded state and federal labor laws may impede a new era of worker freedom.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law that protects the civilian employment of active and reserve component military personnel and veterans. USERRA is a straightforward law with a central objective: to not penalize service members for their service. While most employers have probably handled numerous leave requests related to pregnancy, disability, or illness, employers are perhaps less likely to encounter requests for USERRA leave. Less than one percent of the population serves in the United States military, with approximately 1.3 million active duty personnel and 802,248 active reserve component members from all branches combined. Still, the number of military personnel in the civilian workforce is substantial enough that employers are likely at some point to receive a military leave request or USERRA-related question.
On June 17, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon issued an opinion and order in Munger v. Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, Inc., addressing an employee’s claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and an analogous state law after the employee’s separation from employment due to excessive unexcused absences. The principal issue before the court was whether the employee was entitled to FMLA leave when the employee had failed to follow his employer’s usual and customary notice requirements for requesting FMLA leave.
On June 15, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration certified the results of the May 2021 municipal primary election, and thereby formalized the approval of an amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania giving lawmakers the broad new power to extend or end disaster emergency declarations. Because the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law was set to “expire upon the expiration of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of the Governor of Pennsylvania related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” and the legislature voted on June 10, 2021, to end the disaster emergency declaration, it is now safe to say that the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law is no longer in effect.
On June 8, 2021, Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill (HB) 2474, amending the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) to update and expand the law’s eligibility and leave provisions. The amendments give eligibility to take leave to employees reemployed after a separation or returning after a temporary work cessation within 180 days, expand eligibility and leave entitlements during public health emergencies, and remove gendered language.
Many workplace leaders have been wondering, “Can we require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment?” According to a recent Ogletree Deakins benchmarking survey, most employers are not ready to implement mandatory vaccination policies, and 87.9 percent of employers reported that they currently do not plan to require workers to get the vaccine. On the other end of the spectrum, 7.6 percent of respondents have implemented (or are planning to implement) a vaccination mandate. The rest have been undecided, but a recent court opinion on the legality of such mandatory policies may shift some employers’ feelings about which direction they should go and when.
In order to address the economic impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s businesses, in June 2020 the Ontario government created a special leave called “infectious disease emergency leave” (IDEL) through Ontario Regulation 228/20 (O. Reg. 228/20).
On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.” The act requires eligible Massachusetts employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who meet certain criteria, with reimbursement by the Commonwealth.
On April 21, 2021, in a further push to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for those individuals who have been hesitant, the White House issued a fact sheet titled, “President Biden to Call on All Employers to Provide Paid Time Off for Employees to Get Vaccinated After Meeting Goal of 200 Million Shots in the First 100 Days.” This announcement further signals the administration’s dedication to vaccinating the U.S. population and its willingness to offer incentives to employers that support their employees in becoming vaccinated. Employers that have remained neutral on this issue could be persuaded to “take up arms” and join the fight against COVID-19.
On April 29, 2021, the Government of Ontario stated that it plans to introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. When passed, this legislation “would require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave because of certain reasons related to COVID-19.” According to a government press release, the act would apply retroactively to April 19, 2021, and would expire on September 25, 2021.
As more Canadians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, provinces across Canada are implementing paid COVID-19 vaccination leave policies to incentivize workers to become vaccinated as soon as possible. These leave policies are being put into place as COVID-19 cases across Canada soar and the country races to vaccinate faster than infections can spread.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted a number of previously in-person positions to remote work and telecommuting. In the meantime, many employees have moved out of state from their usual office locations for personal or financial reasons. As a result, many employers are left wondering what their legal obligations are for remote employees working out of state. The biggest concerns are local employment laws, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance obligations. Employers may also be subject to out-of-state payroll tax obligations.
On April 7, 2021, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 20, enacting the Healthy Workplaces Act (HWA), which will require private employers in New Mexico with at least one employee to provide paid sick leave to employees. The new law becomes effective on July 1, 2022.
Philadelphia’s newest Public Health Emergency Leave law went into effect on March 29, 2021. Unlike the prior iteration of the law that sunset on December 31, 2020, this law will stay in effect “for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On March 12, 2021, New York State enacted a law that requires all employers to provide their New York employees with up to four hours of paid time off per injection to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of enactment, the law did not provide guidance on certain key issues. Recently, the New York State Department of Labor published answers to some questions that many employers have been asking.
On March 10, 2021, the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court of Bexar County’s entry of a temporary injunction preventing the City of San Antonio’s sick and safe leave ordinance from taking effect. The appellate court reasoned that San Antonio’s ordinance was preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA) and was thus unconstitutional.
In Knaup v. Molina Healthcare of Ohio, Inc., (No. 2:19-cv-166) the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio addressed whether an employee had received an extension of time for submitting medical certification in support of her Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) request and whether the employer had discharged her for both failing to provide such documentation and in retaliation for the initial leave request.