On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted and approved an emergency COVID-19 regulation governing employers and workplaces. That regulation is scheduled for adoption and implementation on November 30, 2020. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that employers have expressed about the new emergency regulation.
On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the standards-setting agency of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), adopted an emergency standard regarding COVID-19 workplace prevention. The Standards Board submitted the new final rule to the Office of Administrative Law, which may approve the rule within as few as 10 days. This means employers may have to comply with the emergency standard as soon as Monday, November 30, 2020.
On November 18, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz dialed back Minnesota’s phased reopening and ongoing loosening of COVID-19–related restrictions by issuing Emergency Executive Order (EO) 20-99, “Implementing a Four Week Dial Back on Certain Activities to Slow the Spread of COVID-19.”
On November 13, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee issued a travel advisory for Washington State recommending a 14-day quarantine for all persons entering the state and encouraging residents to stay close to home.
Michigan’s rate of COVID-19 infection seems to be increasing each day, as does the volume of orders, rules, and guidance documents applicable to Michigan businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On November 13, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health Lance Himes issued a new director’s order enhancing face covering requirements for Ohio retailers, adding mandatory oversight obligations for employers, and providing greater enforcement power for local health departments and law enforcement.
Oregon voters approved two groundbreaking measures in the 2020 election season to become the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of certain controlled substances (Measure 110) and legalize the therapeutic usage of psilocybin in a controlled therapy setting (Measure 109). Many employers may be wondering what these measures mean and how their workplaces and existing employment policies might be impacted.
For several months, health officials have cautioned the public that the rate of positive cases of COVID-19 would spike as temperatures turned colder. In recent days, it has become clear that cases in Maryland have risen exponentially. Maryland’s government has responded to the rising caseload by issuing two recent directives designed to combat and slow the resurgence of the virus.
On November 1, 2020, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Palmer et al. v. Amazon.com Inc. et al., No. 20-cv-2468, 2020 WL 6388599, dismissed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging failures to comply with New York law and “New York Forward” minimum requirements for businesses.
Despite its well-deserved reputation as an employee-friendly jurisdiction, the District of Columbia is absent from the list of “blue states” that have adopted legislation limiting the use of noncompete agreements. Over the last few years, states such as Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington have enacted such laws.
On November 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced proposed temporary COVID-19 regulations for review and a vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Employers understand they have an obligation to investigate complaints of workplace misconduct. However, communications made during internal investigations are not totally without risk. Reports of misconduct, such as theft, assault, or abuse of others, can raise the scepter of defamation claims if the employer does not properly manage the communications. Further, while a qualified privilege exists for potentially defamatory statements made during misconduct investigations, such privilege is not absolute and can be lost.
On November 3, 2020, five states had initiatives on the ballot to legalize the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana, and all five initiatives easily passed. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years and older. In addition, South Dakota became the first state to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Employers may want to consider the impact of these new laws, as well as watch for new developments.
On October 6, 2020, in Bennett v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, No. 19-5818, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s decision in favor of a public employee who claimed that the city had terminated her employment in retaliation for exercising her rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On November 3, 2020, Colorado voters passed Proposition 118, a ballot initiative establishing a paid family and medical leave program. The new law, known as the “Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act,” provides for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax paid by employers and employees in a 50/50 split.
On November 3, 2020, Arizona voters decisively approved Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, to legalize recreational marijuana. As a result of the election, both medical and recreational marijuana are officially legal in Arizona.
On November 3, 2020, California’s voters approved Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 (the so-called CCPA 2.0). This means that the new California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) will amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) with some significant changes.
In an effort to combat the recent rising COVID-19 numbers in the New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 192 on October 28, 2020, mandating health and safety protocols for employers with employees, customers, or other visitors on-site. While many of these protocols have been required in certain industries under prior executive orders, all employers must now adhere to the protocols effective Thursday, November 5, 2020.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
On September 16, 2020, in Peeples v. Clinical Support Options, Inc., No. 3:20-cv-30144, a federal district court in Massachusetts took the unusual step of precluding an employer from discharging an employee who claimed an inability to work in the office due to a disability, and ordered the employer to allow the employee to telework for at least 60 days.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed into law four bills that encourage employers to resume business in compliance with all COVID-19 safeguards required under the various federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders. The new laws provide a significant reward for an employer’s compliance: insulation from COVID-19–related liability—including tort claims and claims under the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1974 (MIOSHA)—as long as the employer was implementing all safeguards legally required at the time of the incident giving rise to the claim.
On September 28, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2992, which amends California Labor Code Sections 230 and 230.1 and prohibits an employer from “discharging, or discriminating or retaliating against, an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse[,] for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief.”
On April 3, 2020, New York State enacted a statewide paid sick leave (PSL) law impacting all private employers in New York. The law requires employers to provide up to 40 or 56 hours of annual sick leave (depending on their size and net income).
On October 14, 2020, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal granted a petition for a writ of certiorari quashing a trial court’s discovery order that had compelled an employer to produce “financial worth” discovery in an employment discrimination case. While the trial court retained broad discretion over the scope of discovery, the appellate court held that the employee lacked an evidentiary basis to substantiate the need for financial worth discovery.
On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 3075, which amends the California Labor Code to allow employees to collect wage and hour judgments not only from their employers, but also from certain successor businesses that take over operations when the employers have failed to pay the judgment debts.
On September 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1512, which amends California Labor Code Section 226.7 by authorizing employers to require certain unionized private security officers “to remain on the premises during rest periods and to remain on call, and carry and monitor a communication device, during rest periods.”
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has issued emergency health and safety rules aimed at controlling, preventing, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The emergency rules, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved, represent a further effort to fill the void left by a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision invalidating many of the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.
The year 2020 has certainly come with its share of new challenges. Now, with the presidential election less than a month away, heightened tensions around the country, new remote work environments, videoconferences offering a window into employees’ personal lives, face masks with political slogans, and so much more, New York employers might want to start thinking through what employee political conduct they can and can’t regulate this election season.