On May 7, 2021, Montana governor Greg Gianforte signed into law Montana House Bill 702, under which Montana became the first jurisdiction to recognize an individual’s vaccination status as a protected category. The law also prohibits employers from requiring employees to disclose their immunization status and bars employers from requiring employees to receive certain types of vaccines or to possess an immunity passport.
On May 10, 2021, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit filed by the wife of a construction worker against his employer after he allegedly contracted COVID-19 at his workplace and transmitted it to her.
Like the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Wisconsin law allows hospitality employers to pay certain tipped employees less than the minimum wage with the understanding that the tips they receive will cover the difference. More specifically, Wisconsin law allows employers to claim a tip credit of up to $4.92 per hour for employees who “customarily and regularly receive tips.” Among other things, Wisconsin law requires employers to have a “signed tip declaration” in order to claim the credit.
On May 6, 2021, the Alabama legislature approved a medical marijuana legalization bill. Senate Bill (SB) 46, more commonly known as the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, will now go to Governor Kay Ivey for final approval. Governor Ivey has not indicated that she will veto the bill, although a spokesperson for Governor Ivey has stated that she “look[s] forward to thoroughly reviewing it.”
On November 30, 2020, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, more commonly known as Cal/OSHA, adopted COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for California. Among other topics, the ETS required that employers develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program and provided guidance on how employers should address COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the workplace. Since Cal/OSHA issued its ETS, the California workplace landscape has changed dramatically, with large-scale vaccinations for all ages and employees returning to work across the state.
On April 20, 2021, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed into law a name, image, and likeness (NIL) bill, making Alabama the tenth state to enact such legislation.
Echoing his mantra of building back better, on May 5, 2021, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 3, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated public health recommendations advising that fully vaccinated non-healthcare workers can refrain from quarantining after a known workplace exposure to COVID-19, but only if they are asymptomatic.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently held unenforceable a no-hire provision in a service contract between a logistics company and a trucking firm. In Pittsburgh Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking LLC, et. al., the court reasoned that the no-hire provision at issue was overly broad and undermined fair competition for employees in the shipping and logistics industry.
As expected, on April 28, 2021, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) into law. The act, which provides protection from “coronavirus claims” to a broad class of covered entities and covered individuals, went into effect immediately and “appl[ies] to all civil and administrative causes of action that arise between March 13, 2020, and June 30, 2021, or  days after the final state of emergency is lifted for COVID-19 in [South Carolina], whichever is later, and that are based upon facts occurring during this time period.”
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On April 19, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced plans to roll back COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses—although certain mask requirements may remain in effect. The governor intends to lift the restrictions in stages commencing May 1, 2021, through May 19, 2021.
In Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, the California Court of Appeal highlighted an important distinction between Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims asserted against a public entity employer based on statutes that themselves provide for civil penalties and PAGA claims that are based on PAGA’s default civil penalties provisions under California Labor Code § 2699(f).
The “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) is expected to reach Governor Henry McMaster’s desk early this week for his signature. Senate sponsors initially introduced the act on December 9, 2020, and it received final approval in the House of Representatives on April 23, 2021. Similar to its previously introduced predecessors, House Bill 5527 and Senate Bill 1259, the act provides liability protections against coronavirus-based claims for a limited time period for businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.
On March 30, 2021, in Bossé v. New York Life Insurance Co. et al., the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision upholding the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that delegates the arbitrability of claims to an arbitrator, and not a court.
On April 9, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that an employee may be liable to his or her employer under the Commonwealth’s unfair and deceptive trade practices statute—which authorizes an award of double or treble damages for willful violations, as well as costs and attorneys’ fees—for actions that the employee engaged in during the course of his or her employment.
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.
On April 16, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 93 into law. This new statute creates California Labor Code Section 2810.8 and requires that employers in certain industries make written job offers to employees whom they laid off because of COVID-19. Employees have five business days to respond and, if more than
Hospitality and event center workers received additional job rights protection under a new ordinance passed by the Minneapolis City Council. The new ordinance requires employers to recall those workers, if and when they are needed in reverse order of seniority. Ordinance No.2021-12, entitled “Hospitality Worker Right to Recall,” seeks to minimize the impact on affected employees in an industry particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and to stabilize the workforce.
Mandatory arbitration clauses for employment disputes have received a great deal of attention in recent years. In the First Circuit, there is now more clarity regarding the factors used to determine the enforceability of online arbitration agreements.
On April 12, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) would extend the sunset date for the state’s COVID-19 emergency rules, which were set to expire on April 14, 2021, for six more months.
On March 24, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a new interactive tool for obtaining tailored guidance on job-protected leave for pregnancy-related disability or to bond with a new child. The aptly-named “New-Parents Rights Advisor” is free and accessible online and intended to help employees and employers understand their rights and obligations pursuant to California law.
The recent decided case of Duplessis Buick-GMC Truck, Inc. v. Chauncey offers Louisiana employers a powerful cause of action against highly trusted former employees for breach of fiduciary duty—one that is akin to an action to enforce noncompete agreements or trade secret laws but without statutory constraints.
On April 5, 2021, Director of Ohio’s Department of Health (ODH), Stephanie McCloud, issued two new orders, including a consolidated Director’s Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating and a Director’s Order Rescinding Various Orders. The orders went into effect on April 5, 2021, and the Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating will remain in force until the ODH modifies or rescinds it.
On March 31, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes the adult recreational use of marijuana and revises Section 201-d of the New York Labor Law. The MRTA’s antidiscrimination employment provisions took effect immediately.
On April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its long-awaited opinion in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., reversing a trial court’s decision against Winn-Dixie, holding that websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that Winn-Dixie’s website does not violate 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).
Virginia has joined California as the second state to enact a comprehensive data privacy law. On March 2, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) into law. The VCDPA does not go into effect until January 1, 2023, but the broad privacy mandate will have an immediate impact on compliance efforts for many Virginia businesses.
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.”
During his January 2021 State of the State address, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey called for “COVID liability protection, so that a statewide emergency doesn’t line the pockets of trial attorneys with frivolous lawsuits.” On March 30, 2021, the Arizona State Legislature answered Governor Ducey’s call and passed Arizona’s pandemic-related liability shield legislation. Senate Bill (SB) 1377 establishes civil immunity for employers and health care providers for actions (or omissions to act) related to “a public health pandemic that is the subject of the state of emergency declared by the Governor.”
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.