Massachusetts Federal Court Preliminarily Requires Employer to Allow Employee’s Teleworking

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 Provides Employers and Employees COVID-19 Protections

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.

Michigan OSHA Issues Emergency Rules Related to COVID-19

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.

UK Government’s New Guidance on Job Retention Bonus Related to CJRS

As part of its Plan for Jobs 2020, the UK Government announced in July 2020 that it would pay a bonus to employers that brought furloughed employees back to work and kept such employees continuously employed until 31 January 2021. Further guidance has now been published, in addition to a Treasury Direction, which states that the Job Retention Bonus is intended to “enhance and consolidate” the purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which is to preserve the jobs of furloughed employees.

Will COVID-19 ‘Long-Haulers’ Be Next to Test the Limits of the ADA?

As the pandemic continues, a segment of individuals who contracted COVID-19 reports that they have not experienced a quick recovery. Rather, they are continuing to suffer symptoms months after initial onset of the disease. Known as coronavirus “long-haulers,” these individuals report that they endure effects such as chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, and other symptoms far down their road to recovery. While recuperation from a typical cold or flu lasts between 7 to 14 days, long-haulers are reportedly experiencing the consequences of COVID-19 for a far longer period and months after diagnosis.

Michigan’s Latest COVID-19 Developments: What Employers Need to Know

In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the state’s COVID-19-related executive orders, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued new orders, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has ramped up enforcement of COVID-19-related protocols, and local counties are issuing their own orders as well.

Ontario Tightens COVID-19 Restrictions in ‘Hotspot’ Regions for at Least 28 Days

On October 9, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced additional restrictions on and closures of public gatherings, specific businesses, and indoor food and drink service, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are currently applicable within the “hotspots” of the “Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions.”

20 Tips for U.S. Virgin Islands Employers in 2020: Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

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 12 of this series addresses the workplace laws protecting victims of domestic violence.

OSHA Clarifies Reporting Requirement for COVID-19-Related Hospitalizations and Fatalities With New FAQs

On September 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a new series of answers to its “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) guidance relating to an employer’s obligation to report work-related hospitalizations and fatalities that occur as a result of COVID-19. The new FAQs clarify that the work-related “incident,” which triggers an employer’s reporting obligation, is an employee’s exposure to the coronavirus in the workplace.

Puerto Rico–Qualified Retirement Plans: 2020 Year-End Amendments Deadline Coming Soon

All of the recent changes to the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules of Section 401(a)(9) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, except for provisions related to the handling of tax-free rollovers, may be applied to Puerto Rico participants in dual-qualified plans (i.e., U.S.-qualified retirement plans that cover both U.S. and Puerto Rico employees) exactly as they are applied to U.S. participants. Puerto Rico participants are, therefore, eligible for the recently extended required beginning date and may waive taking RMDs for 2020.

Sacramento City and County Now Have COVID-19–Related Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Laws

On September 1, 2020, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors passed the Sacramento County Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act of 2020. The county appears to have modeled its new law on the City of Sacramento’s own recent Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act (WPHSA), which the city enacted on June 30, 2020. The two laws are nearly identical, providing employees with paid sick leave for certain COVID-19–related reasons, allowing workers to refuse to work in certain situations, and prohibiting employer retaliation. Here are answers to some several frequently asked questions about the measures.

New Legal Duty for Employers and Employees Regarding Self-Isolation in England Comes Into Force

The UK Government has enacted The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, which came into force in England on 28 September 2020. Failure to comply with these regulations is a criminal offence, the penalty for which includes a fine of £1,000 for a first offence, with fines increasing up to £10,000 for subsequent breaches.

Philadelphia Expands Entitlement to Paid Sick Leave for Workers Not Covered by FFCRA

On September 17, 2020, six months after Mayor Jim Kenney issued Executive Order 3-20, a Declaration of Emergency Related to the Known and Potential Presence of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 in Philadelphia, he signed into law Bill No. 200303, a temporary amendment expanding the City of Philadelphia’s paid sick leave law—officially known as the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance—to establish public health emergency leave for individuals not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Employers, Don’t Let Your Guard Down: COVID-19–Related Employment Lawsuits Are in Full Swing

We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board to Draft and Adopt COVID-19 Safety Standard

On September 17, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted unanimously to pursue the drafting and adoption of a California COVID-19 safety regulation. The emergency regulation would cover all workers in California regardless of industry segment.

New California Labor Code Section 6409.6 Imposes COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notice Requirements

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685 into law, enacting California Labor Code Section 6409.6 and amending other state statutes. As explained further below, Section 6409.6 obligates employers to notify employees, the employees’ exclusive representative (such as a union), and subcontractors, within one business day of an employer’s receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 workplace exposure from a “qualifying individual.”

Governor DeWine Signs Law Shielding Ohio Employers From Liability for COVID-19–Related Lawsuits

On September 14, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill (H.B.) 606 into law, providing employers with legal protections when it comes to their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 and making Ohio one of a growing number of states granting similar civil immunity. According to Governor DeWine, the new law accomplishes the dual goals of keeping people safe and rebuilding the state’s economy.

Working Remotely? Welcome to Minneapolis and Its SST Ordinance

Now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has settled the issue of applying the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time (SST) ordinance to employers “with no physical presence in Minneapolis,” what does this mean for employers with employees who are working remotely in their homes within the city? It may mean that those employees are covered by the Minneapolis SST ordinance and possibly by other similar ordinances.

New Jersey Enacts COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Bill for Essential Workers

On September 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill (SB) 2380 into law. SB 2380 creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19 cases contracted by “essential employees” during a public health emergency declared by an executive order of the governor. The law is effective immediately and retroactive to March 9, 2020.

20 Tips for U.S. Virgin Islands Employers in 2020: Navigating COVID-19 Inquiries and Disclosures

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 11 of this series addresses the laws relevant to navigating inquiries into and disclosures of information related to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Is a COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine in Your Company’s Future? Considerations at the Start of Flu Season

Each year we review the validity of mandatory flu vaccinations. It is usually in the context of health care organizations, as few other employers have had the same need. In the last few years, the analysis has remained the same: (1) what is the justification (often, employee and patient safety); (2) will there be medical and/or religious exemptions; and, if so, (3) what is the accommodation (it has generally been wearing a mask all times at work).