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.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) is the state agency responsible for enforcement of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA). The NJFLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave during any 24-month period: (1) to bond with a child within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care; (2) to provide care to a family member or one who is the equivalent of a family member who has a serious health condition or has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease during a state of emergency; or (3) to provide care or treatment for a child if the child’s school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease (such as COVID-19) or other public health emergency.
Beginning March 29, 2021, California employers with more than 25 employees nationally will have to pay their California employees with up to 80 hours of COVID-19–related paid leave. On March 19, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 95, which creates new California Labor Code Sections 248.2 and Section 248.3.
Within days, California employers may have to provide employees with even more COVID-19–related paid leave. On March 18, 2021, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 95, which creates new Labor Code Section 248.2 and Labor Code Section 248.3. These new Labor Code sections provide covered employees and in-home supportive service providers with up to 80 new hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. As explained below, the bill is far more expansive than the California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave statute that expired on December 31, 2020. The new legislation covers more employers and requires paid sick leave for many more reasons. If Governor Newsom signs SB 95, the law will take effect 10 days later and expire on September 30, 2021, unless extended.
On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The ARPA is the latest installment of COVID-19–related stimulus packages passed by Congress in the last 12 months. Similar to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, the ARPA contains a number of employee benefit plan and executive compensation provisions, which are highlighted below.
On March 4, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) updated its “DFEH Employment Information on COVID-19” to include answers to some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about vaccinations.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) recently updated its “Guide to COVID-19 Related Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]” to include wage and hour issues and vaccinations.
March 2021 marks one year since the beginning of state-mandated stay-at-home orders and workplace shutdowns due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to workplaces in generations, and not just in terms of barking dogs, homeschooling, gate-crashers at virtual meetings, and sweat pants. The pandemic forced employers and employees to quickly pivot and change. Many of these changes will undoubtedly impact the workplace for years to come. The following is a roundup of 10 ways in which the pandemic may have a lasting influence on how we work.
On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation requiring all employers, both public and private sector, to provide employees with up to four hours of paid time off per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The law took effect immediately.
On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021—a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. While the legislation marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden and the administration, it is the sixth federal legislative relief package aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The legislation continues some programs established in these previous efforts, but it also adds some important components. Set forth below are some of the major provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act.
A growing trend among employers that are turning to new and updated methods of fostering employee collegiality and team bonding involves e-sports leagues. Similar to the traditional company softball team, e-sports leagues provide a modern method for employees to form teams that compete at video games against squads of workers from other businesses. This competitive medium has gained in prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic as employers seek innovative ways for employees to interact while observing social distancing precautions. Employers can view these competitive outlets as a means of fostering creativity, building rapport, and developing trust among personnel.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the global economy, and employers are increasingly considering which are the most and least employer-friendly places new offices, distribution centers, and operational locations, both during the pandemic and after emerging from it. The Arizona State University Center for the Study of Economic Liberty recently released Doing Business North America 2020 (DBNA), a report analyzing and comparing data indicative of the regulatory context for business activity in a number of metropolitan areas. The report ranked 130 cities across Canada, Mexico, and the United States, based on 111 variables for determining where the best places to do business are currently (although given the ever-changing local, state, and federal landscapes, the assessment may change frequently). The variables underlying the rankings fall into six broad categories: starting a business; employing workers; obtaining electricity, land and space use; and paying taxes and resolving insolvency.
Minnesota employers will be heading back to the drawing board to revise their handbook disclaimers. The Minnesota Supreme Court now requires specific language in policies that set out the terms and conditions for payment of certain employee benefits such as payouts of vacation and paid time off (PTO).
On February 5, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware granted summary judgment in Snyder v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Inc. and Company, No. 18-1266, holding that DuPont did not terminate the employment of its employee, Peggy Snyder, in retaliation for her use of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
On February 4, 2021, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law House Bill (H.B.) 2045, which expands protections for pregnant workers under Arizona law. The measure amends the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA) to mirror existing protections under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
On February 9, 2021, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to extend the time period for employees to use San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave. The Board first enacted the Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO) on April 17, 2020, and has continued to extend it for subsequent periods of approximately 60 days each extension. The mayor has approved each of the prior extensions and must approve this one as well. If she does, the ordinance will expire 61 days later.
Now that the inauguration has passed and the Biden administration has begun its work, it is a good time for retailers to take stock of the labor and employment issues that are likely to assume prominence in 2021, and to consider preparing to meet the challenges each of these issues pose. In no particular order, below are the top 10 issues that are likely to keep retail employers up at night in 2021.