Congress Dithers Over Pandemic Relief. Well, the update is that there is no update. Both Republicans and Democrats continue to dig in their heels over a fourth federal pandemic relief package. While many reports focus on the trillion dollar gap between the parties’ positions, it may not be just the amount of money in the deal that is the sticking point. For example, there has been no indication of a breakthrough regarding a deal around liability protections for employers. Many observers are now speculating that negotiations may continue into September 2020, when a looming government funding deadline could come into play.
President Issues Pandemic-Related Memoranda. Of course, as a result of congressional inaction on a fourth coronavirus relief package, on August 8, 2020, President Donald Trump issued four memoranda to address the payroll tax, the eviction moratorium, unemployment insurance, and student loan relief. We have the scoop on the unemployment insurance memorandum that established a “lost wages assistance program,” and Michael K. Mahoney, Shivam K. Bimal, and Randle B. Pollard have the details on the payroll tax deferral memorandum. Additionally, on August 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued technical assistance for states on the implementation of the lost wages assistance program.
New Guidance on the Visa Ban. On August 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued guidance explaining the types of travel that could be included within the June 22, 2020, presidential proclamation’s exception for individuals whose travel to the United States is in the national interest. For H-1B applicants, exceptions include:
- “travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit”;
- travel “to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations”;
- travel “to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification”; and
- “[t]ravel by technical specialists, senior level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States,” if certain prescribed criteria are satisfied.
Similar, but not identical, criteria are applicable to L-1 applicants seeking exceptions.
EEOC to Address Conciliation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it will hold a public meeting on August 18, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. eastern time, to discuss a notice of proposed rulemaking on conciliation. According to the latest regulatory agenda, the EEOC will issue a proposal to “revise existing regulations to enhance the effectiveness of the conciliation process and provide greater clarity for all stakeholders.” The EEOC’s statutory requirement to attempt to resolve discrimination charges through conciliation has been the subject of significant policy debates over the years, and it will be interesting to see if this proposal provides some clarity for stakeholders.
OFCCP News. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced several new initiatives this week to assist federal contractors’ compliance with their nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations. First, OFCCP will conduct a webinar on the TRICARE final rule on August 31, 2020, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. eastern time. Second, OFCCP announced the launch of a National Pre-Award Registry tool, which lists contractors that were found to be in compliance with their equal employment opportunity obligations in the last two years. This tool is likely to be helpful for contractors during the procurement process. Finally, OFCCP launched a Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) hiring benchmark database intended to assist contractors in calculating their hiring benchmarks for covered veterans.
Will Harris Follow the Dem Veep Pattern? Of course, the major news in Washington, D.C., this week was presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate in the November 2020 presidential election. Future editions of the Buzz will have more on what a potential Biden/Harris administration could mean for employers. Looking beyond this year, many political pundits are expecting Senator Harris to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2024, especially if she and former vice president Biden prevail in November. While Biden’s age is a factor in this prediction, history is also a guide: every Democratic vice president since Lyndon Johnson (Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Biden) has subsequently become the Democratic nominee for president.