Congress Debates Next Relief Package. As the Buzz has anticipated for a while now, this week the U.S. Senate began crafting a “Phase 4” response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While progress was made, as of this writing, no official bill text has been released. That means federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation premiums will expire this weekend without any sort of legislative extension. Indeed, whether to continue such unemployment insurance enhancements (and if so, by how much) is one of the main sticking points within Republican Senate ranks. Obviously, the Buzz will be monitoring this situation and will have more as things develop.
DOL Issues More Wage and Hour Guidance. The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division released new guidance this week addressing COVID-19–related issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (notice the July 20, 2020, entries at the bottom of each list). Some of the issues covered include telework, telemedicine, and returning employees to work.
Business Groups Challenge Visa Ban. This week, a coalition of business groups filed a legal challenge to President Trump’s June 22, 2020, proclamation extending and expanding a ban on entry into the United States for certain visa holders. Filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit claims that the proclamation “takes a sledgehammer to the statutes Congress enacted with respect to high-skilled and temporary worker immigration.” The lawsuit alleges, in part, that the proclamation is arbitrary and capricious because it does not rationally relate to the unemployment problems it purports to address. For example, the proclamation covers certain spouses and children who are not permitted to work in the United States, anyway, and thereby does nothing to alleviate the unemployment crisis.
NLRB Addresses Offensive Conduct Standard. This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) modified its standard for addressing the discipline of employees who engage in abusive behavior while also participating in protected activity. The new standard applies the Board’s well-known Wright Line test for mixed-motive cases and requires employers to demonstrate that the same discipline would have occurred “even in the absence of the protected activity.” The previous fact-specific tests for such situations often made it challenging for employers to maintain workplaces that were free of harassment and discrimination.
EEOC to Study Pay Data. Late last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will “conduct an independent assessment of the quality and utility of the EEO-1 Component 2 data for FY 2017 and 2018, which was collected last year as the result of a court order.” The assessment will examine “the utility of pay bands in measuring pay disparities and potential statistical and analytically appropriate uses of the data” and “will also inform the EEOC’s approach to future data collections.” The project, which will include public meetings and stakeholder input, isn’t expected to be completed until December 2021. James A. Patton, Jr. has more.
Forced Labor Reporting Bill Introduced. This week, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the “Slave-Free Business Certification Act of 2020.” The bill would require covered companies to perform yearly audits—the particulars of which are prescribed by the legislation—of their supply chains to detect the presence or use of forced labor. Reports detailing the findings of such audits must be submitted to the Secretary of Labor and posted on company websites. The findings of the reports must be signed and certified by the covered entities’ chief executive officers. The bill allows the DOL to levy civil penalties of up to $100 million for violating the audit and reporting requirements, and up to $500 million if such violation is willful.
ADA Anniversary. This Sunday, July 26, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While signing the landmark civil rights legislation into law, President George H. W. Bush said that the ADA “represents the full flowering of our democratic principles.” The EEOC has created a website commemorating the anniversary of the ADA.
Congressman John Lewis. Civil rights champion and 17-term congressman John Lewis (D-GA) died on July 17, 2020, after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Political leaders from around the world paid tribute to the civil rights icon this week. At the Buzz, we remember one of Congressman Lewis’s last acts of grace and class that took place just weeks before his cancer diagnosis. Congressman Lewis will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda beginning on July 27, 2020.
The Buzz will not run next week and will return on August 7, 2020.