Q: Has the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on the COBRA premium subsidy?

A: On March 25, we reported on the 100% federally funded COBRA premium subsidy included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), noting the need for additional guidance on a number of issues. See “COVID-19 Resource Guide for Human Resources Professionals: 100% Federally Funded COBRA is Almost Here — What You Need to Know.” In response to questions from stakeholders, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued FAQs on April 7, providing much needed guidance on the COBRA premium subsidy. While the FAQs provide employers with some clarity on the implementation and administration of the COBRA premium subsidy, additional guidance is still needed. Continue Reading DOL Issues Guidance on Federally Funded COBRA Premium Subsidy — FAQs and Model Notices Provide Clarification for Employers

Q: Has the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued any guidance on workplace COVID-19 vaccination programs?

A: Yes. The CDC released guidance for employers in mid-March. Although the CDC recognizes the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, it encourages employers to develop policies and share messages with employees to promote confidence in the vaccine, so employees will choose to get vaccinated when vaccines become more widely available. The CDC guidance addresses a variety of issues including: Continue Reading CDC Issues Guidance on Workplace Vaccination Programs

Q: Have there been any court rulings on whether companies can limit employees from wearing Black Lives Matter and other social justice attire to work?

A: Yes. During this pandemic and the political and social unrest underlying the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, many employees have come to work wearing BLM masks and other attire. Some companies initially banned all BLM attire on the grounds that it could alienate prospective customers with differing opinions, lead to misunderstandings, and incite workplace violence. However, they later changed their decision in light of public backlash. Others continued to ban BLM masks and other attire by relying on companywide dress code policies that prohibit employees from wearing masks and clothing with any visible slogans or messages unrelated to the company. These workplace policies recently came under fire when a group of employees filed a class-action lawsuit against a grocery chain, alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation for wearing BLM attire.

Specifically, the workers alleged that the employer rarely enforced its dress code policy and that it did not prohibit workers in the past from wearing clothing with messaging unrelated to the company, such as Pride pins or apparel supporting LGBTQ+ workers and even a SpongeBob SquarePants mask. According to the workers, the employer selectively enforced its policy to target and suppress BLM messaging, and, thus, discriminated against Black employees and others associating with and advocating for Black employees in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The workers also alleged they were retaliated against for continuing to wear BLM apparel and protesting the dress code policy. Continue Reading Federal District Court Found That Employer Did Not Violate Title VII in Prohibiting Black Lives Matter Attire

Q: What Does the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan Mean for Employers?

A: On March 11, nearly a year after the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and CARES Act, and three months after the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, President Biden signed a sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package called the American Rescue Plan. The headline-grabbing elements of the American Rescue Plan include $1,400 direct payments to individuals earning below a certain income threshold, $160 billion for COVID-19 vaccine and testing programs, and $360 billion for aid to state, local, and territorial governments. Critical to employers, the American Rescue Plan once again extends federal unemployment insurance benefits and modifies employee entitlement to COVID-19-related leave under the FFCRA.

Continue Reading The $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

Q: Are employers immune from liability for issues related to COVID-19?

A: As the pandemic continues and COVID-19 vaccines slowly but surely begin to reach more widespread distribution across the country, many employers continue to worry about potential liability in their workplaces for claims involving COVID-19 infections, along with a host of other claims related to employment.

Continue Reading More States Consider COVID-19 Immunity Laws as Employment Lawsuit Filings Trend Upward

Q: What do employers need to know about the recently released Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance for COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace?

A: On January 21, President Biden signed an Executive Order on protecting worker health and safety. Pursuant to the order, on January 29, OSHA released new guidance titled, “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

Continue Reading New OSHA Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention Programs

Q: Does the “ABC test” for independent contractor status in the state of California apply retroactively?

A: The California Supreme Court recently issued a decision clarifying that the ABC test for determining independent contractor status does indeed apply retroactively.

Continue Reading California Supreme Court Clarifies Dynamex’s “ABC” Test, Concluding that Independent Contractor Status Applies Retroactively

Q: Are outside sales employees considered exempt under the outside sales exemption (OSE) if they work from a home office during the pandemic?

A: Throughout the last 11 months, the pandemic has required most in-person business activity to go virtual; and this is no less true for employees working in sales. However, Zoom meetings and social distancing have made it challenging for employers to classify their sales force as exempt under the OSE of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Continue Reading FLSA Exemptions for Outside Sales Employees in the Era of Social Distancing

Q: Are there any new laws or regulations that I should know about as we enter 2021?

A: The year 2020 undoubtedly presented many challenges to employers in keeping up with seemingly ever-changing laws and regulations, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic that swept our nation. As employers leave the previous year behind and begin focusing on what will follow in 2021, it is important to be mindful of various significant labor and employment law changes — in addition to those specifically related to COVID-19. Below are summaries of key non-COVID-related issues that employers should know about now and in the year ahead.

Continue Reading Goodbye 2020! A Look Ahead to Non-COVID Labor and Employment Updates for 2021

Q: What issues should my business begin to address so that when COVID-19 vaccines are ready for distribution, we will be ready?

A: On a nearly daily basis, Americans hear promising news about vaccine developments that will help protect us from COVID-19. As the reality of a safe, effective, and accessible vaccine draws closer, industries and businesses across the country have started developing their own COVID-19 vaccine strategies. These entities have quickly discovered that any vaccine policy implemented will raise complicated questions not previously faced. While historic annual influenza vaccine strategies are informative, COVID-19 vaccine issues bring new challenges because of the sheer magnitude of the pandemic and the unique issues surrounding the pace of development and distribution. Businesses should proactively address these issues now so when the COVID-19 vaccines are ready for distribution, they will be too.
Continue Reading When the COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives, Will Your Business Be Ready?