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 is the definition of “close contact” for purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantining requirements?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance that significantly expands the definition of “close contact” for purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantining requirements. Previously, the CDC defined “close contact” to include only certain individuals who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of someone with COVID-19. Because this previous definition was in place before the CDC issued its mask guidance, many, including employers, inferred that “close contact” meant contact without any face coverings.


Continue Reading Too Close for Comfort: CDC’s Latest Guidance Significantly Expands the Definition of “Close Contact”

Authors:
Lee E. Tankle, Associate, Pepper Hamilton
Moses M. Tincher, Associate, Troutman Sanders

As governors begin to lift stay-at-home orders and communities around the country continue to progress through various phases of reopening, employers and employees alike are starting to plan for workers to return to offices and worksites. Although many Americans are adapting to the temporary “new normal,” COVID-19 remains a threat and must continue to be taken seriously. In preparation for returning employees, employers should be asking the following questions:
Continue Reading Return to Work: Questions All Employers Should Ask Before Reopening

Authors:
Lee Tankle, Associate, Pepper Hamilton
Moses Tincher, Associate, Troutman Sanders
Tracey Diamond, Of Counsel, Pepper Hamilton
Susan Lessak, Partner, Pepper Hamilton

On March 18, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act). The Act addresses many issues related to the nation’s response to COVID-19, including