As featured in #WorkforceWednesday: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broadened its definition of “close contact.” Now, spending a total of 15 minutes within six feet of an infected individual over a 24-hour period counts as close contact. Previously, it was an exposure period of 15 consecutive minutes. Attorney Denise Dadika explains what this change means for employers.
Labor & Employment
Rule 9: Don’t Discriminate, Don’t Retaliate, and, If Plausible, Accommodate – Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19
Part 9 of a series featuring our video Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19.
If the Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19 series has given you any takeaways, it should be that it pays to be prepared, to be safe, and to anticipate workplace issues before they arise. This means taking stock of what has happened in the past year and what challenges lie ahead. There is almost nothing the pandemic has not affected in our lives, or in business and the workplace and the challenges have been daunting. Challenges have included, coping with illness, the stressors of new work arraignments, the impact of physical distancing, adjusting to caregiving responsibilities at home, and simply grappling with the unknowns of the pandemic. In short, it’s been a challenging year. As we turn the corner into 2021, it’s apparent that employers will continue to need to manage their workforces with an understanding of the complexities that the pandemic has thrust upon employees’ lives. The following short statements serve as a quick reminder of what employers should and should not do when returning employees safely to the workplace. If the statements seem familiar (dare we say intuitive), it’s because they are. You have seen them before. These maxims apply with equal force to the workplace today as they did before the pandemic. With all the preoccupying challenges presented by the pandemic, however, we offer these important reminders.
As the pandemic continues into 2021, many employers are contending with their workers’ significantly increased caregiving responsibilities. Parents – many without viable day care or other childcare options – must try to balance work with the challenges of caring for their children and overseeing their education (and entertainment). Other employees find themselves at the forefront of caregiving for sick family members and for family members at high risk for serious illness, if they become infected by COVID-19.
Michigan Passes COVID-19 Laws Including a Liability Shield for Employers and Enhanced Worker Protections
October has brought a weekly flurry of changes to Michigan’s COVID-19 legal landscape.  On Thursday October 22, 2020, Governor Whitmer added to this recent activity by signing three bills into law that provide employers with significant liability protection and employees with job protections related to COVID-19.
Employer Protections: Liability Shield
Titled the “COVID-19 Response and Reopening Liability Assurance Act,” HB 6030 provides employers with immunity from liability for a “COVID-19 claim” as long as the employer acted in compliance with all federal, state and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19. A “COVID-19 claim” is defined to include a tort claim or tort cause of action for damages, losses, indemnification, or other relief arising out of or in any way related to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 or to conduct intended to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In addition, HB 6031  amends the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act and affords liability protection to employers for an employee’s exposure to COVID-19, as long as the employer operated in compliance all federal, state and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19.
Privacy and Security Considerations for Employers Grappling with Introducing Social Distancing and Contact Tracing Technologies in the Workplace
As employers continue their efforts to safely bring employees back to the workplace, many have moved beyond initial pre-entry wellness checks or questionnaires and are considering technology solutions that monitor social distancing and conduct contact tracing in real-time. Along with introducing these enhanced capabilities, the question of the privacy and security of employee personally identifiable information (“PII”) and protected health information (“PHI”) continues to loom.
During the coronavirus pandemic, businesses were faced with myriad important employment considerations, including the difficult decision of having to furlough or lay off employees. Even those that did not take such actions may have had far more employees requesting a leave of absence than in prior years, especially as a result of the new legislation enacted to address the crisis. The employment changes that occurred as
a result of the pandemic have caused employers to focus on employee leave administration. Employers have had to consider a number of legal requirements in connection with those employment changes and continue to grapple with these requirements as they bring employees back to work. In addition, employers must consider the potential impact these employment changes may have on the employer’s benefit and compensation programs as they bring employees back, and will need to familiarize themselves with a number of legal requirements as they do so. Read more…
The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued revised rules (the Revised Rules) clarifying its prior rules on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA provides eligible employees with up to 2 weeks of emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and up to 12 weeks of paid public health emergency leave (EFMLA Leave) for certain covered reasons. The Revised Rules, which took effect on September 16, 2020, were promulgated in response to a Southern District of New York (SDNY) court decision that struck down various aspects of the DOL’s original FFCRA rules. Read more…
Connecticut Extends Existing COVID-Related Executive Orders and Issues Additional Orders Affecting Employers
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health and civil preparedness emergency in Connecticut. In connection with this declaration, Governor Lamont has issued numerous Executive Orders throughout the pandemic. The Executive Orders were set to expire on September 9, 2020, if they were not terminated earlier.
On September 1, 2020, Governor Lamont extended the existing public health and civil preparedness emergency until February 9, 2021. In addition, on September 8, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9A, which reissues and extends all prior Executive Orders to November 9, 2020. As a result, the Sector Rules, which set forth the rules for workplaces as they reopen in Connecticut, will remain in effect until at least November 9, 2020, and we expect they will be extended further.
Part 8 of a series featuring our video Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19.
If there has been one, singular guiding principle or mantra – that has sustained us, challenged us, and in some cases, inspired us over these last few months, this is it. “Don’t Waste the Crisis.” It is also the mantra that will propel us forward.
Flashback to the eve of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order in March, shutting down New York State and New York City as the nation and the world watched. In the countdown leading up to its effective date, there was a palpable feeling of existential unrest – that life as we knew it was about to change and the duration of the change was unknown, but the nature and impact of the change felt heavy already.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently updated its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) regarding employers’ reporting obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As previously reported, effective as of May 26, 2020, OSHA has declared COVID-19 a recordable illness for all employers. Thus, employers are responsible for recording workplace cases of COVID-19 on a OSHA 300 Log if the case: (1) is confirmed COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”); (2) is work-related, defined as “resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment;” and (3) involves one or more of the general recording criteria, which include death, days away from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. Moreover, employers must report to OSHA any work-related fatalities or hospitalizations due to COVID-19.