North America

International Challenges to Dismissing Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Outside of the United States, terminating employees can be difficult even in “normal” times.  The concept of “at-will” employment is uniquely American, and generally, employers in non-US jurisdictions only may terminate employment for “cause” or for other statutorily permitted reasons.  Moreover, terminated employees in many countries are entitled to statutory notice, severance and other benefits, which is far more the exception than the rule for US employees.

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Rule 6: If You’re Sick, Stay Home – Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19

Part 6 of a series featuring our video Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19.

Simple in theory. Challenging in practice.

While we all intuitively know that we should stay home when we are feeling unwell, a fall 2019 survey suggests just the opposite—that approximately 90% of workers generally “push through” and come to work anyway. The reality is that employees come to work when they are sick for a myriad of reasons: to stay atop long to-do lists, meet production goals, because they think the business would crumble without them, or that somehow taking a sick day and staying home might be a sign of weakness. Given the current environment, there is also the very real financial reality and concern of missing a day’s worth of pay, particularly for those in economically vulnerable positions.

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The Stockdale Paradox and its Pandemic Relevance

If you’ve been hanging around Zen for a while, you may have heard me mention one of my favorite business concepts, the Stockdale Paradox. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last several weeks (I’ll define it in a moment if you’re not familiar with it), because I’ve heard a lot of people saying things along the lines of “if we can just get through the next few months to 2021,” or “I can’t wait for this year to be over!” as if the pandemic or the economic crisis or in the case of the US, our elections, will solve all of the current issues that we’re facing.

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EEOC Issues Updates and Additions to COVID-19 Guidance, With a Focus on Return-to-Work

On September 8, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released updates to its What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws Technical Assistance Questions and Answers (“FAQs”), addressing questions largely focused on return-to-work questions and concerns such as permissible and impermissible inquiries, reasonable accommodation and confidentiality of employee health information.

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Webinar Video: Wage & Hour – Returning to Work – Class Action Avoidance Series

In this installment of Epstein Becker Green’s “Class Action Avoidance” webinar series, attorney Paul DeCamp discusses wage and hour issues that could arise from transitioning out of the work-from-home reality so many businesses have faced and into the return-to-work phase.

Employers across the country should focus on creating a safe working environment. Certain states and localities have required that employers bringing employees back to the workspace provide or pay for any mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE), including thermometers, gloves, and masks. Additionally, employers should be aware of the time employees take for self-screening and employer-provided screening, such as temperature checks, questionnaires, and handwashing upon arrival.

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DEEMED IDEL EXTENDED TO JANUARY 2, 2021

What is IDEL?

The acronym “IDEL” refers to the Ontario government’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, which was added to the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA“) in March, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The IDEL is a job-protected leave under the ESA, which means that employees cannot be terminated, penalized or reprised against for requesting or taking an IDEL. The IDEL is an unpaid leave of absence.

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COVID-19 Trend Watch: Employers Respond to Employees’ Voting Concerns with New PTO and Other Election-Related Policies

As has been true for so many issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, growing concerns about safely voting in the 2020 elections are beginning to permeate the workplace, prompting employers nationwide to create or revise policies to address employee apprehensions about voting amidst a pandemic. Time to Vote, a self-described “business-led, nonpartisan coalition that aims to increase voter participation in the U.S. elections,” founded by numerous major companies, reports that, as of August 27, 2020, more than 700 companies, representing about two million workers, have pledged to grant their employees unpaid or paid time off (“PTO”) to vote on Election Day and to promote initiatives such as early voting and vote-by-mail. In addition, some employers are also providing time off for employees to engage in election-related activities, such as serving as poll workers (in response to the anticipated shortage of such workers due to the pandemic).

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Rule 4: No Touching – Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19

Part 4 of a series featuring our video Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19.

We have said this before, but we will say it again: in the workplace, there should be no touching – ever. The COVID-19 pandemic just provides another reason to follow the advice we give in the anti-harassment context, that employees should maintain distance and not touch others.

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Rule 3: Wash Your Hands – Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19

Part 3 of a series featuring our video Rules of the Road: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19.

Whether physically in the office or not, regularly washing your hands should already be a routine practice. However, this innate rule is especially important, and recommended by the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain safe, healthy and respectful workplaces.

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U.S. DOL Provides Guidance on Employers’ Obligation to Compensate Remote Workers

Prompted by the many new telework or remote work arrangements that have arisen in response to COVID-19, on August 24, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-5 (“Bulletin”) to provide guidance regarding employers’ obligation “to exercise reasonable diligence in tracking teleworking employees’ hours of work.” The guidance, which includes citations to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the DOL’s interpretive regulations, and federal case law, does not break new ground; rather it offers reminders particularly applicable to teleworking and remote working employees and applies beyond COVID-19 telework arrangements.

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