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EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

New guidance, sort of, about COVID-19 in the workplace

By Mike O’Brien EEOC provides new COVID-19 guidance The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released some new guidance on COVID-19 issues at work. Here are the four EEOC-noted highlights of the most recent update, in late May: First, an employer can require that all employees physically entering the workplace be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the laws prohibiting disability and religious discrimination. Additionally, from the EEOC’s perspective, “employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.” Second, the federal EEO laws do not prevent/limit employers from offering incentives to employees to get… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

Staffers push back about returning to work

By Lynne Curry Question: We’re getting enormous pushback from our staff to an email we sent out last week stating that employees need to return to the workplace. At the same time, our organization, which is set up to serve clients, can’t survive if we let all the employees who want to work from home do so. It’s not fair to our clients or the employees who show up at work. Further, when I call those who allegedly work full time but at home during the workday, they often let slip the fact that they’re not working. I’ve been told, “let me turn down the TV” or “sorry I didn’t answer right away, I was out in the garden.” Those who want to work from home insist they’re afraid they’ll… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Wage whispers: Can we stop salary talk?

By Paul Edwards When one employee finds out another employee makes more money, it can send ripples throughout your entire workplace. In light of the morale damage this kind of talk can cause, you may be tempted to tell employees not to discuss salaries at all. The problem is employees have a legal right to discuss their salaries with other employees because of existing NLRA protections. What is the NLRA? The NLRA or National Labor Relations Act, is a large, developing area of federal law that’s rapidly changing the way you can regulate your employees’ speech, both on and off the job. Section 7 of the NLRA grants union and non-union employees alike the right to engage in certain activities so they may collectively bargain. These protections apply to all speech related… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Three White House announcements for employers

By Mike O’Brien  bio President Biden calls on employers to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated In a White House press release dated April 21, 2021, President Biden called “on every employer in America to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination.” The White House statement adds that President Biden will announce “a paid leave tax credit that will offset the cost for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full payment for any time their employees need to get a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from that vaccination.” By Executive Order, President Biden increases the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour On April 27 President… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Dare we ask our coworkers: Are you safe?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: We have a small eight-person office. We don’t interact with the public. Although we’ve worked remotely for the past year, we’ll be moving back into the office in the next few weeks. We’re generally looking forward to it, Most of my coworkers have been vaccinated. We talk on Zoom about how happy we are to have gotten vaccinated and compare side-effect stories. Two of our coworkers don’t participate in these discussions. I suspect they haven’t been vaccinated and don’t intend to get vaccinated. Am I allowed to ask? Is it necessary or appropriate to have different rules regarding masks for different employees; for example, “masks aren’t required unless a meeting includes person “x”? Can we forgo masks all the time and figure any unvaccinated employees… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Court gives guidance on return to work and ADA

By Mike O’Brien In ADA Case, Tenth Circuit says onsite work may be essential One of the most frequent questions that the writers of these updates receive is whether employers who moved to a remote workplace in response to the COVID pandemic may now recall employees to onsite work. Generally, we’ve advised employers that they are free to require onsite work, although they may need to make exceptions for employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or provide leave to eligible employees under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On April 8, 2021, the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appellate court for the mountain west region), issued an important ADA decision about onsite work requirements in the case of Unrein v. PHC-Fort Morgan,… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

5 action steps for regaining staff trust

By Lynne Curry bio  When employees or colleagues no longer trust you, they don’t tell you. Why would they? They don’t trust how you might react to what they say. Their distrust descends below the surface, though it shows up in them keeping their distance from you. Distrustful employees or coworkers protect their backsides. They withhold information. Their morale and productivity lowers. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, one in three of the 33,000 employees surveyed don’t trust their employers1 and as a result provide their employers lower levels of engagement, productivity and loyalty.2,3 According to recent surveys, 25 to 50 percent of employees plan to leave their employers in 2021,4,5 with distrust ranking among the top reasons for this talent exodus. What created this distrust? Some describe it as… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

How to deal with new friction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated

By Lynne Curry bio After five employees boarded an elevator, two additional employees attempted to get on as well. One of the employees already on the elevator asked these two not to board. “We can’t remain six feet apart if you get on.” One of the employees wanting to board said, “It’s only a short distance.” After the employees arrived on their floor, the back and forth between these two employees continued. “Your mask isn’t on tight.” “I’m okay with it.” “Are you vaccinated?” “I don’t trust the vaccines.” “You put the rest of us at risk.” “If you’re vaccinated, you have nothing to worry about.” “Not if you contract a variant, infect the rest of us, and we take the problem home to our families.” In workplaces across the… . . . read more

PRODUCTIVITY

Why it’s harder to focus during a pandemic

By Indira Totaram bio The uncertainty and worry surrounding the coronavirus appear to have no end in sight—and it’s affecting the way we think and function. Since the onset of the pandemic, many of us find ourselves troubled by the inability to focus on even simple tasks. It’s as though our attention span is shorter or we are more distracted and overwhelmed than usual. And you wouldn’t be wrong to feel that way. In fact, 40 percent  of American workers are feeling less productive than usual. One helpful approach for understanding this occurrence is “Cognitive Load Theory,” which characterizes our minds as information processing systems. When solving for an unfamiliar problem, we rely on our “working memory,” which is limited in its capacity to retain information. However, if we are an expert… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

EEOC charges down but lawsuits rising

By Mike O’Brien bio EEOC data for FY2020 show dip in charges filed The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its Fiscal Year 2020 Enforcement and Litigation Data report on Feb. 26, 2021. The EEOC reports that 67,448 charges of discrimination were filed in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020, compared to 72,675 charges filed in the previous fiscal year. The agency made headway in addressing a backlog of charges, resolving 70,804 charges during FY2020, and securing $439.2 million for victims of discrimination. Continuing the trend of recent years, retaliation was the most commonly-asserted claim, made in 55.8% of all charges. Disability, race, and sex discrimination claims each were asserted in roughly a third of charges filed, at 36.1%, 32.7%, and 31.7%, respectively. Age, national origin, color, and religion… . . . read more


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