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COMPLIANCE

Using waivers to avoid getting sued for COVID-19 infections

In these times of pandemic, signs and forms like this purporting to shield the owner of a facility against liability have become a fixture in workplaces and other facilities. You might even be using them at your own office. The idea is to notify clients, vendors and other visitors (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to collectively as “visitors”) that they’re entering the facility at their own risk and in so doing, waiving their rights to sue the owner for any illness or injury they suffer while on the premises. Of course, that includes COVID-19 infection. It seems like a simple, cost-effective way to limit liability risks to visitors who may claim they got infected while they were at your office. But will it work? The answer may depend, in… . . . read more

Contractors, COVID and stereotyping on HR radar

By Mike O’Brien bio DOL tries to clarify independent contractor definition The US Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed what it believes is a simplified definition of independent contractor (IC) for purposes of applying wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which applies only to employees. The new DOL proposal still focuses on the factors of economic reality, but tries to clarify how to apply them. DOL says employers first should focus on two core factors: (1) the nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work and (2) the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment. If both factors point to either employee status or IC status, that probably is the right classification. If not, DOL says three additional factors must be… . . . read more

Quiz

Office’s duty to protect returning employees from COVID-19 discrimination and harassment

SITUATION Fully recovered from his bout with COVID-19, Max is thrilled and excited to return to his custodian job after 14 days of mandatory home isolation. But almost immediately, he senses that something is wrong. His co-workers shun him and leave the room the moment he enters. And, while hygiene and handwashing are de rigueur for all maintenance staff, Max alone is required douse his hands in germicide and don rubber gloves each time he touches a piece of equipment. Worse, his supervisor harasses him and calls him “virus boy.” After weeks of putting up with it, Max complains to office management. But his complaints fall on deaf ears and he continues to be ostracized and made to take extraordinary safety and hygiene measures not required of anybody else. So,… . . . read more

Employment Law Update

New COVID-19 guidance for you from EEOC

By Mike O’Brien bio The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated its COVID-19 guidance page, addressing a number of issues. Here are some of them: On coronavirus testing, the EEOC said general testing administered by employers consistent with current CDC guidance will meet the ADA’s “business necessity” standard, and noted that employers should ensure that the required COVID-19 tests are accurate and reliable according to the FDA, CDC, and other public health authorities. If an employer wants to test only one employee, however, the employer should have a reasonable objective belief that he/she might have the disease. The EEOC says an employer can ask employees whether they have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or who may have symptoms associated with the disease, but should not phrase that… . . . read more

TRAINING

Now is the time to train for technology

By Doug Striker bio I think it’s safe to say that the legal industry is not the most “agile” profession in the marketplace. The law actually breeds the opposite of agility. We tend to reward slow processes, long research endeavors, decisions-by-committee, slow turning of the ship to accommodate changes. So, it is no surprise that the rapid changes demanded by COVID-19 outbreak have rattled law firms to their cores. To put it more bluntly, I’ll quote a couple of people I recently heard speak at an ILTA Roundtable discussion regarding the legal industry’s use of tech tools to get work done “during these difficult and challenging times:” “I have a lot of self-represented litigants on my [virtual] docket and many of them are more comfortable with technology than the attorneys… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

What, if anything, does OSHA require you to do to protect telecommuters?

While telecommuting is nothing new, the imperative for using it has never been greater. In addition to all the cost-saving, work-life balance, recruiting and hiring advantages, letting employees work from home during a pandemic has become a vital infection control measure. But it also poses significant compliance challenges, particularly in the realm of OSHA. After all, how are you supposed to meet your duty to protect the health and safety of office employees if they work from home at a location beyond your physical control? This article will provide the answer. Spoiler alert: OSHA requirements don’t generally extend to employees working from home; but you still can and should take some basic steps to ensure their health and safety. OSHA & telecommuters The Occupational Safety and Health Act (Section 4(a))… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

COVID, opioids and payroll taxes on HR radar

By Mike O’Brien bio Applicants, testing, and screening The EEOC has said you cannot test applicants for COVID-19 until after a conditional job offer. Fine, makes sense. What about taking temperatures? You can take a temperature of visitors to your business/office to make sure they are not bringing COVID-19 with them. In fact, you may have an OSHA duty to do so to protect your workers from the pandemic. What about applicants visiting your office to apply to interview—can you subject them to the same temperature screening as all other visitors? Logic would say yes; but the EEOC guidance says no, you can only take an applicant’s temperature after a conditional job offer. Yet, a visiting applicant with COVID-19 could turn your office into a virus hot spot, thus attracting… . . . read more

JOB PLACEMENT REPORT

Class of 2019 is the most employed since the Great Recession

The Class of 2019 experienced the highest employment rate in the dozen years since the start of the Great Recession, according to the National Association for Law Placement, Inc. NALP has released its Employment for the Class of 2019 — Selected Findings, a synopsis of key findings from the upcoming annual Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law School Graduates. The release of the full Jobs & JDs report is anticipated in October 2020. This year’s Selected Findings show that the Class of 2019 experienced the highest employment rate in 12 years. The overall employment rate for the Class of 2019 was up 0.9 percentage points to 90.3% of graduates for whom employment status was known, compared to 89.4% for the Class of 2018. This marks the highest… . . . read more

COVID & Telework

Are employers responsible/liable for an employee’s home ergonomics, safety and expenses?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 has caused employers large and small to require the employers work from home rather than their employer’s worksites. Word has it that this may continue beyond weeks and months and become the new normal. What is my employer’s responsibility/liability for workplace ergonomics and safety when my home becomes my workplace? Do they need to compensate me for my expenses in upgrading my WIFI and getting a new office chair? Answer: “That depends,” says FisherBroyles management-side employment attorney Eric Meyer. According to Meyer, because the “Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions–even outside of the normal workplace, employers technically have a duty to protect remote workers at home.” “But in reality,” notes Meyer, OSHA won’t inspect employees’ home offices. Additionally,… . . . read more

TOOL

Model mandatory face mask policy

More than 20 states have enacted laws requiring the use of face masks or coverings in indoor public places. Here’s a Model Policy incorporating current legal requirements and public health guidance that you can adapt for your own lab.


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