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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

COVID Q&A

5 questions on the virus and your law office

By Lynne Curry bio 1 Pushback from employees who choose to stay on unemployment Question: We didn’t expect the pushback we got from two of our furloughed employees when we called them back to work, particularly as we allow employees to work from home part of the workweek if their work can be accomplished remotely. One ignored two “return to work” emails but responded to a “work starts Monday” text with “thanks, but no thanks.” The other emailed he needed a raise if we wanted him back. We called him and said, “that’s not in the cards, we’re barely squeaking by.” He said he made more money on unemployment than working, so there was no real percentage in returning to work. What do we do with this? Answer: A condition… . . . 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 the COVID 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… . . . read more

TOOL

Telecommuter home office hazard assessment & inspection checklist

While not an OSHA obligation, it’s highly advisable to take measures to protect the health and safety of telecommuting office employees who work from home. How? By having employees seeking approval to telecommute designate a room or area as their home workspace and arranging for somebody to perform a hazard assessment inspection to verify that the workspace is safe, healthy and appropriate for the proposed use. Option 1: Have an office supervisor or manager visit the site and do a physical walk-through inspection; Option 2: Have the employee videotape the space and/or submit detailed photos and a floor plan and do the inspection virtually; Option 3: Have the employee inspect the space himself/herself. Whoever does the assessment should use the Checklist below.

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.

COVID-19

Can my employer fire me for going to a bar or do I have any freedom? Left?

Question: My employer sent a two-part email to every employee last week. “As you know we’ve had a local spike in COVID-19 infections. The health department has provided a list of the establishments, primarily bars, where COVID-19 individuals spent extended time. The health department asks that anyone who was in these businesses during these times monitor themselves for symptoms, check their temperatures twice daily for fourteen days and avoid potentially exposing others who fall into high-risk categories for COVID-19 vulnerability. Please comply with this guidance.” That was okay, but then the email obligated me as an employee to offer up personal information. “We have learned that a bartender at (named) bar has tested positive and was serving customers on ____ date and between ____ p.m. and ____ p.m.  during these… . . . read more

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Coworker exposed all of us to COVID-19

By Lynne Curry bio Question For weeks, “Carolyn” told the five of us in our department that she had allergies whenever any of us asked her about her sneezing. She worked with us in the same building, used the same copier, restroom and office fridge and handled the same coffeepot. I tried to avoid her because she kept forgetting her mask and didn’t seem to understand what six feet of separation meant. I saw that she didn’t use sanitizing wipes after she used the copier or coffeepot, so I wiped the copier before I used it and started bringing my own coffee from home. I didn’t talk with the others about this because I’m not a gossip. I regret that now. Because Carolyn’s and my job overlapped and I have… . . . read more

Tool: Model COVID-19 Contact Log Sheet

Maintaining social distancing will be the price that law offices and other businesses will have to pay to reopen and remain open until the COVID-19 threat goes away. But for social distancing to work, there must be a way to track and analyze actual encounters between people at your office. One simple way to gather the essential data is to have employees and visitors complete a contact log sheet. Here’s a model your office can adapt for its own use.


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