Photo of Chalyn Galligan

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (the “Act”) legalized the use of medical marijuana as of April 2016. Initially, the Act permitted the use of medical marijuana to treat 17 serious medical conditions when certified as such by a properly credentialed healthcare provider. The list included conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and terminal illnesses. Since 2016, however, the Act’s list of qualifying conditions has expanded and now covers 23 conditions, including anxiety.

At the time that the Act was amended to include anxiety as a covered condition, approximately 19 percent of U.S. adults had experienced anxiety disorders in the prior year. These numbers appear to be on the rise, likely due at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, the National Center for Health Statistics partnered with the Census Bureau to implement the Household Pulse Survey, a 20-minute online survey designed to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health. This survey reveals that between April 23, 2020 and July 21, 2020, nearly 32 percent of adults reported symptoms of anxiety disorder. As a benchmark for comparison, the CDC points out that the National Health Interview Survey indicated that only 8.2 percent of adults aged 18 and over reported symptoms of anxiety disorder between January and June of 2019.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania medical marijuana use on the rise in times of COVID-19

On April 3, 2020, Governor Michael Parson announced that Missouri residents will be required to stay at home to protect the public health and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in accordance with an order issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (“DHSS”) to take effect on April 6, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. CT through April 24, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CT, unless extended. The full text of the order can be found here. Governor Parson had declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, and directed the DHSS to mandate social distancing and discourage social gatherings of more than ten people. However, prior to the April 3 order, Missouri was one of only a few states nationwide that had yet to issue a statewide stay at home order.

Pursuant to the stay-at-home order, all Missouri residents should avoid leaving their homes or places of residence unless to work, to access food, prescription medication, health care, grocery stores, gas stations, banks or “other necessities,” or to engage in outdoor activity. The order also allows travel to and from their place of worship and permits the sale and transfer of firearms. Importantly, the order mandates that, at all times (including even when engaging in the above permitted activities), individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet, and prohibits social gatherings of more than ten people at the same place and time.
Continue Reading Missouri issues statewide stay at home order to prevent spread of COVID-19

On March 30, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan ordered Maryland residents to “stay at home” as part of Maryland’s ongoing response to COVID-19. The full text of the stay-at-home order can be found here. The order becomes effective March 30, 2020, at 8 p.m. EST and remains in effect until further notice. Governor Hogan announced that the order is in response to the people of Maryland ignoring his prior orders and directives for the past three weeks, endangering themselves and others. “We are no longer asking or suggesting that Maryland residents stay home – we are directing them to do so,” Hogan stated. The March 30, 2020, order amends and restates a prior March 23, 2020, order prohibiting large gatherings and events, and closing senior centers and all nonessential businesses and other establishments. Guidance on the March 23, 2020, order can be found here.

The order requires all persons living in the state of Maryland to stay in their homes or places of residences, except to participate in essential activities, as defined below, or to conduct essential business.
Continue Reading Maryland residents ordered to “stay at home” effective 8 p.m. EST March 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Overtime work is essential in many industries. As a result, employers frequently structure job roles to require mandatory overtime. Although mandatory overtime can present difficult questions when an employee has a disability that disqualifies them from working overtime, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in McNeil v. Union Pac. R.R., No. 18-2333, recently confirmed that overtime work can be an essential function of a job in appropriate circumstances.

In McNeil, the Eighth Circuit evaluated whether Union Pacific could lawfully terminate a disabled emergency dispatcher who could no longer perform the mandatory overtime required of all Union Pacific emergency dispatchers. The plaintiff brought suit against Union Pacific following her termination and alleged disability discrimination under federal and state law. In the district court, Union Pacific moved for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff was not a qualified individual with a disability because she was unable to perform an essential function of the position due to her inability to work overtime. The district court agreed, and granted Union Pacific’s motion.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that the plaintiff’s ability for overtime work was an essential function of her job as a dispatcher. In doing so, the Eighth Circuit emphasized the authority of an employer to establish the essential functions of a job. To defeat a “failure to accommodate” discrimination claim, an employer must prove that the function at issue is, indeed, essential. Notably, the district court in McNeil relied on the company’s clear scheduling and attendance policies, which expressly articulated that overtime work is “mandatory.” The McNeil court also highlighted the public safety concern of always having a capable dispatcher ready and on duty. If plaintiff were permitted to avoid working overtime on an ongoing basis, then that burden would fall on another dispatcher to absorb. Such a situation, the court reasoned, could create a public safety risk.

Continue Reading Eighth Circuit affirms working overtime can be essential job function

Today more than ever, U.S. businesses supplement their workforce with independent contractors as a solution to competitive and customer pressures. The use of contractors is entirely legal. But the correct classification of workers as contractors, as opposed to employees, is a complex analysis with frameworks that differ across a variety of governing laws. Employers, therefore, sometimes get this wrong. Recognizing the likelihood that workers are sometimes misclassified as contractors, on August 29, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB or Board) issued an important opinion for businesses when it held that misclassification of employees as contractors is not a violation of federal labor law.

NLRB pro-business opinion

Velox Express, Inc. is in the medical courier business. It supplements its driver workforce with independent contractors. Velox terminated its contract with one such driver, Jeannie Edge, when Edge began voicing concerns on behalf of herself and other drivers that Velox had misclassified them as contractors instead of employees. Edge filed an unfair labor practice charge claiming that the driver misclassifications violated the National Labor Relations Act (the Act). The administrative law judge agreed. In Velox Express, Inc. and Jeannie Edge, the Board, which has a three-member Republican majority, affirmed the judge’s ruling that Velox misclassified Edge and other drivers as independent contractors under the Act, but held that the misclassification, in and of itself, did not violate the Act. 368 NLRB No. 61.

Section 8(a)(1) of the Act provides that it is an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” from exercising their legal right to engage in protected concerted activity under the Act. The Board explained that an employer’s mistaken classification of employees as independent contractors does not interfere with or threaten any workers’ right to engage in protected activity under the Act, even if independent contractors cannot join a union. Id. at 6. The Board’s rationale was that when workers are classified as independent contractors, they still retain the right to disagree with their classification and engage in protected activity, which is exactly what Edge did. The employer violates the Act only if it responds to the protected activities with threats, promises, and interrogations. Id. at 6. The Board held that “[e]rroneously communicating to workers that they are independent contractors does not, in and of itself, contain any threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.” Id.
Continue Reading On the eve of Labor Day, a win for business from the NLRB