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On December 16, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated and expanded guidance addressing questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic that arise under the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws.  The publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” includes new guidance on the implications of the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines on a number of federal laws.

The EEOC guidance provides a high-level overview of some of the basic concerns confronting employers as they attempt to navigate the intersection of vaccine necessity and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Title VII.  While the EEOC asserts that “[t]he EEO laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following CDC or other federal, state, and local public health authorities’ guidelines and suggestions,” it also makes clear that employers will have to undertake careful efforts to comply with these statutes as they also seek to comply with public health authority instruction.

Continue Reading EEOC releases updated and expanded COVID-19 guidance

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383 (SB-1383), which significantly expands employee eligibility for family and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2021, reduces the number of employees required for an employer to be covered under the CFRA and also expands the reasons why employees may take these leaves.

Currently, private employers with 50 or more employees working in a 75-mile radius are required to provide employees with leave under the CFRA, while private employers with 20 or more employees are required to provide limited leave time for baby bonding pursuant to the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA).

SB 1383 expands the leave entitlement to cover smaller employers, requiring employers with five or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for a qualifying reason. Qualifying reasons include:

  • Leave for the birth of a child of the employee or the placement of a child with an employee in connection with the adoption or foster care of the child by the employee;
  • Leave to care for a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition;
  • Leave because of an employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of that employee, except for leave taken for disability on account of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions;
  • Leave because of a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States;

This list of qualifying reasons further expands leave entitlement beyond what employers are required to provide under the current CFRA and NPLA. Under SB 1383, qualified employees will be entitled to take leave to care for the serious health condition of a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling in addition to the current requirement covering an employee’s parent, child, and spouse or domestic partner.

Continue Reading California expands Family Care and Medical Leave eligibility

On September 9, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1867 into law, adding section 248.1 to the Labor Code. Under this new section, “hiring entities” are required to provide supplemental COVID-19 paid sick leave (CPSL) to “covered workers.” This is in addition to any paid sick leave that may be available to the covered workers under California’s Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (HWHFA)[1].

“Hiring entities” include private businesses with 500 or more employees in the United States or public entities that employ health care providers or emergency responders that have elected to exclude such employees from emergency paid sick leave under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Notably, there is no exception for unionized workforces with a collective bargaining agreement providing for paid sick leave.

“Covered workers” include individuals employed by a hiring entity that leave home to perform work. Excluded from covered workers are food sector workers, who are instead provided supplemental COVID-19 paid sick leave under Labor Code section 248.
Continue Reading California requires new COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave

Airport workers at John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), and New York Stewart International Airport (SWF-Stewart Intl.) may soon be receiving increased wages and benefits under the Healthy Terminals Act (the “Act”) (Senate Bill S6266D).  Spurred by the COVID-19 related death of a JFK airport worker, the Act recently passed both the New York State Senate and Assembly.  Next, the Act will be delivered to Governor Cuomo for his signature.  Governor Cuomo has not indicated whether or not he will sign the Act.  If signed, the Act will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Scope of covered individuals

The Act has a broad (and ambiguous) scope of coverage.  The Act defines covered airport workers as any worker employed by a covered airport employer that works at least half of the workweek at a covered airport location.  The Act exempts individuals who qualify for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) or are covered under Articles 8 and 8-a of New York Labor Law, which applies to construction workers on New York City’s public work and grade crossing elimination projects.

Covered airport employers are defined as any entity employing a covered airport worker (other than public agencies) and covered airport locations include any airport operating under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which currently encompasses JFK, LGA, and SWF-Stewart Intl.  The Act does not exclude air carriers and appears to cover not only air carriers, but also ground handling companies providing ramp, catering, and other support services.

Continue Reading New York’s healthy terminals act may create additional wage and benefits obligations for airport employers

Several labor organizations, along with racial and social justice organizations, conducted a mass walkout on July 20, 2020 to protest racial inequality and working conditions in the United States.  Thousands of workers in more than 200 cities walked off the job on a full-day strike while others who were unable to strike for a full day walked out about for eight minutes.  According to the Strike for Black Lives website, the purpose of the strike was to demand higher wages, better jobs, the right to unionize, and healthcare for all.  These organizations specifically call for corporations to address racism in the workplace, raise wages, provide healthcare, and provide ample personal protective equipment (PPE), among other things.

These types of mass walkouts raise several considerations for employers as they attempt to balance their support for racial and social justice with their tolerance of competing views and their need to maintain operations.  While some employers may allow their employees to participate with little to no disruption to their operations, others, such as hospitals, will have to find ways to continue to run their operations (perhaps by hiring temporary workers) if they find themselves with reduced staff.  Other employers may be forced to temporarily close or take other measures to manage the sudden loss of available employees.
Continue Reading Responding to employee advocacy and workplace walkouts during times of protest

Effective July 3, 2020, San Francisco’s Back-to-Work Emergency Ordinance (Emergency Ordinance) seeks to mitigate the economic harm for individuals who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency by creating a temporary right to reemployment for certain employees laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic if their employer seeks to fill the same, or substantially similar, position previously held by a laid-off worker.  The Emergency Ordinance also imposes written notice and record retention requirements on employers.  The Emergency Ordinance expires on September 2, 2020 unless reenacted.

The Emergency Ordinance contains several key definitions that employers should refer to in order to determine whether any personnel action the employer is considering taking will be subject to the requirements therein.  Of particular importance, the Emergency Ordinance defines Covered Layoff, Covered Employer and Eligible Employees as follows:
Continue Reading San Francisco mandates certain workers be rehired in emergency ordinance

In another victory for employers and a further retreat from Obama-era policy, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) recently ruled that employers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or the “Act”) by maintaining a policy that allows employers to monitor employees on the job by searching employees’ personal property on company premises and/or company networks and devices.

In a June 24, 2020 decision – Verizon Wireless, 369 NLRB No. 108 (2020) – the NLRB reversed an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) ruling that Verizon Wireless and its related entities’ (collectively, “Verizon”) policy permitting company searches of workers’ personal property violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act by infringing upon employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid or protection under Section 7 of the Act.  The Board also upheld the ALJ’s ruling that another portion of Verizon’s policy permitting company monitoring of company computers and devices did not violate the Act.
Continue Reading NLRB greenlights company policy allowing searches of workers’ personal property on company premises and company devices and networks

On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued guidance mandating that face coverings be worn state-wide. While several California counties and cities have passed local laws requiring face coverings over the past few months, state public health officials had only previously recommended the use of face coverings.

Face covering requirements

People in California must wear face coverings when:

  • Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space;
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank;
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;
  • Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when:
    • Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
    • Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
    • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities;
    • In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance.
  • Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or private car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. When no passengers are present, face coverings are strongly recommended.
  • While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of six feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.


Continue Reading California now requires face coverings in public

On May 30, 2020, a U.S. district court judge issued an order that prevents certain provisions of a new rule governing election procedures from going into effect. However, employers should note that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) intends to implement all other portions of the new rule that the court’s order did not address, effective immediately.

The new rule, which the NLRB issued at the end of 2019, amended procedural revisions from 2014 related to the processing of union representation cases. Critics of the 2014 revisions argued that those revisions truncated the time frame between the filing of a petition and the preelection hearing, making it difficult to simultaneously meet various obligations triggered by the filing while also preparing for the hearing.

In many respects, the new rule marks a return to pre-2014 procedures and practices, and provides parties with additional time in multiple areas of the election process.


Continue Reading Judge denies implementation of portions of major union election rule changes

On May 12, 2020, Oakland passed an emergency ordinance joining Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose in requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees for COVID-19-related reasons.  Codified as Code of Ordinances Chapter 5.94 and known as the “Protecting Workers and Communities During a Pandemic – COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance” (Emergency Paid Sick Leave), Oakland’s new paid sick leave requirements aim to fill the gaps in the coverage provided by the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA).

Covered employers

Unlike the FFCRA, which only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, Oakland’s new paid sick leave requirements apply to all private employers, regardless of the number of employees, but subject to the exemptions noted below.  Covered employers must pay the Emergency Paid Sick Leave payment by no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after the employee takes Emergency Paid Sick Leave, and no more than 14 days after the employee takes Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
Continue Reading Oakland passes COVID-19 paid sick leave