In November 2021, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration proposed a new regulation that will require tipped employees to earn at least $135 a month in tips before an employer is permitted to pay the $2.83 per hour tipped rate, rather than state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Currently, in Pennsylvania, employers can pay tipped employees
Pennsylvania House of Representatives members have proposed House Bill 2318, which proposes that employers must provide a “natural immunity” exemption to employees under any employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy. The bill defines “natural immunity” as possessing immunity to the COVID-19 virus as a result of previous infection caused by the virus. Thus, if the proposed…
On May 27, 2021, Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam announced at a press conference that Pennsylvania’s statewide masking order is slated to be lifted in its entirety effective June 28, 2021. This announcement comes on the heels of the Wolf Administration’s May 4, 2021 announcement that all COVID mitigation orders in Pennsylvania would be lifted effective May 31, 2021, except for the masking order. The May 27 announcement reflects a change of course that sets a firm expiration on the masking requirements, regardless of the Commonwealth’s vaccination rate at that time.
Pennsylvania’s masking order, which was amended March 17, 2021, incorporates by reference the CDC’s Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People under its exceptions from the statewide masking requirements. As such, the masking requirements under the order were effectively lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated (except for in certain limited circumstances, pursuant to CDC guidance), but still applied to those who were not fully vaccinated. At the May 27 press conference, Acting Health Secretary Beam stated that, even once the statewide masking order is lifted, Pennsylvania should continue to follow CDC guidance for wearing a mask. However, the lifting of the masking order indicates that such compliance will be recommended, but not required under state order. That certainly is an important point for which Pennsylvania employers will seek clarity as they eagerly take steps towards returning their workforce to the workplace.
Continue Reading Is that a smile that I see? Pennsylvania businesses adjust reopening plans as the statewide mask mandate is scheduled to be lifted
After more than a year of navigating the myriad orders impacting Pennsylvania businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolf administration has announced that it will lift all mitigation orders, except masking, on May 31, 2021. Although the announcement was sparse on detail, its general nature suggests that the following mitigation mandates – which we have covered in detailed previously – will be lifted this Memorial Day.
- Remote work
Although remote work was mandated unless impossible for a period of time, the Governor’s amended order of April 1, 2021 modified this requirement to only “strongly encourage” businesses to conduct their operations, in whole or in part, via telework. Effective May 31, 2021, businesses may be permitted to resume their normal in-person operations without restriction.
- Business and building safety requirements for businesses with in-person operations.
Adhering to enhanced cleaning, sanitation, and operational requirements throughout the pandemic has presented a number of practical issues for businesses. Most recently, Governor Wolf’s November 27, 2020 Order set forth a number of enhanced cleaning and mitigation protocols for businesses maintaining in-person operations, including altering business hours to provide sufficient time to clean; wiping down carts and handbaskets before they become available to customers for use; staggering check-out counters and registers to allow for hourly cleaning; implementing temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of each shift; staggering employee break times; conducting meetings and trainings virtually; and scheduling handwashing breaks as necessary.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania businesses may need to finalize reopening plans
The City of Pittsburgh is expected to enact the new Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), which provides Pittsburgh employees with a new entitlement of up to two weeks of paid time off for qualifying absences related to COVID-19. While this legislation may be well intended, it presents potentially significant challenges for employers with Pittsburgh-based workforces that have spent the past several months adapting to what seems like an ever-evolving carousel of federal, state, and local laws enacted in response to the pandemic.
With the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) set to expire on December 31, 2020, absent an extension by the federal government, the Ordinance appears to be the City’s effort to provide paid leave rights for qualifying reasons relating to COVID-19.
However, the Ordinance considerably exceeds the FFCRA in the scope of covered employers. All Pittsburgh employers with 50 or more employees (including employers whose employees normally work in the City of Pittsburgh but are now teleworking from other locations as a result of the pandemic) are covered by the Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Ordinance. By contrast, the FFCRA’s coverage was limited to only employers with fewer than 500 employees. As such, many larger employers with a workforce in Pittsburgh that were excluded from the FFCRA’s coverage will now immediately have to take steps necessary to provide for the requisite paid leave benefits. Further, even if an employer was subject to the FFCRA and previously took actions to provide for COVID-related paid leave, those employers should immediately update previously established policies to ensure compliance with the Ordinance.
Continue Reading Employers with Pittsburgh-based employees face new requirements to provide COVID-19-related paid sick leave
On November 23, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf issued the Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Mitigation, Enforcement and Immunity Protections, which establishes various mitigation measures that Pennsylvania businesses must implement effective November 27, 2020. Many of these measures are already familiar to Pennsylvania businesses that have been implementing the mitigation measures prescribed by the April 15 worker and business safety order, which we discussed in a previous article. Although this Order is, to some extent, a reiteration of many requirements in the April 15 order, it also includes several new and updated requirements that may require Pennsylvania businesses to update current policies and practices. This article highlights some of the most significant new requirements under the new Order.
Under the Order, Pennsylvania businesses are required to conduct their operations remotely through telework “unless impossible.” Where telework is impossible, in-person operation of the business may continue subject to the other workplace safety requirements stated in the Order, including, for example, enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing, mask wearing, capacity limits, and workforce scheduling.
Neither the Order nor the updated FAQs for businesses offer guidance as to what would render telework “impossible.” As addressed in our prior articles here and here, a July 15 order had established mandatory telework “unless not possible,” which was clarified in later guidance to mean to the extent possible. It is unclear whether the wording change in the November 23 Order is intended to convey a stricter standard and, if so, what that standard is and how it applies to those positions for which telework is possible for certain job duties but impossible for others. Throughout the pandemic, Pennsylvania employers have faced telework requirements established under shifting standards and the related challenges in balancing the interests of complying with those telework orders and the business needs of completing in-person operations. Unquestionably, Pennsylvania employers would benefit from clearer and consistent guidance.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania employers may need to revise policies and practices within the workplace in response to new mitigation order by Governor Wolf
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
This is an update to our July 17, 2020 article addressing the July 15, 2020 orders issued by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health “directing mitigation measures” in response to a reported rise in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.
As explained in that prior article, both orders included the following mandate requiring telework: “Unless not possible, all business are required to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees[.]”
The plain text of these orders generated confusion for many Pennsylvania employers as the scope of the teleworking mandate was unclear. Accordingly, in our article, we called for Pennsylvania leadership to provide necessary guidance to resolve that confusion and enable Pennsylvania employers to understand whether they were being ordered to utilize telework arrangements “in whole” to the extent possible, or whether reducing the number of workers through “in part” telework arrangements would suffice.
Continue Reading Update: Pennsylvania order mandates telework, but to what extent?
On July 15, 2020, Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued orders “directing mitigation measures” in response to a reported rise in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Both orders included the following mandate requiring telework: “Unless not possible, all business are required to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees[.]”
Continue Reading New Pennsylvania order mandates telework, but to what extent?
As we have previously reported, several states, including New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, now require employees, customers and/or the public to wear face coverings. As we have also written about, in other states, like California, local governments are leading the way. For example, Bay Area counties Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa all require face coverings to some degree. Since then, additional California municipalities have also joined, including San Bernardino, Riverside, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Carson, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena. Links to our prior publications on these location-specific mandates can be found below.
Other states and municipalities continue to follow suit. As of April 17, employees of essential businesses in Hawaii must wear face coverings. On April 18, Maryland established a similar requirement for employees, as well as customers over nine years of age. Like California, in states that are not currently requiring face coverings, some local governments have taken the initiative to establish their own requirements. For example, in Illinois, Cicero, Glenview, Highland Park, Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie and Wilmette have each implemented some type of face covering requirement. Municipalities in other states that have joined the movement include Laredo, Texas; Miami, Florida; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Chickasaw, Oklahoma.
Continue Reading Employers must face it: Face covering requirements growing across states and municipalities