U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

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 March 27, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posted a pre-recorded webinar called “Ask the EEOC” on its website. The purpose of the webinar was to answer COVID-19 workplace questions arising under the federal employment discrimination laws the EEOC enforces.  Prior to recording the webinar, and in an effort to ensure that the information provided was relevant to common COVID-19 workplace concerns, the EEOC welcomed public submission of questions. The EEOC reported that “almost 500” questions were submitted. Reed Smith submitted 21 questions, all of which had subparts, designed to gain insight on practical questions likely to be of interest to our employer client base. In the 42-minute webinar, 22 questions were answered by three EEOC representatives: Carol Miaskoff, Associate Legal Counsel of EEOC; Sharon Rennert, Senior Attorney Advisor for ADA and GINA; and Jeanne Goldberg, Acting Assistant Legal Counsel for ADA and GINA.

For the most part, the ground covered during the webinar is familiar to compliance-minded employers generally aware of their EEO obligations. A few questions posed and answered by the EEOC generated useful practical guidance. But one simply worded and powerful question – Is COVID-19 a disability under the ADA? – prompted a surprising “that is unclear at this time” answer from the EEOC.

For purposes of this summary, we selected the five questions posed and answered by the EEOC that we believe are of most interest to employers. Those five are Questions 2, 4, 8, 16, and 21. For each of the five, we provide below the question as posed by the EEOC, a summary of its answer during the webinar, and our commentary.Continue Reading “Ask the EEOC” whether COVID-19 is a disability: Its answer may surprise you

Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) surprisingly announced that it was formally rescinding its longstanding “Policy Statement on Mandatory Binding Arbitration of Employment Discrimination Disputes as a Condition of Employment,” which took the position that mandatory arbitration provisions between employers and employees were contrary to federal antidiscrimination laws.

Originally issued in July 1997, the EEOC’s policy statement expressed its position that mandatory arbitration agreements could have “chilling effects” on charge filing because employees (1) may not be aware of their right to nonetheless file an EEOC charge despite such an agreement; or (2) might otherwise be discouraged from coming to the EEOC when they know that they cannot litigate their claim outside of arbitration. The policy statement also identified overall concerns with arbitration, arguing that, by its nature, arbitration does not allow for development of case law, lacks certain constitutional and procedural safeguards afforded by the federal court system, and includes structural biases against discrimination plaintiffs.Continue Reading EEOC rescinds longstanding policy statement on mandatory binding arbitration

Today is the fourth in a five-part blog series on New York’s sweeping changes to the legal landscape for Empire State employers. In prior posts, we covered limitations on the use of nondisclosure provisions in settlement and separation agreements, the new standards for litigating and defending harassment claims, and expanded equal pay protections. Today, we will discuss important changes that will affect hiring practices – most notably, a statewide ban on salary history inquiries.

In another legislative move to broaden the state’s anti-discrimination laws, New York state will now prohibit employers from asking applicants or current employees about their wage or salary history. This new law will go into effect 180 days after Governor Cuomo signs the legislation, which he is expected to do. While New York City, as well as Albany, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, have enacted salary inquiry bans over the past few years, Empire State employers outside those jurisdictions have been free to ask applicants and current employees about their wage or salary history – until now.Continue Reading New York Lawmakers Upend the Employment Law Landscape…Again (Part 4)