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CDC Guidance Establishes the Bar for Workplace Safety and OSH Act Compliance Related to COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have had to keep abreast of evolving or incomplete government guidance, all while trying to discern for themselves the most prudent way to handle employee leaves, pay, workload, and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have now worked together to produce a "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19." This guidance is explicitly "advisory in nature" and "informational in content," and "not a standard or a regulation." Nevertheless, the guidance provides helpful information about how the agencies view the methodology of COVID-19 transmission, exposure risks and classifying worker exposure, and what to do to protect workers. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provided similar advice in an April workplace poster. Efforts addressed include personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls (e.g. barriers), and administrative controls (e.g. monitoring, training, flexible hours, or telework). More ›

EEOC Indicates Testing Employees for COVID-19 Does Not Violate ADA

As businesses prepare to re-open, many employers will be concerned about the risk of workplace transmission of the COVID-19 disease. Testing employees before allowing them to enter the workplace is one preventative measure employers are considering. However, this measure has been clouded by uncertainty, because a test for COVID-19 could be considered a medical inquiry under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is only permitted if the inquiry is job-related and consistent with business necessity. More ›

Employers Beware: Terminating an Employee with COVID-19 May Violate Several Federal Statutes

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of whether an employer may lawfully terminate an employee who has contracted COVID-19 has continued to arise. Terminating an employee because they have contracted COVID-19 carries significant legal risk. Some employers might consider the decision to terminate an employee a safety measure meant to protect employees and customers from coming into contact with someone who has had the illness. But doing so may run afoul of several federal statutes, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More ›

Lessons From Smithfield Pork Packing Plant Lawsuit: Could OSHA Preempt Worker Retaliation Claims Concerning Employer COVID-19 Safety Measures?

In a workplace safety whistleblower lawsuit recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, an air conditioning technician claims he was fired by his employer, HT Airsystems of Florida, LLC, in retaliation for complaining about purported overtime violations and for raising concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), which would be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and Florida's Private Whistleblower Act (FWA). More ›

Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Program Released for Illinois Employers

According to the Illinois Workplace Transparency Act (IWTA), Illinois employers with at least one employee working in Illinois must provide annual sexual harassment training. Effective January 1, 2020, IWTA amended the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to require that training must commence before December 31, 2020, and occur every calendar year. The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) recently released a model training program for Illinois employers. To date, the new training requirements have not been affected by the shelter-in-place orders. More ›

DOL Provides Guidance on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

Over the past three weeks, 16 million unemployment claims have been filed, and more are on the horizon. As questions and concerns surrounding unemployment benefits continue, so does guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In a recent Unemployment Insurance Program Letter (UIPL), the DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) provided further clarification concerning the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. The PEUC has left employers wondering whether or not their respective state—or the federal government—will require repayment of the benefits provided under the PEUC. More ›

"Waiting is Still an Occupation" But Not a Compensable One

In a recent summary judgment decision, the Eastern District of Wisconsin held that time spent by employees of staffing agencies both waiting for a job assignment and traveling to the job assignment if they were selected is not compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wisconsin's Wage Payment and Collection Laws (WWPCL). The court's decision serves as a reminder for employers and employees alike that not all time spent by an employee for the benefit of, or required by, the employer is compensable time. More ›

DOL Issues OSHA Information to Help Reduce Coronavirus Exposure in the Workplace

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a new poster—available in English or Spanish—which lists steps workplaces can take to reduce their risks of coronavirus exposure. This release is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America's workers and employers during the pandemic. We outline their recommended infection prevention measures highlighted in the poster below. More ›

DOL Clarifies Unemployment Benefits in New Letters

Over the last few weeks, employers across the county have had to grapple with an onslaught of new legislation at both the state and federal level. As part of its implementation of the new federal employment law mandates, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has provided two new Unemployment Insurance Program Letters (UIPL) concerning unemployment benefits. We explore the DOL's guidance below. More ›

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Section 1981 Racial Discrimination Claims Require But-For Causation

In a unanimous decision issued on March 23, 2020, the United States Supreme Court held that a but-for causation standard applies to claims brought under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The Supreme Court also noted that this standard applies throughout the litigation process, including the initial pleading stage.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, a Reconstruction-era statute, includes Section 1981, which guarantees "[a]ll persons . . . the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." In Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media, the plaintiff pursued a number of theories, but essentially argued that the Court should adopt the motivating factor test employed in cases arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employment law practitioners often will see complaints including counts for both violations of Title VII and Section 1981. It is important to recognize that the causation standards are different for these two statutes. More ›

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