We recently published an update to our 50-state Shelter-In-Place / Reopening Tracker.

Please see HERE. This is updated weekly.

For your convenience, here is a summary of the major updates from around the country:

  • The following jurisdictions extended their state-wide orders and/or the duration of the current phase of their reopening plans: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
  • The following jurisdictions eased restrictions and/or advanced to the next phase of their reopening plan: Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Evers’ mask mandate and bared the Governor from issuing a mask mandate without approval of the state legislature. In addition, the Kansas state legislature rescinded the Governor Kelly’s mask order.

You can also view our brochure which highlights key areas of expertise where we can support your business’s tracking and reopening plans.

For more information, please contact your Baker McKenzie attorney.

In brief

The California Supreme Court recently established new law on two important topics for meal period compliance and litigation. Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC (2021) San Diego Superior Court, Case No. S253677 (February 25, 2021). First, the Court held that California employers cannot round time punches for meal periods. Second, the Court held that time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations. The Donohue Court also implicitly approved a method for employers to use to determine whether meal period premiums should be paid for missed, short or late meal periods.

Continue Reading California Rejects Meal Period Rounding

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) recently updated its “Guide to COVID-19 Related Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]” to include wage and hour issues arising out of employer-mandated COVID-19 tests or vaccinations.

On March 4, 2021, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) confirmed that an employer does not violate the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by requiring employees to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine so long as the employer does not discriminate against or harass employees or job applicants on the basis of protected characteristics, provides reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices, and does not retaliate against employees who engage in protected activity, such as requesting an accommodation. While this guidance arguably protects employers against FEHA claims, employers should not take the DFEH’s guidance as permission to mandate vaccines in other contexts, and it is not yet clear whether employers can safely mandate vaccines approved only under Emergency Use Authorizations by the Food and Drug Administration.

If employers can legally mandate vaccines, the question becomes whether employers must pay for the time spent being vaccinated. Now, the DIR has weighed in on employer obligations to pay for tests and vaccines when mandated by the employer.

For ease of reference, the FAQ is copied here.

    1. Is my employer required to compensate me for the time spent obtaining a COVID-19 test or vaccination?

If the employer requires an employee to obtain a COVID-19 test or vaccination (see Department of Fair Employment and Housing FAQs for guidance on the types of COVID-19 tests an employer may require and on vaccination), then the employer must pay for the time it takes for the testing or vaccination, including travel time.

Continue Reading California Requires Employers to Compensate Employees for Time Spent Obtaining a COVID-19 Test or Vaccination

Special thanks to guest contributors Christopher Guldberg and Janel Brynda.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “ARPA”), was signed into law on March 11, 2021, and creates a temporary COBRA premium subsidy for certain qualifying individuals. This COBRA premium subsidy applies to all group health plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.  Thus, most employers will be impacted by the new COBRA subsidy.

Employers will need to evaluate the impact of the ARPA not only with respect to COBRA administration, but equally important,  employers may need to make changes to their severance arrangements to take into account the temporary COBRA subsidy.

The ARPA provides that an assistance eligible individual who elects COBRA coverage will be deemed to have paid 100% of any applicable COBRA premium (including the 2% administrative charge) during the period April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. In this respect, ARPA differs from the premium assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that only provided for a partial premium subsidy for eligible individuals.

Continue Reading The American Rescue Plan of 2021 Requires Employer Action and Potential Updates to Severance Arrangements

As a result of the pandemic, many companies have been forced to consider layoffs and furloughs. In this video, our Labor and Employment attorneys discuss how employers should approach such cost-cutting measures to ensure they are not discriminatory and to avoid allegations of differential treatment.

Click here to watch the video.

We are increasingly seeing governments around the globe pass more progressive and compassionate legislation around families and pregnant women. For instance, in the US, there’s a new bill, known as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, currently in the House and commentators believe it just might pass. The bill would clarify and strengthen the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed more than 40 years ago as an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and provide women who face pregnancy discrimination a clear channel for recourse.

Along these lines, this week New Zealand will become one of the first few countries providing paid leave for miscarriages.[1] The Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2) (view bill HERE) was just granted royal assent and the new law is effective March 31. The law extends current paid bereavement leave law for employees in New Zealand to miscarriages and stillbirths.

Continue Reading New Zealand Paid Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Effective March 31, 2021

As previously covered, California reinstated and expanded COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave last week. For more on the law’s requirements, click here.

The new law requires employers to give employees notice of the leave benefit:

  • The California Labor Commissioner has issued a model poster available here and FAQs are available here.
  • The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous location in the workplace, such as in a breakroom or near employee time clocks.
  • If employees do not frequent the workplace, employers may distribute the notice by electronic means.
  • The new obligations are effective March 29, 2021, and so we recommend distributing the notice and displaying it as soon as feasible.

Employers are busy putting together return-to-work plans and deciding whether they should mandate employee vaccination or simply encourage it. Before creating a uniform vaccination policy, it’s imperative to understand the legislative landscape in each jurisdiction where the employer operates, especially regarding the freedom to mandate vaccines, require proof of vaccination, etc.

While most employers will not be surprised to hear that mandatory vaccination is permitted under the ADA, except for employees with disabilities or sincerely-held religious beliefs, a recent surge in state legislation may call this general rule into question. This pending legislation varies from requiring employers to use government-approved vaccines to outright bans of any consideration of vaccination status, as summarized below. (This information is current as of March 24, 2021.)

Continue Reading Efforts to Craft National Vaccination Policies Complicated by Patchwork Legislation

For the last year, employers have faced unprecedented challenges navigating the impact of the pandemic. Keeping up with scores of new laws, evolving standards, shelter-in-place orders (see our tracker here), quarantine restrictions and more has meant no rest for the weary. And, in the backdrop, there’s the looming threat of employment litigation arising from all of these new obligations and never-seen-before circumstances.

In the last several weeks, a number of significant wage and hour class actions were filed against large employers for claims relating to COVID-19 screening policies.

According to BTI Consulting Group’s Litigation Outlook 2021 Report, companies expect more litigation than ever before and employment litigation is surging faster than all other areas. To help employers prepare to mitigate any potential litigation dangers, we prepared a checklist of claims to beware of. And, by way of example, we’ve included allegations lifted directly from filed complaints. As experienced litigators, we are also well-seasoned counselors and can advise on strategies to minimize exposure early on in these key areas. Please contact us for assistance.

To read our Report on COVID-19 employment litigation, please click here.

Whether you need information about a specific US visa type, or are looking for a high-level overview of employer obligations related to the movement of foreign nationals under US immigration and employment law, this handbook covers a wide range of topics and serves as a go-to desk-side guide for US employers.

The publication is available in hard copy to North America recipients or by request through your Baker McKenzie attorney. The electronic (pdf) version is available to everyone. Click here to request your complimentary copies for yourself and your colleagues.