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Caroline Burnett is a Knowledge Lawyer in Baker McKenzie’s North America Employment & Compensation Group. Caroline is passionate about analyzing trends in US and global employment law and developing innovative solutions to help multinationals stay ahead of the curve. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie in 2016, she had a broad employment law practice at a full-service, national firm. Caroline holds a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law (2008) and a B.A. from Brown University (2002).

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

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

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

Last Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 95 into law, providing California employees with up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) for COVID-19 absences, including paid time off for vaccination. The new law reinstates and expands the prior California supplemental paid sick leave law that expired on December 31, 2020

Government agencies are increasingly setting their sights on larger targets, ramping up enforcement efforts to root out systemic discrimination. This has important ramifications for employers who may suddenly find themselves defending a claim that, for all intents and purposes, feels like a class action, even though it started as an individual agency charge. With advancements in technology, large data sets on workforces are more common than ever, and government agencies are taking advantage of this and will not hesitate to request data on classes of individuals to search for trends indicating potential discrimination.

EEOC Intensifies Campaign against Systemic Discrimination

In her first public speech since being named as Chair of the EEOC, Charlotte Burrows pledged that the federal government’s workplace civil rights agency will emphasize enforcement of laws to combat systemic discrimination. This commitment to addressing systemic discrimination is consistent with President Biden’s plans to combat racism. (In January, Biden signed an executive order creating a government-wide “racial equity review” and underscoring enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. Read more here.)


Continue Reading Government Agencies Eye Larger Targets: How Employers Can Navigate the Increase in Systemic Litigation

Most US multinationals conduct regular pay equity audits, but for further insights into promoting equity and removing potential bias in compensation, companies are increasingly exploring adding performance ratings audits to the standard review cycle.

Performance ratings can often have a large impact on an employee’s rate of pay and/or bonus compensation. However, for many companies, performance ratings are discretionary, given by managers without specific guidelines or training to follow and without many (or any) checks and balances. In addition, considerations regarding leveling of job descriptions, both at the time of hire and as employees matriculate, may impact performance ratings. Because the results of a pay audit are only as good as the data inputs, it makes sense to take a closer look at how the underlying data comes to be.


Continue Reading Taking Your Pay Equity Analysis To The Next Level: Performance Ratings Audits

Special thanks to guest contributors John Evason and Monica Kurnatowska.

The pandemic instantly proved that remote work is possible for a large swath of workers, but also brought a sharp focus on issues such as mental well-being, team engagement, productivity, data privacy and cybersecurity risks, and much more.

Simultaneously, as businesses were trying to

The US Department of Labor is developing a new regulation on joint employment under the FLSA, a possible first step towards reversing the Trump administration’s business-friendly rule on the joint employer standard.

First Public Notice of Possible New Regulation

On February 23, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) posted on its