On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that he has directed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an emergency temporary standard requiring all US companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly before coming to work. In an
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 United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to sing the same song as its sister agency. Last Friday, August 13, OSHA updated its guidance for American workplaces, auto-tuning its recommendations for fully vaccinated employees to match recent guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).…
On August 5th, Legal500 and Baker McKenzie held an employment law roundtable discussing best practices for LATAM employers navigating the new normal. Tatiana Garcés (Colombia), Javiera Medina (Mexico) and Leticia Ribeiro (Trench Rossi Watanabe in Brazil) were joined by general counsels Gabriela Rodríguez (Stryker) and Catalina Robledo (Nissan).
Together, the panel shared insights around remote…
Pressure is mounting on U.S. and multinational employers to require COVID-19 vaccines for employees, as the Delta variant spreads voraciously, spiking infections and hospitalizations across the country and forcing employers to once again shutter worksites or change their workplace safety protocols. But can (and should) employers mandate vaccination?
Vaccine mandates received strong support on Thursday, July 29 when President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees and onsite contractors either must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and restrictions on travel. The same day, the U.S. Treasury Department released a policy statement directing state and local governments to use funds from the $350 billion American Rescue Plan to incentivize vaccines by offering $100 to individuals who get vaccinated.
Separately, more than 600 universities have announced mandates for students or employees. And state and local governments have joined in, with California and New York City announcing mandates this week for government employees and certain healthcare workers, and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs announcing that frontline VA health care employees must get vaccinated or face termination.
Large employers are joining the fray, with global technology companies, financial institutions, healthcare systems, retailers, transportation companies and media companies recently announcing that vaccination will be required for everyone in their workplaces.
So can private employers adopt mandatory vaccination policies? What follows is a framework for understanding whether such an approach is permissible both in and outside the US, as well as some of the key considerations for such policies.
Bottom line: in the US, private employers can legally mandate vaccines under federal law, subject to the legal considerations outlined below. State law, however, differs by jurisdiction, with some states authorizing vaccine mandates while at least one has banned them. For illustrative purposes, we discuss California law in the framework below.
A proposed bill in California seeks to protect workers against nondisclosure agreements and empower them to speak out about alleged acts of discrimination, including racism. Senate Bill 331, known as the Silenced No More Act, was introduced in February 2021 and seeks to expand protections against confidential settlements to cover all forms of harassment or discrimination under California law, including on the basis of race, ancestry, religion or gender identity. If passed, the law will impose greater restrictions on companies’ freedom to contract settlement and non-disparagement agreements.
New Obligations if SB 331 Passes
- SB 331 will expand the existing prohibition of provisions that prohibit discussing sexual harassment in the workplace to discussing any type of harassment (i.e., race, age, religious harassment). (See discussion of SB 820 below.)
- The law will prohibit non-disparagement agreements that prohibit the disclosure of information about unlawful acts in the workplace.
- The law also will create new obligations, such as the requirement to notify the employee that the employee has a right to consult an attorney regarding the agreement and giving the employee “a reasonable time period of not less than five business days” in which to do so.
Several Employer-Friendly Changes to Observe
- The law clarifies that including a general release or waiver of all claims in an agreement related to an employee’s separation from employment does not violate the statute.
- It verifies that the law does not prohibit a provision that precludes the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.
- It confirms that employers may protect trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that does not involve unlawful acts in the workplace.
Now, so long as the business has already completed two rounds of “ascertainment” of the employees’ vaccine status, the business does not have to check employee vaccination…
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In this article, we discuss how this new statute that could present challenges for …
As vaccination rates increase, officials across the country are reconsidering their health and safety protocols and workplace reopening guidance. Here are a few of the most recent changes that employers need to know.
On-site Employee Health Screening No Longer Required in San Francisco but Masks and Distancing Remain
On May 20, 2021, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health updated the city’s Health Order to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. Under the new rules, businesses are no longer required to perform health screenings for all personnel and patrons, unless required by the state. Public health officials credited the ongoing vaccination effort in bringing COVID-19 cases to the lowest levels seen during the pandemic. As of May 19, 76% of eligible San Francisco residents have been vaccinated, one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
Special thanks to co-author, Monica Kurnatowska.
A convergence of forces is changing the public face of the boardroom: the increasing amount of data showing how inclusion and diversity improves performance, impassioned protests for gender equality, the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, pressure from investors and shareholders, and legislation. While gender diversity has…