Employees are the backbone of any supply chain operator. As such, upholding fundamental labor standards and protecting worker rights is a complex undertaking. Further, COVID-19 has introduced additional complexities regarding employee safety and remote work. The following are some considerations to help employers navigate the global framework of ever-evolving laws that touch the supply chain.

Modern Slavery

One of the major priorities for an employer in the supply chain industry is to avoid and prevent forced labor. Globally, millions are thought to be in trapped in forced labor. Many of these victims are linked to the supply chains of the international businesses supplying our goods and services. According to the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index, published with input from the United Nations’ International Labor Organization and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of 2016, about 40.3 million men, women and children were trapped in modern slavery, including 24.9 million people who were victims of forced labor in global supply chains. Slavery can exist in all stages of the supply chain, from the picking of raw materials such as cocoa or cotton, to manufacturing goods such as mobile phones or garments, and at later stages of shipping and delivery to consumers.

To combat this human rights issue, several governments, on the global and U.S. federal and state levels, have passed laws to prevent human trafficking and require companies to ensure that they are not using forced labor:

  • In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act makes human trafficking a federal crime, allows victims to sue traffickers; expands the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act’s list of crimes to include human trafficking, provides deportation protections for victims and their families, requires annual reports to Congress on efforts to prevent human trafficking, requires the government to notify all applicants for work and education visas about workers’ rights in the US and screen all unaccompanied immigrant children. Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the importation of goods mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced labor, including convict labor, forced child labor and indentured labor. Regulations promulgated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allow for issuing withhold release orders, requiring detention of goods at ports of entry when CBP agents reasonably believe that an importer is attempting to enter goods made with forced labor.
  • Further, California enacted the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, under which companies with over $100 million in gross sales who do business in California must disclose on their websites any efforts taken to eradicate human trafficking from their supply chains.


Continue Reading Employment Considerations in the Global Supply Chain

On June 23, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to approve “right to reemployment” legislation that requires large employers to first offer laid-off workers their old jobs back before offering employment to new applicants (“Ordinance”). It will become effective immediately upon Mayor London Breed’s signature and will expire upon the 61st day following enactment unless extended.

Advocates of the Ordinance argued the requirement is necessary to ensure employers don’t use the pandemic as an opportunity to simply replace old workers with new employees who are younger and less expensive. Organizations lobbying against the Ordinance argued that it is overly burdensome; violates core constitutional principles; runs counter to several federal and state laws; and is extremely vulnerable to abuse. Similar legislation has surfaced in Los Angeles County as well.

Covered Employers

“Covered employers” are defined as for-profit and non-profit employers that directly or indirectly own or operate a business in the City or County of San Francisco and employ, or have employed, 100 or more employees on or after February 25, 2020.


Continue Reading San Francisco Provides Temporary Right to Reemployment Following Layoff Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to the pandemic, employees in the US are working from home in unprecedented numbers. Some, particularly in tech, may be working from home through the end of the year, or even permanently! While working from home raises a myriad of issues (e.g., data privacy and security, health and safety, employee engagement, and more), this post focuses on expense reimbursements related to telecommuting. The trickiest areas are cell phones and internet given that employees are now working from home because they cannot go into the office, as opposed to perhaps at their convenience.

Reimbursement Obligations

There is no federal requirement to reimburse employees for business-related expenses. However, several states (including California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana and New York) have specific state law requirements applicable to employee expense reimbursements. For example, California Labor Code Section 2802(a) requires an employer to “indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer….” Failing to reimburse employees can lead to class or collective actions and quickly become incredibly burdensome for employers. Under California law, an employer that does not reimburse employees risks a lawsuit where the damages will include not just the unreimbursed expenses but the attorney’s fees incurred by the employee seeking reimbursement. The employee can also ask the Labor Commissioner to cite the employer or anyone acting on the employer’s behalf under Labor Code Section 2802(d). Where the practice is widespread (or just alleged to be) the claims can be brought on a class-wide basis.


Continue Reading Reimbursement Refresher: Cell Phone and Internet Expenses Related to Telecommuting in the US

California residents have some relief from shelter in place orders that took effect mid-March, with the state and several counties relaxing certain restrictions in early May. Despite those welcome changes, employers have much to track as they reopen businesses throughout California. A patchwork of state and local public health orders and guidelines confronts employers as

On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, creating a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness arises out of employment for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. This is not the first order of its kind; other states including Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, and Wisconsin, have imposed similar rebuttable presumptions. However, most of these jurisdictions have limited the rebuttable presumption to first responders. California’s order doesn’t.

At the federal level, House Democrats are looking to follow suit, proposing a similar presumption for certain federal workers under the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (the “HEROES Act”). If enacted as proposed, the HEROES Act would create a presumption that certain federal employees who contract COVID-19 did so in the course and scope of their employment if the employees have a risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work and on-the-job contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers. A similar presumption would apply to certain maritime workers.  The House passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199 on May 15, 2020, but tremendous opposition is expected when the bill reaches the Republican dominated Senate.

Is California’s order likely to stick?

It’s difficult to tell. California business owners are unhappy with the likely significant increase in workers’ compensation liabilities and the inequity of shifting the cost of employees’ COVID-19 illnesses to employers. Challenges to the California order would not be surprising.


Continue Reading Are You Sure You Contracted COVID-19 at Work? California Thinks So

We are pleased to share our Shelter-in-Place / Reopening Tracker.

This document identifies the relevant state-wide shelter-in-place orders and their related expiration dates as well as the state-wide reopening plans, and whether local (county/municipal) orders also apply, in each of the 50 United States.

Please check back for updates throughout the pandemic.

On April 29, public health officials in six Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara) and the city of Berkeley released new health orders extending mandates to shelter in place through May 31, while relaxing restrictions around some outdoor businesses and recreation activities. The new Orders will take effect May 4, the day existing shelter-in-place mandates would have expired. (We previously discussed the local Orders here and here.)

Continue Reading Bay Area’s Shelter-In-Place Orders Modified and Extended to May 31

On April 16, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-51-20 (“Order”) requiring employers in the food sector to:

  • Provide employees with paid sick leave due to COVID-19, and
  • Permit employees working in a food facility to wash their hands at least once every 30 minutes.

The type of workers included ranges from farmworkers to those in the retail food supply chain, including pick-up, delivery, supply, packaging, retail, or preparation. Eligible workers thus include grocery workers, restaurant or fast food workers, workers at warehouses where food is stored, and workers who pick-up or deliver any food items.


Continue Reading New California Paid Sick Leave For Food Sector Workers

With signs that the virus is peaking in the US, and with some state Shelter-in-Place Orders scheduled to be lifted in the coming weeks, employers are turning their attention to planning for how best to bring employees back to work.

As with the initial outbreak, US employers can look to other corners of the world

Are They Right For You?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global economy, United States employers are continuing to examine ways to reduce costs while at the same time both limiting the financial impact on employees and preserving their ability to ramp back up when circumstances allow. State short time compensation programs, also known as work share programs, provide one avenue for cost savings that may be appropriate for some employers.

Where available, these programs provide pro-rated unemployment compensation benefits to groups of workers whose hours are reduced by their employer on a temporary basis in lieu of layoffs. In addition, the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) provides a federally-funded $600 per week unemployment compensation supplement to those who participate in such programs through July 31, 2020.

This Alert provides additional details about state short time compensation programs and answers frequently asked questions about the pros and cons of participation.

Where are short time compensation programs available?

Currently, the following 27 jurisdictions have short time compensation programs in place: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The CARES Act provided federal funding for other states to enact short time compensation programs, so additional states may do so in the near term.


Continue Reading Short Time Compensation (Work Share) Programs