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.


Continue Reading Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination? Before You Act, Consider These Key Issues For US and Multinational Employers

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

  1. 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.)
  2. The law will prohibit non-disparagement agreements that prohibit the disclosure of information about unlawful acts in the workplace.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. It verifies that the law does not prohibit a provision that precludes the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.
  3. It confirms that employers may protect trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that does not involve unlawful acts in the workplace.


Continue Reading #MeToo 2.0: New California Bill Proposes Greater Restrictions on Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement Agreements

For a company to effectively expand its global footprint, it’s almost always necessary to engage workers on the ground. The legal risks and opportunities in structuring these relationships differ significantly around the world, and the complexity is further compounded by the intersection with other areas of law, including tax, corporate, intellectual property and employment, to

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

Across the country, minimum wage rates will increase July 1 in several counties, cities and states. A few jurisdictions have postponed their scheduled increases in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, but most jurisdictions have not, and employers will need to implement the higher minimums by month’s end. Below we summarize for you the upcoming increases.

California

The Bay Area cities of Hayward and San Carlos voted to delay their local minimum wage increases until January 1, 2021. Other jurisdictions are considering delays, but for now, local minimum wages will increase in the following jurisdictions effective July 1, 2020.


Continue Reading Minimum Wage Increases in July 2020: Are You Prepared?

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to re-examine their work from home or remote work policies. There is no one size fits all plan. Many companies have moved rapidly to a remote workforce during the pandemic, often with employees relocating to (or been stranded in) locations outside of their normal worksites. For some, remote work

As companies begin to reopen, a new trend has emerged – the idea of permanently remote employees. During this 15-minute moderated discussion, we will explore cross-border issues and challenges US employers face with employees working remotely from locations outside their home countries.

Click here to view the video chat on demand.

US employers are rethinking how and where their employees work as a result of COVID-19 and shelter in place orders. Whether your company is considering rolling out telecommuting options for the first time or has allowed telecommuting for years, setting expectations and establishing clear guidelines is critical for your workforce.

Here are 10 key ingredients

Companies are permitting (or requiring) employees to work remotely right now in response to COVID-19 concerns. This decision, calculated to minimize certain risks, presents new and wide-ranging concerns for the protection of trade secrets. In this “temporary” working remotely environment, employees will have considerable opportunity to access, download, or store sensitive information from company systems and databases. Have you vetted these circumstances or otherwise addressed their use? Think – home printers? Cell phones? Tablets? Personal email accounts? Working in public places such as libraries and coffee shops? Companies may also be inclined to relax otherwise well thought out document management rules or allow for workarounds from the usual security measures in the interest of business continuity. In such an environment, employees may make assumptions that they have wider latitude to email, copy, send, print, or download information, given the circumstances. Compounding these insider risks are a series of unknowns, such as whether your employees’ home networks have security anywhere near on par with in-office network security that could allow outsiders to intrude or access data.

Trade secret litigation has grown exponentially in the United States, in part due to the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. § 1836, et seq.) in 2016, and in response to the incredible value embodied in companies’ customer lists, knowhow, processes, formulas, business strategies, salary structures, and numerous other forms of intellectual property. If information is valuable, kept secret, and derives value from its secrecy, then it can be a protectable trade secret — as long as the company puts in place reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy.

Whether your company has a sophisticated trade secret protection plan in place or not, the current work environment will stress policies and procedures. Employees pose the biggest threat to securing a company’s valuable IP, and several remote-working concerns raise long-term policy questions to be addressed over time. But, the action items can’t all wait until a calmer moment. Consider the following immediate steps as your company reacts to recent events.

1. Communicate current obligations and requirements in the remote working environment

If you have a robust work-from-home policy, review it now with a specific focus on maintaining your company’s most valuable secrets. If you do not have such a policy, implement something immediately, even if it is temporary. Set clear expectations on what information the business considers to be confidential or trade secrets and what particular steps employees are required to follow when using or accessing that information. Not only does it make business sense to keep employees on notice of company policies and procedures, but federal case law under the DTSA has made clear that employees can only be held to trade secret obligations where they are specific and clear, such that employees are “on notice” of the trade secrets.
Continue Reading Keep Trade Secret Protections Top Of Mind While You Deploy Remote Working

As multinational companies compete for highly skilled employees around the world, they are often confronted with a deceptively simple question: Do they impose a noncompetition agreement on their employees?

This article is part one of a two-part article addressing how multinational companies can use a noncompetition agreement on their highly skilled employees to protect their