We are pleased to share a recent Bloomberg Law article, “Gig Economy Companies Brace for Crucial Year as Challenges Mount,” with commentary from Mike Brewer. The article discusses the gig economy facing another year of upheaval as the Biden administration eyes actions to address worker rights, court battles continuing to play out across the country,
We are pleased to share a recent International Employment Lawyer article, “Are US Employers That Don’t Mandate Vaccines Now At Risk?” by Stephanie Priel, Robin Samuel, and Autumn Sharp. The article discusses risks companies that are not mandating COVID-19 vaccines may face, as well as steps those companies can take to meet their health and…
Employers have been awaiting guidance from the EEOC on vaccine-related incentives since the EEOC stated in April 2021 that it would issue new guidance (but declined to state when). Now, they have it. On May 28, 2021, the EEOC issued updated and expanded COVID-19 guidance in its technical assistance document “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” The updated guidance provides clarification and supplements the original December 2020 version of Section K (“Vaccines”) of the technical assistance.
Key updates regarding incentives include:
- From a federal EEO standpoint, employers administering vaccines to their employees can offer incentives for their employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive-but a large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information by way of pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions.
- Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic. Employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.
Notably, the EEOC stated in this update that it is beyond the EEOC’s jurisdiction to discuss the legal implications of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status of the three COVID-19 vaccinations or the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to vaccine authorization–a response to “many inquiries” the EEOC received about the type of authorization granted the vaccines by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA.…
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.)…
As the country awaits confirmation of Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general to head the U.S. Department of Justice, employers in the U.S. should begin to consider what a Biden administration DOJ might mean for their workplace.
Biden has appointed…
President Biden did not waste any time after taking office on January 20, 2021. Shortly after the Presidential Oath of Office was administered, Biden signed 17 executive actions, which either impact the workplace or provide insight into what may be forthcoming under the new administration for employers.
A Flurry of Executive Orders on Day One
Biden issued a memorandum to agencies to freeze all last-minute regulations put in motion by the prior administration as President Trump was leaving office. Notably, these regulatory “freeze memos” are not uncommon for incoming administrations to issue. This pause on the prior administration’s last-minute regulations will give the Biden administration the opportunity to evaluate the so-called “midnight regulations” and determine if they will become final, be amended, or rescinded altogether.
He also issued an Executive Order reinforcing that Title VII prohibits the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Order references the recent Supreme Court case of Bostock v. Clayton County (blogged about here). Specifically, the Order states “[i]t is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” The Order notes that laws that prohibit sex discrimination (specifically referencing Title IX, the Fair Housing Act, and section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act) also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.…
With special thanks to Bradford Newman for this post.
Ten U.S. senators sent a joint letter to Janet Dhillon, the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on Dec. 8, 2020, urging the EEOC to use its powers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to “investigate and/or enforce against discrimination related…
On December 16, 2020, the EEOC posted a new section on vaccinations in its COVID-19-related technical assistance Q&As, only five days after the FDA granted its first Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine. Section K of the EEOC’s COVID-19 Q&As (“Vaccinations”) updates and expands the EEOC’s publication “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” providing information to employers and employees regarding the impact legal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) may have on whether and how COVID-19 vaccines can be utilized in the workplace.
The Q&As are linked here, and copied below for ease of reference.
The availability of COVID-19 vaccinations may raise questions about the applicablilty of various equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, including the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, GINA, and Title VII, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (see Section J, EEO rights relating to pregnancy). The EEO laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following CDC or other federal, state, and local public health authorities’ guidelines and suggestions.
1.1 ADA and Vaccinations
K.1. For any COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine to an employee by an employer (or by a third party with whom the employer contracts to administer a vaccine) a “medical examination” for purposes of the ADA? (12/16/20)
No. The vaccination itself is not a medical examination. As the Commission explained in guidance on disability-related inquiries and medical examinations, a medical examination is “a procedure or test usually given by a health care professional or in a medical setting that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health.” Examples include “vision tests; blood, urine, and breath analyses; blood pressure screening and cholesterol testing; and diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.” If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status and, therefore, it is not a medical examination.
Although the administration of a vaccination is not a medical examination, pre-screening vaccination questions may implicate the ADA’s provision on disability-related inquiries, which are inquiries likely to elicit information about a disability. If the employer administers the vaccine, it must show that such pre-screening questions it asks employees are “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” See Question K.2.…
In the somewhat-near future, US employers actually may be able to replace face coverings, social distancing markers, plexiglass barriers and Zoom calls with face-to-face interaction and handshakes. At least two COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) by the FDA before the end of 2020, following closely behind the footsteps of the UK, which began vaccinations on December 8, 2020.
While this is good news for the country, the change won’t be felt immediately for most US employers. On December 1, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel advised that the first vaccine doses should go to health-care workers and long-term care facility residents. The next group up is reportedly other “high risk” groups: bus drivers, factory workers, teachers, older people and people with underlying conditions. At this point, widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines is not expected until spring or summer of 2021. So, what should US employers whose workforce may not be eligible for vaccinations until later in the year be doing now to prepare?…
With a surge in COVID-19 cases in parts of the US (and some states taking or considering taking a step backwards into a prior reopening phase), employers are trying to figure out the best ways to keep the virus from spreading in their reopened worksites. We have answered some frequently asked questions below to help employers implement or modify their screening protocol to make it the best fit for their physical workspace, their budget, and their workforce.
1. Can I check my employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace? If my employees have a fever, can I send them home (or tell them not to come to work)?
Yes, employers can check their employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. In fact, some states and localities require employers to do daily or weekly checks, so check your local requirements.
A temperature check is a medical examination under the ADA, and in ordinary times, employers generally cannot require employees to submit to a temperature check. However, given COVID-19’s rise to the level of pandemic, and the CDC and state and local health authorities’ acknowledgment of the community spread of COVID-19 and issuance of precautions, EEOC guidance allows employers to check employees’ temperatures before they enter the workplace. Temperature checks are only permitted while the virus is severe, so as the level of community spread diminishes in your locality make sure that temperature checks are still permitted before you administer them.
In addition, employers can send employees home (or tell them not to come to work) if they have a fever or any of the other symptoms of COVID-19. See EEOC guidance and CDC guidance, “Separate Sick Employees.” The CDC defines a fever as 100.4 F or 38 C or above. States may have different guidance regarding what qualifies as a “fever,” with some states defining a “fever” as a flat 100 F, and employers can set lower temperature thresholds if they prefer.