Kathleen J. Jennings

Vaccine Clinic parking

Can An Employer Ask for Proof of COVID Vaccination?

Today, the CDC issued new guidance regarding persons who have been fully vaccinated aganst COVID-19. Now, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. [People are considered to be fully vaccinated approximately two weeks after receiving the second of a 2 shot series (Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving the one J&J shot.]

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Can An Employer Fire an Employee Because of Noisy Kids in the Background of Work Teleconference Calls? It Depends.

Can An Employer Fire an Employee Because of Noisy Kids in the Background of Work Teleconference Calls? It Depends.

A friend sent me an article about a woman who claimed that she was terminated from her job because her kids were heard in the background of her teleconference calls when she was working from home due to the pandemic.  She has retained a lawyer and is suing her employer, claiming gender discrimination, retaliation, gender harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination (this happened in California).  

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indoors, office

Can An Employer Fire Employees Who Refuse To Come Back to the Office?

As COVID restrictions ease, many employers are deciding whether to require employees who have been working remotely to come back to the office. So can an employer fire employees who refuse to come back to the office? Yes–with some important exceptions.

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Can An Employer Terminate An Employee Who Refuses to Wear a Mask at Work?

Can An Employer Terminate An Employee Who Refuses to Wear a Mask at Work?

As several states see dramatic increases in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19, employers must be very proactive in taking steps to protect workers and customers from the spread of the virus.  According to OSHA, employers should assess worker exposure to hazards and risks and implement infection prevention measures to reasonably address them consistent with OSHA Standards. Such measures could include promoting frequent and thorough handwashing or sanitizing with at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer; encouraging workers to stay at home if sick; encouraging the use of cloth face coverings; and training them on proper respiratory etiquette, social distancing, and other steps they can take to protect themselves. Employers should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, workstations, restroom stalls) at least daily, or as much as possible. 

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female with bandages where she got shots

Can You Require Your Employees to Be Vaccinated for COVID-19?

As we hopefully get closer to a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, employers may be wondering whether they can require employees to be vaccinated. The answer is Yes, with some important exceptions. An employer that implements a rule that requires employees to be vaccinated must build in exemptions for religion and disability.

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COMPLYING WITH THE COVID-19 PAID LEAVE AND FMLA PROVISIONS AND ADDRESSING CORONAVIRUS

COMPLYING WITH THE COVID-19 PAID LEAVE AND FMLA PROVISIONS AND ADDRESSING CORONAVIRUS

The Coronavirus is definitely the most important issue of the day, and so we are devoting the entire newsletter to this subject.  Our firm has issued three Alerts during the week of March 16, 2020 on the above subjects, and this newsletter is intended to consolidate these various Alerts, as well as bring more recent information on the issues as of press time, March 26, 2020. 

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candles burning on a rack indoors in the dark

Dealing With Religious Objections to a COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement

In our discussions of rules mandating COVID-19 vaccines, we’ve mentioned the two possible exemptions to a vaccine requirement: disability and religion. Let’s break down the religious exemption.

Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a covered employer is required to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, unless such an accommodation would create an “undue hardship” for its business.

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voting stickers scattered on the table

Do I Need To Give My Employees Time Off to Vote?

Election Day is one week away, so it is a good time for employers to review the laws governing voting leave in the states where they do business. Chances are that you may be required to give employees some time off to vote.

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guys outside working on something

Does Your Company Need to Comply with Vaccine and Safety Protocols Applicable to Federal Contractors?

On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, which directs executive departments and agencies, including independent establishments subject to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. § 102(4)(A), to ensure that covered contracts and contract-like instruments include a clause that the contractor and any subcontractors (at any tier) shall incorporate into lower-tier subcontracts. This clause shall specify that the contractor or subcontractor shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidelines for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

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student with a pile of books on the table

DOL Issues New Guidance: No FFCRA Paid Leave If School Is Open But Parent Chooses Remote Learning

Yesterday, the Department of Labor issued some new guidance on the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). The new guidance addresses the availability of paid leave to parents who are choosing to let their children go to school remotely.

By way of background, the FFCRA requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.

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bathroom sign, male and female

EEOC Issues Updated Guidance on Avoiding Discrimination Against Transgender Employees

Last week, on the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the Court held that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis is “sex” encompasses sexual orientation and transgender status, the EEOC issued some updated guidance regarding the treatment of transgender employees in the workplace. “All people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, deserve an opportunity to work in an environment free from harassment or other discrimination,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said.

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vaccine extraction indoors

EEOC Updates Guidance on Vaccinations, and Yes, Employers Can Require Employees to Be Vaccinated

Late last week, just before most of us enjoyed a long holiday weekend, the EEOC issued some additional guidance addressing questions arising under the federal equal employment opportunity laws in regard to employees and COVID vaccinations. Considering that the distribution of vaccines started in February, the EEOC is a little late to the party, but better late than never. Employers have had a lot of questions about employees and vaccines, and this latest guidance answers some of them.

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woman counting money dollar bills

Employee or Independent Contractor? DOL Issues Proposed Worker Classification Rule

Worker classification is a hot issue right now. The recent California law that classifies most workers as employees has completely upended the gig economy in that state, so it is no surprise that the law is being challenged by a number of business groups.

Under federal law, whether an employer classifies a worker as an employee or an independent contractor can have major economic consequences, especially if the worker is misclassified. For example, wrongly misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor can result in liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for unpaid minimum wage and/or overtime compensation. Multiplied by two if the misclassification is considered a willful violation of the FLSA.

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule offering what it claims to be clarity to determine whether a worker is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or an independent contractor.

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Georgia Now Has A COVID Immunity Law

Georgia Now Has A COVID Immunity Law

Yesterday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law S.B. 359, which will protect businesses and other organizations in Georgia from potential lawsuits over Covid-19 exposure. The law takes effect immediately.

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man holding a gift behind his back

Get Ready–the U.S. Supreme Court is Going to Hear Arguments on the OSHA ETS and the CMS Vaccine Mandate

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hold a special session on January 7, 2022 to hear arguments regarding whether to stay the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) vaccine or test rule and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. It is unusual for the Court to hear arguments (rather than just read briefs) on the issue of a stay, so this should be interesting. We expect the Court to rule soon after it hears arguments. Employers covered by the OSHA ETS are certainly hoping for a quick ruling; the ETS is scheduled to go into effect on January 4, 2022, though the agency has said it would not start issuing citations before January 10, 2022. Talk about cutting things close. In the meantime, prudent covered employers should continue to prepare policies and testing protocols to be ready for the implementation of the ETS.

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Handling Employees Who Refuse to Comply With a Workplace Mask Rule

Handling Employees Who Refuse to Comply With a Workplace Mask Rule

The CDC recommends the wearing of face masks as one way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and 29 states and the District of Columbia have instituted or announced statewide orders requiring face coverings in public, with similar but varying requirements. Even states that do not have mask orders are strongly recommending that citizens wear masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus (Hello, Georgia).

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exit sign

Have You Reviewed Your Emergency Action Plan Lately?

Now is a great time to review your company’s emergency action plan.  Why?  We have the Atlantic hurricane season starting on June 1, and we have more workers returning to the physical workplace from their remote locations, thanks to mass vaccination.  So let’s make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.  Note also that this is something that OSHA is likely to look for when it visits your establishment.

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Hey Georgia Businesses: Is Your COVID Warning Sign Compliant?

Hey Georgia Businesses: Is Your COVID Warning Sign Compliant?

As I discussed in an earlier blog post, this month, Georgia enacted a COVID immunity law. Georgia businesses will generally be protected from liability over COVID-19 exposure except in cases of gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm. In addition, Georgia businesses that post a warning sign will be entitled to additional protection from liability due to a rebuttable presumption of assumption of the risk by a claimant.

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Home Alone: Current CDC Guidance on At-Home Isolation for Persons Infected with COVID-19

Home Alone: Current CDC Guidance on At-Home Isolation for Persons Infected with COVID-19

Many states continue to see rising numbers of persons with positive COVID-19 tests, which means that workplaces in those states are dealing with employees who are infected with COVID-19. The CDC recommends that employees who test positive for COVID-19 (using a viral test, not an antibody test) should be excluded from work and remain in isolation if they do not need to be hospitalized. But for how long?

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