CDC Issues Updated Guidance on COVID-19

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a telebriefing (transcript to be uploaded when available) today at 2:00 p.m. CST to provide updated guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant. They key points of the CDC’s updated guidance include:

  • New data shows that the COVID-19 Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from the original Alpha variant. Therefore, some vaccinated people who contract the variant can be contagious and spread the disease.
  • The CDC continues to urge all Americans to get vaccinated, emphasizing that increasing the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated is key to defeating COVID-19 variants.
  • The CDC’s guidance for unvaccinated individuals remains the same: continue masking until you are fully vaccinated.
  • The CDC further recommends that fully vaccinated individuals in areas of high or substantial COVID-19 transmission wear masks indoors and in public spaces.
  • The CDC notes that some fully vaccinated persons may choose to wear masks regardless of level of transmission in their area if they or members of their household are immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated.
  • The CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 school settings (including teachers, staff, students, and visitors) wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC continues to support in-person learning for all students.
  • Leaders in areas of high or substantial COVID-19 transmission should encourage vaccination and universal mask-wearing.

The CDC will continue to update its guidance as necessary in accordance with scientific data or other relevant developments.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about COVID-related guidance. We continue to closely monitor important legal and HR developments in this area, including updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive deeper into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Maintaining a Respectful Workplace Post-COVID

While some organizations have been on site through the pandemic, others have returned in recent months. Many others are planning a more robust employee return to office in the coming weeks. As more employees return to work in the office, employers may need to reestablish and remind employees about expectations of workplace conduct to foster and maintain a respectful workplace.

While employees have been working virtually, it is likely that their work clothes have become more casual, morning routines have become less regimented, and communications with coworkers have become more informal as they connected from their homes. Employers may want to review, revise, and remind employees about dress code and attendance policies. Further, employers should grant grace during the return, as employees navigate at-home responsibilities, commute times, new health and safety changes to their work environment, and their own well-being.

While the return may be welcome for some, others may struggle. Employees may experience micro-rejections and awkward moments deciding whether to hug, shake hands, or maintain social distancing with coworkers and others. Office banter may become more casual now that video calls introduced us to our coworkers’ personal lives outside the workplace. At the same time, in-person interactions may be stilted after months of virtual exchanges. This is the time for managers – and coworkers – to refine their empathic leadership and listening skills to understand the needs of others, and be sensitive to their feelings and thoughts.

There may also be times employees become upset with one another, feel hurt, over-share, delve into personal information (including vaccination status and health conditions), or even pass judgment on mask wearing or vaccination status. At its worst, there is a risk that these interactions may be perceived as harassment or discrimination. Consider scheduling your annual respectful workplace training to remind employees of appropriate workplace conduct to prevent harassment and discrimination. Keep in mind that the EEOC recommends employers provide such training on an annual basis, in person, and provided by an experienced trainer.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about empathic leadership and respectful workplace training. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Increased Fines for Not Posting Employment Posters

The federal government recently increased the fines employers may face for violating federal employment law posting requirements. Going forward, the potential posting fines are:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act – $178
  • Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law – $13,653
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act – $21,663
  • EEO is the Law – $576

Employers should also be aware that each state has its own poster requirements, most of which impose fees for failing to comply. It is important for employers to maintain an effective strategy for staying informed about the applicable local, state, and federal posting requirements. Contact your partners at Lake Effect with questions about obtaining and updating required employment posters.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about your posting requirements and other employment law and HR compliance matters. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

HR Reporting Updates

There have been two important employer reporting updates for Human Resource practitioners.

First, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced an extension of the deadline for submission of 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 Data Collection to Monday, August 23, 2021. Please see Lake Effect’s prior blog on EEO-1 reporting requirements for more information.

Second, the Social Security Administration announced that it is discontinuing Employer Correction Request Notices (EDCOR), also known as “Social Security No Match Letters.” Their stated rationale for this change is “to focus on making it a better, easier, more convenient experience for employers to report wages electronically.” Please see Lake Effect’s prior blog on Social Security No Match Letters for more information.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about employer reporting requirements. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

President Biden Signs Law Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed into law Juneteenth National Independence Day, making June 19 the 12th federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865, almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862.

Most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18 this year, and many local and state governments have followed suit. While private employers are not required to recognize federal holidays, the passage of the Juneteenth law is an opportunity to review your employee handbook leave policies generally and your holiday schedule specifically. Employers have several options for designing a holiday schedule that aligns with their strategic goals, workplace culture, DEI initiatives, and customer or client needs.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about your workplace culture, leave policies, and employee handbooks. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Long Awaited OSHA Guidance to Continue Workplace Health and Safety Measures

On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) with a very narrow scope, focused on the healthcare industry. Fortunately, OSHA also updated its January 29, 2021 guidance for all employers to reflect the increasing prevalence of vaccinations and the lifting of mask orders around the country. (See our prior blog on the January guidance here.) This new guidance provides a helpful reminder for employers to remain steadfast in their many COVID-related health and safety efforts.

As with the January update, this new guidance is not a standard or regulation, and creates no new legal obligations. Nonetheless, it will likely be one yardstick used to measure compliance with OSHA’s “General Duty Clause,” which requires employers to provide workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious harm.

The new guidance specifies ways to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk employees, mitigate the spread of COVID, and encourage vaccinations, including the following:

  • Encourage employees to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on this issue)
  • Provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on EPSL leaves for employees to receive or recover from COVID vaccinations)
  • Require unvaccinated employees (and visitors) who are exposed to or experiencing symptoms of COVID to stay home and seek treatment
  • Maintain workplace safety measures for unvaccinated and at-risk workers including physical distancing, physical barriers, reduced employee density in spaces, flexible or staggered work schedules, alternative meeting options, remote work, and the like
  • Provide proper masks to unvaccinated and at-risk workers when working indoors. OSHA noted that unvaccinated persons who are not otherwise at-risk do not need to wear a mask outdoors, unless otherwise required by federal, state, or local requirements
  • Educate and train employees on COVID preventive measures and practices
  • Encourage unvaccinated visitors, clients, and guests to wear masks when onsite
  • Maintain ventilation systems to minimize transmission and spread of COVID
  • Follow CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations
  • Implement a process for employees to anonymously express concerns about COVID safety practices and ensure that they are not discriminated or retaliated against in any way
  • Record and report COVID infections and deaths consistent with applicable OSHA requirements (See Lake Effect’s blogs on this issue)

Employers should work closely with legal counsel to understand all requirements and implement a COVID-19 workplace prevention program consistent with this new OSHA guidance and any applicable local guidance and orders. Lake Effect is here to help you through this process and ensure that you are taking all possible steps to provide a workplace free from the recognized hazards created by the COVID.

We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253

Mask mandates end, but employers have options

With mask orders lifting around the country, many employers are left wondering what to do in their own workplace. In most communities, employers have several options, including the following:

  • Remove all masking requirements in your workplace or place of business
  • Require all employees and visitors to wear masks at all times
  • Allow fully vaccinated employees and visitors to be maskless, but require unvaccinated employees and visitors to wear masks
  • Allow employees and visitors to report their vaccination status using the honor system
  • Require employees and visitors to provide proof of vaccination status, cautioning them to provide only vaccination documentation, not other medical information

After making such decisions, employers should communicate expectations clearly to all staff and visitors. Employers should also be mindful of treating all employees fairly and with kindness and respect regardless of their masking decisions or vaccination status.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about preventive measures, vaccinations, and safely reopening your workplace. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Wisconsin Communities’ Face Covering Requirements Expiring

Outagamie County, Dane County, and the city of Milwaukee have joined the growing list of communities across the country that are lifting their mask and other COVID-related public health orders. Outagamie County lifted its face mask requirements on May 13, 2021. Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) announced on May 18, 2021 that its public health orders and mask requirements will expire on June 2. On the same day, Mayor Tom Barrett announced that the City of Milwaukee will lift its public health orders and mask requirements on June 1.

These announcements follow the guidance released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely stop wearing masks outdoors and in most public indoor settings. The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has indicated that it will release updated workplace safety requirements for employers based on CDC’s guidance. We will keep you informed with updates from OSHA.

Without a mask mandate, employers have several options. Employers may lift all mask requirements; require masks only for individuals who are not fully vaccinated; or require masks for all employees, customers, clients, and/or others on-site. As employers grapple with the best decision for their organization, they should work with HR professionals and employment attorneys to address issues such as:

  • What is your organizational culture?
  • How do your employees feel about returning to the workplace with or without masks?
  • Are you requiring vaccines?
    • If so, have you set up a legally compliant infrastructure to address, among many other things, reasonable accommodations for disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs, confidentiality, and consistency among your workforce?
    • If you have employees in multiple states, have you checked the laws, including local or state health orders, to ensure vaccinations can be required?
  • If you will allow vaccinated employees to work without masks, are you asking for proof of vaccination or relying on an attestation from employees?
    • Have you set up a legally compliant process for checking vaccination status?
  • If you will not require masks at all, have you adopted cleaning and hygiene protocols to ensure you can satisfy your duty to provide a safe workplace for your employees?

Lake Effect is here to collaborate with you on questions about workplace safety, employees returning to work, and employee vaccinations.

DOL Withdraws Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status under FLSA

On May 5, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a new final rule withdrawing the “Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” final rule (Independent Contractor Rule) that had been published on January 7, 2021, to take effect on March 8, 2021. Of note, the DOL is not issuing new federal guidance on independent contractor status with this new rule. The DOL indicated that the January 2021 rule “is inconsistent with the FLSA’s text and purpose, and would have a confusing and disruptive effect on workers and businesses alike. . . .” The new Rule will be published on May 6, 2021.

Employers should keep in mind that many states, including Wisconsin, have adopted their own tests for independent contractor status. These state laws can vary widely from state-to-state, and even within a state, depending upon the issue being addressed (i.e., unemployment eligibility, wage and hour, tax liability). Lake Effect continues to monitor federal and state laws and guidance relating to independent contractor status, and we will keep you apprised of developments in this area.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about independent contractors, FLSA, and labor laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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