Dealing with Flu & Illness in the Workplace

This winter, everyone seems to know someone at home or at the office who has been taken down by some variation of the flu or a virus. What can employers do to reduce the spread of illness and manage employee time off, leaves of absence, and requests to work from home? We have some suggestions!

Prevent the Spread of Illness in the Workplace

  • Review your relevant policies to ensure that they encourage sick workers to stay at home without fear of any reprisals. Remember that you provide paid time off so that employees can care for themselves, take breaks from work to refresh, and much more.
  • Encourage employees to stay home when sick and until they are no longer contagious.
  • Throughout the day, clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g. doorknobs, desks, phones).
  • Create a work environment that promotes preventive actions to reduce the spread of illness. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Remind employees and loved ones to
    • engage in good self-care, including getting rest and the seasonal flu shot.
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue, sleeve, or arm – not their hands.
    • avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Minimize the Impact on the Business

  • If an employee has reported in sick and asked to be able to work from home, if the employee’s health and job duties do permit working from home, you can allow employees to work from home and make use of affordable telecommuting and teleconferencing technology.
  • If the employee’s health and duties do not permit, then employees should not be expected to or required to work from home. Work with other employees to reassign the duties of ill co-workers to ensure smooth workflow during absences and to lessen the load upon return.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to flexible work environments, employee perks, and leaves of absence. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Employers: Include NYC Independent Contractors in Your Anti-Harassment Training

Under the recently expanded New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), employers must include independent contractors in their sexual harassment training. This is a major shift in how independent contractors are generally treated. Employers should include an appropriate disclaimer before providing anti-harassment training to an independent contractor to clarify that the training does not change their independent contractor status.

This training requirement applies to all New York employers with 15 or more total workers. “Workers” includes employees who work outside of New York City and independent contractors. This means that if a Wisconsin based employer has 14 employees in Wisconsin and 1 employee or independent contractor in New York City, that employer must provide the required sexual harassment training to the worker in New York City, and comply with the other applicable New York State and New York City laws. Note that as of February 8, 2020, the New York State Human Right Law will apply to all employers with at least 1 employee in New York.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to mandatory anti-harassment training or independent contractors in Wisconsin or other states. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Jenn Lindberg Joins Lake Effect HR & Law

blankWe are excited to announce the addition of Jennifer Lindberg, SPHR, SHRM-SCP to the Lake Effect HR & Law team!

Jenn has over 23 years of experience in a wide range of human resource activities, including recruiting, employee development and training, executive and leadership coaching, benefits administration, policy development and implementation, employee relations, workplace investigations, anti-harassment initiatives, and strategic planning.

Prior to joining Lake Effect, Jenn worked in-house as Human Resource Manager at Forward Service Corporation and ABR Employment Services and, before that, served as a strategic HR advisor at a statewide HR company. Throughout her career, Jenn has assisted employers in a variety of settings, including professional services, staffing, tech and biotech companies, as well as non-profit and religious organizations.

“I am ecstatic to join the amazing Lake Effect team,” Lindberg said. “I have been fortunate to work with both Jane and Tricia in the past, and I jumped at the opportunity to work with them and this incredibly talented group. I know that my background and experience will serve the current and future needs of Lake Effect’s clients.”

Jane Clark, CEO and Managing Partner, remarked on how thrilled she was to have Jenn join the growing business, “Jenn is a welcome addition to the Lake Effect team! Her extensive knowledge of human resources and benefits will augment our services. With her engaging personality, commitment to lifelong learning, and experience handling very difficult coaching and management issues, Jenn will dive right in to serve and advise our clients. Without a doubt, Jenn is a perfect fit with our culture, mission and core values – she has the same keen intellect, quick wit, and ready laugh as the rest of the Lake Effect team.”

Check out Jenn’s full bio here.

The ADA: Understanding Your Obligations

As HR professionals, we take a lead role in making sure our workplace policies and practices are both compliant and ethical. We need to make sure our managers are operating under the same guidelines. One area where a high level of risk may be lurking is in responding to employee performance issues, concerns and requests for accommodations in situations where the word “disability” is not used. Even if an employee does not say the word “disability,” the employer may still be on notice that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and its related legal obligations are implicated.

Here’s a scenario:
John works for a small manufacturing company and has struggled in his role. John’s manager, Dan, documents all of John’s performance related issues. John is worried about losing his job and anxious about what is going to happen next. John has a disability but does not explicitly use that word when talking to Dan. John asks to change his shift “to help his nerves” and to help address his performance related issues. Because John did not use the word “disability,” Dan does not consider this a formal accommodation request, nor does he bring this up to HR. After one final performance issue, Dan terminates John. John then files a claim against the employer for failing to accommodate his disability.

HR should train managers to be on the lookout for language that may trigger an accommodation under the ADA. This should include educating managers about physical and mental impairments that can constitute disabilities under ADA and the interplay of ADA, FMLA and Worker’s Compensation. Rather than have managers assess such requests, they should be coached to raise potential disability-related issues with HR. HR can then meet with the affected employee to determine if the ADA interactive dialog process needs to commence, or if this is simply a performance or behavior issue.

The experienced HR professionals and attorneys at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready to assist and advise if you have questions regarding ADA related issues in your organization. We are here to help you navigate this complex area. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Upcoming Changes to Illinois Employment Laws

Over the summer, Illinois enacted several amendments to the state’s employment laws that will take effect January 1, 2020.

Sexual Harassment Training

All employers with Illinois employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to their employees at least annually. The Illinois Department of Human Rights has advised that it will create a model training program for employers, but at the time of this article, it is not yet available. Alternatively, employers can use their own sexual harassment training program as long as it meets the state’s legal requirements. We can also create a training program for you that complies with Illinois’ legal requirements and is tailored to fit your industry, workplace culture, and mission.

Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Organizations with employees in Illinois will confront a new legal landscape under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which declares marijuana a “lawful product” under Illinois state law. Under the new law, the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes will be legal for adults age 21 and older. There are now 11 states that allow recreational use of marijuana and 33 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.

The expansion of marijuana legalization in Illinois dramatically affects employer drug-free workplace and testing policies. Under the new law, employers can still prohibit the use, storage, buying, and selling of marijuana at work; they can likewise prohibit employees from being impaired or under the influence of marijuana at work. If an employer has a good faith belief that an employee is impaired at work or while on call, the employee can be disciplined only if that belief is based on specific, objective symptoms. An employee must also be given an opportunity to contest the basis of the determination of impairment. Employers cannot take an adverse action against an employee for merely testing positive for marijuana while at work. Employers should be wary of pre-employment drug testing, employment testing without reasonable suspicion and zero tolerance policies. It is not yet clear if Illinois employers can terminate employees who refuse to submit to a drug test that is based on a good faith belief of impairment.

Please contact your partners at Lake Effect Human Resources & Law if you would like to discuss a customized sexual harassment training program for your organization, or if you would like us to review your workplace and drug testing policies to ensure they comply with Illinois’ new laws.

Be Careful What You Ask For!

Over the years, most employers have become accustomed to asking for salary history during the interview or pre-screening process to determine if an applicant should move forward in the hiring process. Most employment applications also inquire about an applicant’s prior convictions. However, more and more state and local governments are adopting bans on employer inquiries into a job applicant’s pay and criminal history. Employers need to ensure their hiring practices are compliant, especially as recruiting crosses state lines.

Over 20 state and local governments have adopted pay history bans. Pay history bans are frequently rolled into a state or local government’s overarching equal pay laws. Such bans are aimed at addressing existing pay disparities – especially those adversely affecting women and people of color – by ensuring that employers base compensation decisions on employees’ qualifications, duties and responsibilities.

Pay history bans prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s prior pay during the pre-employment process or considering that information when making interview, hiring, or compensation decisions. Other facets of the laws are designed to eliminate secrecy and promote transparency by prohibiting employers from restricting their own employees from disclosing their current pay to applicants or to one another in the workplace. Some of the new pay history bans also require employers to provide the applicable pay range upon request by an applicant or include the pay range with any job posting.

There has also been an expansion of criminal history bans, often called “ban the box” or “fair chance” laws. These bans, adopted by over 30 state and local governments to date, are meant to even the playing field and provide a second chance for individuals with an arrest or conviction record. Criminal history bans prohibit employers from requiring applicants to disclose if they have been convicted of a crime. The laws generally permit employers to inquire into a prospective employee’s criminal history after subsequent steps in the hiring process: after an initial screening but before an interview, after an interview, or after a conditional job offer.

These bans have not yet been adopted in Wisconsin, but they impact employers recruiting with national searches or for locations outside of Wisconsin, and they aren’t going away. It’s a good time to review your hiring policies and procedures to make sure that they comply with these legal requirements and reflect your organization’s culture, mission, and values.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready to assist and advise if you have questions related to your recruiting and hiring policies and procedures in Wisconsin or other states. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

The Complex Web of Paid Family and Medical Leave Laws

Several states have now enacted laws mandating that employers provide paid family and medical leave (FML). These laws generally apply to employers in or out-of-state with 1 or more employees working in that state. It is important for Wisconsin employers to carefully manage their leave policies when they have employees in other states.

States that have adopted mandatory paid family and medical leave laws are: Massachusetts, Washington D.C., California, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The leave benefits available under these laws vary from state to state, so employers need to do their research – or rely on experienced employment law advisors.

For example, in Massachusetts, employers must pay into an FML fund with a .75% tax on the wages of any employee working in Massachusetts. Some employers, depending on the number of workers they employ, may deduct a portion or all of this amount from the employee’s wages. Starting in 2021, employees will be entitled to up to a total 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year for life events such as the birth or adoption of a child (12 weeks), a serious medical condition (20 weeks), a family member’s serious medical condition (12 weeks), or to care for a family member injured while in military service (26 weeks). While the employer must allow the employee to take the leave, the financial benefits are administered by the state’s Department of Family and Medical Leave. Employees apply for a claim and, if approved, receive their weekly benefit from the state. The maximum benefit an employee can receive is $850/week.

In Washington D.C., employers must pay a .62% payroll tax into the state’s FML fund, and employees apply for and receive their benefits from DC’s Department of Employment Services. Starting July 1, 2020, DC employees will be entitled to up to 8 weeks of parental leave, 6 weeks leave to care for a sick family member, and 2 weeks leave for personal medical leave. The maximum benefit is $1000/week.

In addition to paid FML laws, over 20 states, cities, and counties have enacted paid sick leave laws. These laws also vary as to how much leave must be given to employees, how that leave must be tracked and carried over, and how the paid sick leave intersects with other leaves, like FML.

Wisconsin employers who employ workers in other states must take these various leave laws into account. It is a complex task. Carefully crafted policies and procedures can help you navigate these unchartered waters without creating an administrative nightmare for your HR team.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready to assist and advise if you have questions related to family and medical leave matters in Wisconsin or other states. 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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