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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on January 20, 2021, signaling the official change in administration. Employers can certainly expect to see a shift in the direction of federal labor and employment laws. Already, Biden’s recent appointment of Marty Walsh, a union official, to Secretary of Labor, signifies a new era in NLRB activity and pro-employee and pro-union labor laws.  Further, the DOL and EEOC are bound to be more aggressive in undertaking many initiatives overlooked by the Trump Administration.

Federal labor and employment laws aside, New York employers should be reminded of new state laws for 2021.  Here are just a few of the highlights.
Continue Reading 2021 Employment Law Spotlight: New York

On the heels of the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the EEOC updated its Technical Assistance Q & A to help employers navigate the latest pandemic related challenges. The EEOC guidance can be found here.

Below are highlights of the EEOC’s guidance, and our practical advice for employers who are considering rolling out a mandatory vaccination program for their employees.

Before jumping on the mandatory vaccination bandwagon, employers should consider these important questions:

  • Does your company need a mandatory vaccination program? Should you leave it to your employees to make their own decisions?
  • If you decide to implement a mandatory vaccination program, how will you announce it, how will you roll it out, and what is the timing? Have you factored in that vaccines may not be available to all employees at the same time?
  • If you decide to implement a mandatory vaccination program, how will you handle requests for exemptions? What will you do with employees who refuse to be vaccinated?
  • What are the pitfalls of a mandatory vaccination program?

Let’s break this down further.

Can employers mandate that employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

The answer is yes.

The EEOC’s updated guidance now addresses issues regarding “mandatory vaccinations” and makes clear that employers can mandate that employees get the COVID-19 vaccination. The justification for mandating vaccination, especially during the pandemic, is based on the premise that unvaccinated employees present a “direct threat” to others in the workplace. (K.5.).

Many employers are already stating that once the vaccine is widely available they may mandate a vaccine before employees can return to the office. However, as will be discussed below, even if a mandatory policy is enacted, employees may nonetheless be entitled to exemptions on the basis of disability or religious accommodation.

Do employers need a mandatory program?

The answer depends on your business.

If you run a business where your employees can safely work remotely or socially distance, you may not need it right away. On the other hand, if you run a retail business, school, a restaurant, or any similar business where employees circulate among each other or deal with the public, a mandatory vaccination program may beneficial to your operation. Many retail and customer facing industries believe that it will be a good advertisement if they can say that their employees are all vaccinated.

Whatever the approach, employers should not jump in without weighing the costs and benefits. Things to consider include administrative costs, challenges to implementing a mandatory program, such as training and legal compliance.

How will you roll it out and when?

Here again, messaging and timing must be carefully considered.  Right now, vaccines are only available to frontline healthcare workers. Thus, if your business does not fall into that category, you will need to wait until vaccines are available to your workforce to institute a mandatory program. Even then, you may have to allow for a vaccine rollout over time, and only make the mandate applicable to those employees who are eligible to receive a vaccine.

In the early months of 2021, practical questions about fairness may arise. For example, if an employee wishes to comply but a vaccine is not available to them, should they be excluded from the workplace? Employers adopting a mandatory program will likely face, and should be prepared to handle a number of similar questions.

Next let’s look at the issues surrounding employees receiving the vaccination.
Continue Reading The EEOC Confirms You CAN Mandate a Vaccine, But SHOULD You?

On January 20, 2021, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Whichever side of the political spectrum you fall on, there can be no question that this is going to signal changes – and not all of them positive – for employers. For all

As employers are well aware by now, New York enacted statewide paid sick leave requirements for employers, which took effect on September 30, 2020. We provided an overview of requirements for the new law here. Under the law, New York employers must provide all employees with sick leave and grant employees the ability to use accrued sick time starting January 1, 2021. The amount of sick leave an employer must provide under the law varies depending on an employer’s size and net income.

Recently, New York State issued much anticipated guidance and in a seven page FAQ document regarding the State’s new paid sick leave law. That guidance can be found here.

Although the guidance doesn’t answer every single question employers will have, the FAQs provide clarification as to Definitions, Accruals, Permitted Uses, Who is Eligible, Leave Increments, Rate of Pay, Alternative Accrual System, and Collective Bargaining Agreement and Other Leave Laws, Employee Rights & Protections, and Miscellaneous Questions.

We have excerpted  below a few key FAQs for employers to consider as they continue to work through COVID-19 and employers consider necessary revisions to their leave policies:

If employers choose an accrual based method for calculating leave under the NYPSL, they should be aware that out of state telework may impact an employee’s entitlement. The FAQs suggest that employees are only eligible to accrue sick leave based on hours worked while physically within the state of New York:

DOES AN EMPLOYER HAVE TO PROVIDE SICK LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES WHO TELECOMMUTE OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK STATE?

Employees who telecommute are covered by the law only for the hours when they are physically working in New York State, even if the employer is physically located outside New York State.

With many employees are already working from home, it is also important to note that, under the new law employers cannot require employees to telecommute in lieu of taking sick leave:
Continue Reading State Issues Guidance for NY Paid Sick Leave Law

Summer is coming to an end, and you know what that means: school is back in session. We’ve previously provided general guidance on the challenges facing students, parents and employers this fall as students return to school during the pandemic. This post focuses specifically on what employers doing business in New York should be considering.

The same overarching analysis applies when determining your obligations if an employee is seeking leave to care for children who would be in school if not for COVID-19:

  • Does FFCRA apply?
  • Does a state or local Emergency COVID-19 leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a paid sick leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a company benefit or policy apply?

New York has a number of leave laws that are implicated by school closures. Fortunately, employers need not worry about New York State’s Paid Family Leave for purposes of school closures. New York has explicitly stated in its FAQ that a COVID-related school closure is not a qualifying reason for purposes of Paid Family Leave benefits under the law. An employee may, however, avail himself or herself of such benefits if the employee or the employee’s minor dependent child is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the State, department of health, local board of health, or government entity.


Continue Reading Back to School Cheat Sheet for Employers: New York

The EEOC again updated its Technical Assistance Questions and Answers (Q&A), which we have been following closely, and previously covered on June 11, 2020.

In its most recent update, the EEOC addressed specific questions related to administering COVID-19 tests (Q&A, A.7); permitting employees into the physical workplace, and permissible COVID-19 questions (Q&A, A.8, A.9, A.11, A.12, A.13, and A.14). The EEOC also updated its guidance regarding confidentiality of medical information (B.5, B.6, B.7, and B.8), as well as reasonable accommodations and teleworking (D.8, D.14, D.15, D.16, D.17, and D.18).
Continue Reading UPDATE: EEOC Updates COVID-19 Technical Assistance Publication with Q&A

On August 3, 2020, New York federal Judge Paul Oetken, vacated several significant provisions of the U.S. Department of Labor’s April 1, 2020 Final Rule, which construes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), finding that the DOL exceeded its rulemaking authority. State of New York v. United States Department of Labor et al., 20-cv-03020-JPO (S.D.N.Y. August 3, 2020).

Particularly significant for New York employers, this decision changes how they determine which employees are entitled to FFCRA leave and how they can administer those leaves.  The question remains, however, whether the vacated provisions of the DOL’s regulations are still valid in states outside of New York.


Continue Reading New York v. United States: S.D.N.Y. Vacates Key Provisions in DOL’s Final Rule Limiting Paid Leave Under the FFCRA

As the number of COVID-19 infections in certain states continues to rise, so does the number of states added to the tristate area travel advisory.  Ten additional states were added to the existing list, including the following: Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. Travelers from these states, as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas,

On Monday, July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published additional guidance, addressing questions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).

In this post, we highlight some of the guidance relating to wage and hour issues, and management of a remote workforce.

This guidance is particularly apropos, as more and more employers realize that the “new normal” is a world of remote work, with some employers extending telework on an indefinite basis.

Here are some interesting questions the DOL answered and our take-aways from the guidance.


Continue Reading When Home = Work: New DOL Guidance on Managing Your Remote Workforce

On Tuesday July 21, 2020, Kelley Drye’s Labor and Employment Practice hosted a webinar focused on best practices for navigating challenges of the “not so normal” workplace of 2020. A workplace where employers are challenged with new rules, laws, risks, and social issues brought on by the pandemic and a supercharged social and political climate.

Two news stories since Tuesday made these challenges real.

As we discussed in our webinar, employers are clearly navigating uncharted waters, including (one we discussed at length) the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and employers approach to handling activism in the workplace.

Now with the pandemic – this includes ‘management’ of face masks – which have become part of workplace attire for virtually everyone.


Continue Reading Consistency is Key – for Employee Masks and T-Shirts in the Workplace