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

A new year means new challenges in the world of employment law. To help employers comply with new laws and navigate today’s complex employment challenges, the Kelley Drye Labor and Employment team will be offering its second virtual WORKing Lunch Webinar Series in the coming months. The 2021 series consists of five webinars covering hot

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

Today, most Americans live in a jurisdiction that has enacted a “ban-the-box” law (also known as a “fair chance” law).  Ban-the-box laws restrict employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background at various stages of the hiring process.  The purpose of these laws are to enable an ex-offender to display his or her qualifications in the hiring process before he or she must disclose a criminal record.  In fact, the origin of the laws’ colloquial name is the “box” that initial job applicants must check if they have a prior conviction.  These laws benefit an estimated 70 million people in the United States (or almost one in three U.S. adults) who have prior arrests or convictions.

Currently, there is no federal ban-the-box law generally applicable to private sector employers.  However, on December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Fair Chance Act (also known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019) which prohibits federal agencies and government contractors from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history before making a conditional employment offer, unless a specified exception applies.  The law includes exceptions for law enforcement and national security positions that require access to classified information, and where an employer is legally obligated to conduct a criminal background check before making a conditional employment offer.
Continue Reading North Carolina Also Bans-The-Box

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

As New York employers struggle to reopen their workplaces, implement new workplace COVID-19 policies, manage remote workers, and deal with employees who are quarantined, afraid of contracting COVID-19, afraid of the subway, and requesting job accommodations – this is a good moment to remember that all of the ‘old’ employment laws are still alive and well and being enforced.

Earlier today the New York Attorney General reported a $1.5 million dollar settlement of a sexual harassment complaint against a Long Island construction company, claims made by 18 female former employees.

The company, Trade Off Construction, denied all of the allegations and did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.


Continue Reading It’s Not Just All Pandemic, All the Time!

JOIN US: TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2020 | 12:30PM EST

Four months ago, the Dow was close to 30,000, employment rates were at historic highs, the coronavirus was still “novel,” and millions had not yet taken to the streets in global protests against police brutality and racial inequality. The workplace we now return to exists in

In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”) will pay $3.3 million dollars and provide programmatic relief to resolve a disability discrimination charge against the company.

Allegations against FedEx

In its Complaint (Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 15-cv-00256 (Western District of Pennsylvania, February 25, 2015) the EEOC alleged that FedEx violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by discriminating against deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who applied for and/or worked in the package handler positions with the company.  To be hired for such positions, applicants must be at least eighteen years old and pass a criminal background check.  Applicants attend a mandatory sort-observation tour (where they see an active package handling shift, observe loading and unloading delivery vehicles, the conveyor systems, scanning, sorting, and the routing of packages), and participate in an interview.


Continue Reading EEOC Delivers Hefty Fine for Disability Discrimination

In a long awaited landmark ruling by Justice M. Gorsuch, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII protects gay and transgender workers. The Opinion provides:

Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear . . . An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

Justice Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.


Continue Reading The Answer is Clear—Title VII Will Protect Gay and Transgender Workers