Join Kelley Drye’s Labor and Employment team for the 2022 WORKing Lunch Series, which includes five webinars focused on the latest trends and developments in workplace law. Sign up for one, some, or all of the programs below. Invite a colleague, grab your lunch and let’s take a deep dive into these timely employment topics.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at 12:30pm ET
Supreme Court Splits on Vaccine Mandates
Last week, the Supreme Court issued two opinions on COVID regulations impacting employers and workers across the country.
- In the first, the Court stayed OSHA’s “vaccine or test” mandate for employers with 100 or more employees, finding that OSHA had overstepped its authority in promulgating the rule.
- In the second, the Court allowed a rule implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), requiring healthcare facilities to ensure vaccination of their entire workforces, with no testing alternative.
The seemingly contradictory opinions have set the world of legal commentary aflame, but more importantly, have left employers asking: what do we do now?
Here’s our brief guide.
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced his plan to increase vaccination rates among Americans. Two months later, on November 5, OSHA issued its emergency temporary standard (“ETS”), mandating workforce vaccination for all employers with 100 or more employees across the country. In lieu of vaccination, an employee might submit to masking and testing, at their own expense. By OSHA’s estimate, 84.2 million employees, or roughly half the U.S. workforce, would be subject to its mandate. Across the country, legal challenges to the ETS were filed almost simultaneously with the rule.…
Uncertainty with the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate
Where the Mandate Stands and Current Considerations for Contractors and Subcontractors
The federal contractor vaccine rollout continues to present thorny issues for federal contractors. President Biden issued Executive Order (“E.O.”) 14042 in early September 2021, requiring federal contractor employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The E.O. was followed by guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) in late September 2021, which has been frequently updated in the months since.
As described more fully in our prior post, under the mandate, implemented through the Task Force guidance incorporated into clauses issued by federal agencies, vaccines are mandatory for federal contractor employees working on covered contracts, those who perform duties in connection with a covered contract, and those working at the same workplace as covered employees. Contractors must also comply with masking and physical distancing requirements. The mandate applies to subcontractors at any tier, and applies to contractors of all sizes — small, medium or large. The E.O. and Task Force guidance immediately gave rise to many compliance questions and concerns over impact on contract or subcontract performance. Legal challenges to the contractor vaccine requirement and actions by numerous states have further complicated an already difficult compliance landscape.…
Continue Reading Uncertainty with the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate
DOL Issues Cybersecurity Guidelines and Begins Audits
To address growing cybersecurity risks to plan participants and their retirement assets, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a set of guidance for retirement plan sponsors and fiduciaries, their service providers, and plan participants aimed at mitigating cybersecurity risks. The DOL has also begun examining plans’ cybersecurity programs. Its information requests, which are very detailed and encompassing, signal that the guidelines are not optional and that the DOL is serious about enforcing them. The below is a summary of the DOL’s guidance and items it has signaled will be reviewed in a cybersecurity audit.
The DOL released its guidance on April 14, 2021 in three pieces. The first piece, “Tips for Hiring a Service Provider,” is aimed at assisting plan sponsors and fiduciaries in choosing service providers with robust cybersecurity practices. The initial guidance makes clear that the DOL considers the management of cybersecurity risk – including the scrutinizing of service providers’ cybersecurity policies and practices – to be part of a fiduciary’s duties. The tips include:
- Making sure that contracts with service providers require their ongoing compliance with cybersecurity and information security standards, and being wary of provisions that limit the service provider’s responsibility for IT security breaches;
- Looking for contract provisions that give plan sponsors and fiduciaries the right to review the service provider’s audit results demonstrating compliance with industry security standards;
- Examining the service provider’s track record in the industry, including public information regarding information security incidents;
- Inquiring as to any past security breaches, how they came about, and how the service provider responded; and
- Finding out whether the service provider has any insurance policies that would cover losses caused by cybersecurity and identity theft breaches, whether internal or external.
Continue Reading DOL Issues Cybersecurity Guidelines and Begins Audits
The Federal COVID Vaccine Rule is Here
In September, as the Delta variant was sweeping the nation, President Biden announced a comprehensive national strategy to get more Americans vaccinated and to set the path out of the pandemic. As part of this plan, the President announced that OSHA would be issuing regulations requiring any employer with 100 or more employees to ensure that workers are vaccinated.
In addition, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and President Biden’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (SFWTF) have issued their own rules requiring the vaccination of healthcare workers and federal contractors, which we have covered previously here and here. Those employers covered by the CMS and SFWTF rules do not have to comply with the new OSHA mandate.
Today, OSHA promulgated this rule, via an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), covering employers with 100 or more employees. OSHA estimates this will cover approximately 2/3 of all workers in the United States.…
Vaccinating the Unvaccinated: Employers Take Heed
Do you have 100 or more employees? Are you a federal government contractor? A healthcare provider? A large entertainment venue? If the answer to any of these questions is yes—and as you’ve already probably heard—President Biden has instructed the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to exercise its rulemaking authority to require all such employers to either mandate COVID-19 vaccination or to require weekly COVID-19 testing. You should review your current COVID-19 policies and President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, particularly the new executive orders and mandates announced this past week, which cover about 100 million Americans, or two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.
For the moment, covered employers have to sit tight: Biden’s announcement last week was simply that OSHA will issue the new vaccination rule “in the coming weeks.” We will continue to update this blog on the many complicated issues arising from the anticipated OSHA rules, including how to comply with the rule when various Republican state governors and right-leaning interest groups have already promised litigation to challenge the rule from the moment the rule is implemented.
For now, however, here are the key takeaways for employers:
- Employers (100+ Employees): OSHA is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or to require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. Given the practical challenges with implementing weekly testing, many employers may simply mandate vaccination to comply with this new rule—and many already have. What happens if they don’t? This requirement is to carry substantial fines to be enforced by OSHA. In addition to the mandate, OSHA is developing a rule that will require employers with 100+ employees to provide PTO for the time it takes workers to get vaccinated and to recover.
- Federal Workers & Contractors: The President also signed an Executive Order (EO) to require all federal executive branch workers and contractors that do business with the federal government to be vaccinated. This EO eliminates the exception to the July vaccination mandate for federal employees and contractors that allowed them to opt out if they wore masks, socially distanced, and were tested for COVID-19 at least weekly.
Continue Reading Vaccinating the Unvaccinated: Employers Take Heed
New York Gives Employers More Time to Be a HERO
Original post on June 1, 2021 (“Making the Workplace a Safer Place: A Job for New York’s HERO Act”)
Key takeaways for New York employers from the NY HERO Act, as amended:
- The NYS DOL must publish a model safety standard by July 5, 2021.
- 30 days thereafter, New York employers must either adopt the model standard or create their own health and safety plan to prevent occupational exposure to airborne infectious diseases, which meets or exceeds the minimum requirements established by the NYS DOL.
- Every employer must provide its prevention plan to its employees, within 30 days after adoption of the plan, within 15 days after reopening after a period of closure due to airborne infectious disease, and to any newly hired employee, upon hiring the new employee.
- Employers must permit employees to establish joint employer-employee workplace safety committees, beginning on November 1, 2021.
Continue Reading New York Gives Employers More Time to Be a HERO
Complimentary Webinar: Restrictive Covenants 101
Tuesday, June 22nd at 12:30pm ET
Restrictive Covenants 101: NDAs, Non-Competes & Other Tools To Protect Your Company
A company’s confidential information and customer relationships are its lifeblood—and are the assets that can walk out the door too easily with a departing employee. Too few companies take a considered approach to protecting those assets. NDAs…
The EEOC’s Latest Guidance on COVID Vaccine
Employers have been waiting for some definitive guidance from the EEOC on the issue of vaccines in the workplace – and here it is!
On May 28, the EEOC updated its Technical Assistance Guidance and has now stated with certainty that employers CAN indeed require employees to be vaccinated before coming in to the office or workplace. The updated guidance also addresses accommodations for the vaccinated, vaccine incentives, and vaccines for pregnant employees, among other questions. However, since this was drafted before the CDC came out with its latest guidance, it does not specifically address all issues related to the handling of unvaccinated and vaccinated employees in the workplace.
Below are some key points of the new guidance:
Mandatory Vaccination is Lawful, But Accommodations Must Be Offered
Even though many employers have opted against mandatory vaccination for their employees, the EEOC made clear that they can, in fact, mandate vaccinations for those who want to report to work. The key for employers, however, is they must engage in the interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA and Title VII, for eligible employees seeking an exception to the mandate.
The EEOC offers some examples of possible accommodations, most of which are no surprise, such as allowing unvaccinated employee to wear a face mask, maintaining social distance from others, working a modified shift, periodic COVID-19 testing, being allowed to telework or, as a last resort, reassignment to another position.
Continue Reading The EEOC’s Latest Guidance on COVID Vaccine
The Trump-era Independent Contractor Rule is Officially Out
Last week, the Trump-era independent contractor classification rule was officially eradicated by the U.S. Department of Labor, (“DOL”) due to its apparent inconsistency with the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The rule, which we previously covered here, provided a 5-factor “economic reality” test for determining whether workers are independent contractors or employees. The two…