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

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

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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

Today the EEOC updated its Technical Assistance Questions and Answers (Q&A), “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”

Among the updates, the EEOC  provides Q&A guidance regarding: requests for accommodation (Q&A D.13, G.7); pandemic-related harassment in the context of telework (Q&A E.4); return to work guidance (Q&A G.6, G.7); and other questions related to age discrimination (Q&A H.1), pregnancy discrimination (Q&A J.1), and sex discrimination involving employees with caretaking or family responsibilities (Q&A I.1).

The EEOC also touches on an issue that all employers will undoubtedly face as employees return to work, namely, whether an accommodation is required for an employee who is not disabled, but whose family member may be at high risk for contracting COVID-19 due to an underlying condition. The EEOC’s June 11 Q&A D.13 states:


Continue Reading EEOC Updates COVID-19 Technical Assistance Publication with Q&A

As businesses all over the country prepare to open up and welcome employees back to work – even while the pandemic rages on – there remains a high degree of uncertainty concerning how to keep employees safe, especially those who may be at higher risk because of age or a medical condition.  Adding to employer angst over this issue, the EEOC, the agency charged with interpreting the discrimination laws, found it necessary last week to issue guidelines and then clarify its own statements within just two days.  On Tuesday, May 5, 2020, the EEOC issued new “Return to Work” guidance, but then pulled it down within 24 hours.  On May 7, 2020, it issued updated guidance, which focused on how employers should handle return to work issues, but with special emphasis on how they should treat “high risk” employees.

One major takeaway from the guidance is that employers cannot exclude high risk employees from the workplace just because there is a concern about COVID-19 exposure.  Andrew Maunz, EEOC Legal Counsel stated, “It is important that employers understand that the ADA does not allow them to act against employees solely because the employee has a CDC-listed underlying medical condition.”


Continue Reading Reentry Worries And The EEOC’S Latest Return To Work Guidance

With the reopening of state economies and return-to-work on the horizon, on April 23, 2020, the EEOC issued new guidance on workplace testing for COVID-19.

The EEOC’s guidance confirms that “employers may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before they enter the workplace to determine if they have the virus” because “an individual