On Aug. 3, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated several significant portions of a Department of Labor (DOL) Final Rule which employers had been relying upon to administer employee leave requests pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Although it is too early to know if the decision will be affirmed on appeal, or adopted by courts in other jurisdictions, employers should anticipate a renewed interest for FFCRA leave among employees previously denied it or who believed it was unavailable. And those who continue to rely on the DOL’s rule to deny such requests will be doing so at their own risk.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses across the country, employers are faced with the difficult question of how to keep their workplaces safe. Some employers are attempting to restrict off-duty employee conduct to limit high-risk behavior.
The National Football League (NFL) is one employer taking steps to regulate off-duty conduct to reduce risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL has apparently reached an agreement with the players’ association that restricts the players’ off-duty conduct in some surprising ways. Players are prohibited from attending indoor night clubs, concerts, and even indoor religious services that allow attendance above 25 percent capacity. If a player violates these rules and then tests positive for COVID-19, he will reportedly not be paid for any games he misses and future guarantees in his contract will be voided. The NFL and the players’ association have presumably entered into this agreement for two chief reasons: to minimize COVID-19 outbreaks among teams and, in turn, to increase the likelihood that NFL football can be played this season. Commentators have thrown some challenge flags at the agreement, however, due to its potential for punishing employees for engaging in lawful off-duty activities. Continue Reading
In an effort to encourage private employers to hire ex-offenders, legislators in the Ohio House have introduced a bill to create an Ohio Reentry Program. The proposed bill creates a fund to reimburse employers for employing ex-offenders for at least two years.
Earlier this year, Ohio legislators introduced multiple bills to expand Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We previously reported the proposed legislation here and here.
Employers generally must withhold income taxes on behalf of employees based on where the employee works. Typically this determination is simplified by the location of the employer’s offices. The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding stay-at-home orders have altered the working situations for most Americans. Only time will tell what things will look like moving forward. Employers must now consider the impact of employees working remotely and confirm that income tax withholding is properly executed given these unprecedented circumstances. My colleague Gary Schulte explains in this Employee Benefits blog post.
Recently, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 81 which contains several changes to workers’ compensation laws. Most significantly, the bill contains a provision that will codify the common law voluntary abandonment doctrine. This provision should ensure that injured workers do not receive certain disability benefits if their loss of income is not related to the allowed conditions in a claim. Significantly, this codification specifically supersedes any court opinions applying the well-known doctrine. Continue Reading
Conventional understanding of unemployment benefits leads to the logical conclusion that when employees are capable of working and offered suitable employment, they are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits. But like many other things in the post-COVID-19 world, conventional thinking no longer rules the day.
Last week, on June 16, 2020, Gov. DeWine issued an Executive Order addressing unemployment benefits eligibility during the COVID-19 epidemic. It provides that when an employee is called back to work in the same position as before the Director of Health’s special orders, there is a presumption that the position is considered “suitable work” under the Ohio unemployment insurance program. However, an employee may refuse to return to work and still be eligible for unemployment compensation if “good cause” exists for the refusal. Continue Reading
The President issued the “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak” on June 22, 2020, limiting the admission of certain foreign nationals to the United States. This Proclamation includes an introduction describing the high unemployment rate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic dislocation as justification for this ban on the admission of certain temporary visas. The President also extended the 60 day limitation of immigrant visas announced in the April 22, 2020 Proclamation until Dec. 31, 2020. In addition to the bar for immigrant visas, the Proclamation also bars foreign national citizens outside the United States who seek to enter with an H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain categories of J-1 nonimmigrant visas. The Proclamation does not apply to any person currently in the United States, and therefore will not affect extensions of status for H-1B, H-2B or L-1 (Persons in J-1 status are admitted for the “duration of status” and therefore generally do not require an extension.) The Proclamation takes effect on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 and will continue until Dec. 31, 2020, although the text of the Proclamation suggests it could be continued beyond this date. Continue Reading
On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released additional guidance covering topics like the well-intended exclusion of workers over the age of 65 who, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are deemed to be at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19. The guidance also covers issues related to pregnancy, remote harassment and employees living with family members who are high risk due to underlying health conditions.
In a landmark decision issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 6-3 opinion that the sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 include discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. The opinion was authored by Justice Gorsuch, and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.