The following article on H-1B Visas was recently published in the Union Leader as part of McLane Middleton’s Know the Law series:

Q. After many unsuccessful attempts at filling an open position, my company recently interviewed an exceptionally qualified candidate. The candidate is a foreign national living abroad. Years ago, my company obtained a visa for an employee in the H-1B lottery. We are interested in obtaining an H-1B visa for this candidate. However, I heard that H-1B visas were banned or the lottery was eliminated. Is there still a way to obtain an H-1B visa?

A. Good news! The H-1B lottery is alive and well, for now. Under the Trump administration, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) adopted a rule effectively eliminating the H-1B lottery system in favor of a wage-based process. However, the Biden administration delayed the rule’s effective date until Dec. 31, 2021. Therefore, your company may still seek a visa in the H-1B lottery for the 2022 H-1B cap season.

To read the full article, click here.

Beginning February 11, the Biden Administration has launched a “Federal Retail Pharmacy Program” for COVID-19 vaccines. The is a public/private partnership which involves over 40,000 pharmacy locations across the country.

The CDC worked with states “to select initial pharmacy partners.” One criterion was the proximity of the pharmacy to more “at risk” populations.

Additional information may be found here.  The White House has also issued a memorandum on the program located here.

These developments will assist employers by providing more choices for employees who wish to be vaccinated. They will also allow employers who choose to mandate vaccines to select facilities to administer same rather than administering vaccines within their own facilities which requires adherence to strict federal and state regulations.

Businesses are often faced with “emergency” situations which may mean the destruction of the enterprise if immediate legal relief is not sought and obtained.  The examples of such situations are endless, and often arise on a moment’s notice.  Here are some real life examples which the author has dealt with:

To read the full article, click here.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidance regarding quarantine requirements for individuals who have been vaccinated, and for those who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

For those who have received the vaccine, the CDC is no longer recommending quarantine following close contact with an infected person if the individual meets all three of the following criteria:

Continue Reading CDC Revises Quarantine Guidance For Those Who Have Been Vaccinated, Or Who Have Recovered From A COVID-19 Infection

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services has issued a guidance for Mass employers who may wish to have their employees vaccinated. The guidance is not a mandate, and is fairly complex regarding steps employers must take to have their employees vaccinated.

Continue Reading The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services Issues Employer Vaccine Guidance on Heels of Federal EEOC Position Allowing Employers to Mandate Vaccines

In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that the narrow public policy exception to the general principle that an “at will” employee can be terminated without cause does not apply to an employee fired for submitting a rebuttal to information in the employee’s personnel file.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Appeals Court Addresses Application of Public Policy Exception to At-Will Employment

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On January 11, 2021, the NH Department of Health and Human Services updated its New Hampshire COVID-19 Employer Travel, Screening, and Exclusion Guidance for employers and workplaces.   The guidance updates some exceptions to the quarantine requirements related to those who have been vaccinated and those who have more recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

Specifically, the guidance on page 3 provides that the following individuals do not need to quarantine either after travel outside of New England or after close contact exposure to someone who tested positive with COVID-19:

  1. Persons who are 14 days beyond the second dose of their COVID19 vaccine (i.e., 14 days after full vaccination).
  2. Persons who are within 90 days of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection that was diagnosed by PCR or antigen testing (if a person had a previous infection that was more than 90 days prior, then they are still subject to quarantine).

The individuals who fall into one of the two above categories, however,  must still follow coronavirus protective protocols and procedures (i.e., six feet of social distancing, wearing of face masks, avoiding large gatherings, maintaining good hygiene) and monitor their symptoms.  The Isolation and Quarantine Summary Chart have also been updated to include this new quarantine information.

The previous exceptions to quarantine following close contact with someone with COVID-19 or risks related to essential travel remain in place.  Again, to be eligible for one of the listed exceptions, the employees must meet all the listed criteria.   DHHS also continues to advise employers that these exceptions should not be the standard practice.

The updated guidance makes reference the new and apparently more infectious strains of the virus.  It also provides a link to the NH Division of Public Health Services general travel and quarantine guidance for residents and visitors to New Hampshire.

With the vaccines rolling out, and more positive cases being reported, employers should review this new guidance from the DHHS.

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced its final rule seeking to make it easier to classify workers as independent contractors.  The distinction is not without difference, as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and many of its state analogues only protect employees, but do not extend to independent contractors – including many gig economy workers.  However, as made clear by the new rule, merely identifying a worker as an “independent contractor” does not mean the employer is off the hook.

Continue Reading Better Classification for our Economic Reality

Although Congress had the opportunity to extend the requirement that companies with 500 or fewer employees provide paid medical leave and family leave to workers impacted by COVID-19, it did not do so; and those mandates expired on December 31, 2020.  The eleventh hour stimulus package did keep in place, through March 31, 2021, the tax credit to employers who voluntarily continue to provide this paid benefit.

The USDOL has issued some guidance to provide “clarity around some of the novel issues that FFCRA’s expiration raises” according to Wage and Hour Administrator Cheryl Stanton.  As of December 31, 2020, the DOL added two questions and answers (104 and 105) to its very helpful general FFCRA guidance located at  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

Continue Reading FFCRA Leave: Gone But Not Forgotten as DOL Issues Guidance Post-Stimulus

The COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, both part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, (collectively the “Stimulus Bill”) contain numerous provisions related to employer sponsored benefit plans. Below are some of the key provisions relating to welfare plans, retirement plans and other employer provided benefits.

Continue Reading Benefit Plan Provisions in the Stimulus Bill