On July 9, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order which directed the Federal Trade Commission to curtail the use of non-competes nation-wide in order to help promote competition and expand the economy. At the moment, only three states forbid the use of non-compete clauses in employment agreements: California, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Nearly one dozen states – including Massachusetts – have put tough restrictions on the use and enforcement of non-compete agreements irrespective of which employees are required to sign same.
Houston Methodist Hospital was sued earlier this year by 117 unvaccinated employees. The workers claimed that the hospital’s mandatory vaccination policy violated public policy because the vaccines at issue were approved by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) rather than through the typical lengthier process. The workers alleged that they were being forced to serve as human guinea pigs, arguing that the hospital was making them “participate in an experimental vaccine trial as a condition for continued employment.”
If there is anything we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that the more things stay the same, the more they change. That’s right. Most of us have adopted a “wait and see” attitude when it comes to questions like masks on or off, mandating vaccines or strongly suggesting, and how much information can we actually seek from employees. After all, we haven’t always seen consistent guidance coming from state and federal agencies like CDC, EEOC and OSHA or state and local public health authorities. So we cautiously await new information before making any significant policy changes, especially when workplace and community safety are implicated.
Beginning on May 28, 2021 and extending through the end of September, Massachusetts employees will be eligible for up to 40 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave providing paid time off for qualifying reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective May 8, 2021, the State of New Hampshire will replace the existing “Safer at Home 2.0” restrictions with a series of “Universal Best Practices” for all individuals, businesses, and organizations to consider and implement for the operation of their business. In rolling out the new guidance, Governor Sununu noted that the goal is to keep the guidance “truly universal.” Previously, the State had issued more than 30 industry-specific guidelines. The state did, however, recently issue one industry-specific guidance for overnight summer camps for the 2021 season.
In the new “Universal Best Practices,” the State has expressly reminded businesses that they are allowed to continue to require masks, if they choose, and “[n]othing in this document or other guidance precludes any business, organization, or individual business operators from taking additional precautions for the health and safety of its employees and consumers.” In other words, it is up to each business owner and manager to decide what is the best practice to implement to achieve safety in their particular workplace, keeping in mind the Universal Best Practices, and other guidance from the CDC, the NH Division of Public Health Services, and OSHA.
Governor Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday, April 27 that as of April 30 masks will no longer be required in outdoor settings. Social distancing, however, must still be maintained.
Effective Monday, May 10, large indoor and outdoor venues will be allowed to increase capacity to 25%. Effective May 29, various other venues such as bars and street festivals, will also be allowed to increase capacity. Face covering will still be required in indoor public places.
The CDC has also proclaimed that those fully vaccinated may remove their masks at small outdoor gatherings.
In a March 21, 2021 article the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advised businesses to be prepared for a turnover “tsunami” once the pandemic ends. Although turnover rates were high pre-pandemic, they stalled as employees settled in to whatever their personal situation might have been during the shutdown. Research and consulting firm, The Work Institute, references a pent up turnover demand ready to be unleashed as companies ramp up hiring again. Recent surveys reveal that as much as 50% of the North American workforce is planning to quit their jobs or seek new employment in the coming year.
On April 7th, the United States Department of Labor issued detailed guidance and model notices to assist employers in implementing the COBRA premium assistance requirement under Section 9501 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the ARP).
The ARP requires employers to provide a 100 percent COBRA premium subsidy – between April 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2021 – for employees whose reduction in hours or involuntary termination of employment makes them eligible for COBRA continuation coverage during this period. An employer or plan to whom COBRA premiums are payable, advances the COBRA premium and is then entitled to a tax credit for the amount of the premium assistance provided.
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, into law. This post provides details of the bill which includes stimulus checks for individuals earning below certain income thresholds, aid to state and local governments, and money to support vaccine and testing programs, among other things.
This post provides an overview of the aspects of the plan which specifically affect workplaces.
In the latest episode of McLane Middleton Minutes, Charla Stevens, chair of the firm’s Employment Law Practice Group, interviews Courtney Kovach, HR Manager at Game Creek Video, on creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
Click here to listen to the episode, or find it on your favorite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify.