Two decisions issued by different federal courts in New York on the same day. In one, the court found that New York State could not mandate vaccinations for healthcare workers without considering religious objections. In the other, the court rejected the public school teachers’ argument that New York City was hostile to teachers’ religious objections. Click here to read all about it.
The CDC is encouraging employers to appoint “vaccination ambassadors” to motivate employees to get vaccinated. Although I’m sure that the CDC has good intentions, this latest pronouncement is fraught with pitfalls. This is just my opinion, of course, but here are the problems I see:
- Vaccination ambassadors are also employees and are being encouraged by the CDC to share their vaccination experiences with other employees, who are reticent about getting vaccinated. Sounds nice, right? What could possibly go wrong? Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be requiring any employee to disclose anything about their own medical condition, and discussions about vaccines could end up in that territory. It’s one thing to say that the “shot doesn’t hurt,” but the ambassador should not be discussing medical conditions (or religious beliefs).
- Employees may ask the vaccination ambassador about the effect of the vaccine on their own medical conditions or concerns. Unless the ambassador is a physician (and even then, it’s probably not a good idea), the ambassador should not be opining on side-effects or other consequences of taking the vaccine.
OSHA just recently posted new guidance intended to inform employers and workers in identifying risks of exposure to COVID-19. You shouldn’t miss this one. Click the following link to read all about it. OSHA Issues New Guidance on COVID-19.
Over the last month, my colleagues and I at Murtha Cullina have been blogging about the myriad federal and state statutes and regulations addressing COVID-19 issues in the workplace. At times, we’ve had to revise and update our blogs to reflect the latest agency guidance on these issues. Rather than re-post those blogs here, I invite you to visit our Employment Law Perspectives blog for the latest employment law information on the COVID-19 pandemic, including the eventual reopening the workplace. Thanks!
Over the last few weeks, our Labor & Employment Group has published blogs addressing federal and state developments involving COVID-19 issues affecting the workplace. Rather than publish those resources separately here, because that would be redundant of course, I invite you to visit our Group’s Employment Perspectives blog. Stay safe.
On the heels of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law yesterday, New York State has enacted broad legislation extending paid sick leave benefits to employees. The extent of paid sick leave is determined by employer size and revenue, and can be utilized by employees whether they are sick, or absent from work because of a “mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation” issued by “the state of New York, the department of health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19.” All of New York City is currently subject to such an order.
Under the legislation:
- Employees of small employers (1-10 employees) with annual revenue under $1 million receive unpaid sick days and job protection, and qualify for state-funded paid family leave and disability benefits.
If you are reading this post, you already know about SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”), or, coronavirus. There is no shortage of news to absorb and guidance to implement. Federal, state (CT, MA, NY), and local (Boston, Hartford, New Haven, New York) authorities offer directives and information. News outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times have continuously updated coronavirus sections, sans paywalls. Johns Hopkins University is mapping coronavirus’s spread, in near real time. Here at Murtha Cullina, we are abiding by a common and useful refrain: “don’t panic, do prepare.”
So, how can you and your employees safely and effectively manage the myriad of challenges coronavirus has begun to present? The CDC has issued Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, with common sense and effective steps employers may take, including:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home, and implement flexible policies concerning sick leave and remote work.
In 2019, the New York State Legislature championed a host of employment laws that strengthen protections for employees. One of those laws codified new requirements for non-disclosure agreements, which are effective as of October 11, 2019. To ensure enforceability of non-disclosure provisions, employers must account for the following provisions:
- Non-disclosure agreements cannot prevent the confidentiality of facts underlying any discrimination claim, unless confidentiality is the complainant’s preference. Previously, in 2018, the legislature had barred confidentiality provisions in settlement of sexual harassment claims.
- If a complainant prefers confidentiality as described above, the employer must provide the confidentiality provision to that employee in plain English, or in the complainant’s primary language. The complainant has 21 days to consider the confidentiality provision, and 7 days after execution to revoke it. The confidentiality provision is not effective until the expiration of the revocation period, which is unlike the consideration and revocation applicable to releases of age discrimination claims under federal law; in the latter instance, employees are afforded 21 days to consider release of age claims, but are not required to take the full 21 days.
Effective May 10, 2020, New York City’s Human Rights Law will prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to submit to a marijuana or THC drug test as a condition of employment, with some limited exceptions. The NYC law is the first to ban pre-employment testing, but likely not the last in light of increasing momentum to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Even states that permit medical or recreational use of marijuana have not enacted laws that prohibit employers from testing job applicants. New York City has opted to ban pre-employment testing even though recreational use of marijuana is not yet legal under New York State or City law. To read more, click here.