COVID-19 Vaccination Planning for Employers: Questions to Consider for Policy and Practice

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.

The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.

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COVID-19 Issues for Unionized Employers

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for U.S. businesses of every size and in every industry. As state and local governments have ordered companies to cease nonessential operations and directed consumers to quarantine, isolate or otherwise “shelter in place,” the very survival of many of today’s businesses depends on their abilities to develop new operational and business strategies for addressing changing consumer needs, altered distribution channels and a depressed economic market.

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Illinois Amends Recreational Marijuana Statute to Clarify Employers’ Rights

On December 4, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law amendments to the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Illinois Cannabis Act) that clarify employer rights to enforce reasonable workplace drug policies once recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Illinois on January 1, 2020.  As originally drafted, the Illinois Cannabis Act created confusion for employers as to whether they could lawfully test and/or discriminate against applicants who tested positive for cannabis, based on pre-employment and off-duty use of the drug.

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DOL Final Overtime Rule Takes Effect January 1, 2020

On September 24, 2019 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a revised Final Overtime Rule increasing the minimum salary threshold for overtime exemption to $35,568. The Final Overtime Rule takes effect on January 1, 2020.

The DOL’s Final Overtime Rule increases the weekly salary threshold for minimum wage and overtime exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from $455 to $684 (an increase in the annual minimum salary from $23,600 to $35,568). The Final Overtime Rule also increases the minimum annual exemption salary threshold for highly compensated employees (HCEs) from $100,000 to $107,432.

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Landmark Chicago “Fair Workweek” Ordinance Entitles Employees to Pay for Schedule Changes and Lost Work Hours

On July 23, 2019, the Chicago City Council passed the controversial Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance (the Ordinance). Once Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a vocal proponent of the Ordinance, signs it into law, the Ordinance is scheduled to take effect for the majority of covered employers on July 1, 2020.

The Chicago Ordinance covers:
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NLRB Interest Rate Will Increase to Five Percent

Board awards in unfair labor practice cases are usually premised in a make-whole remedy which, in the case of back-pay awards for example, include interest. Interest has been part of the remedy for decades. More recently, daily compound interest became the rule. The Board can reset the rate quarterly using the short-term federal rate plus three percent, which is the rate the IRS uses for underpayment of taxes. For several years, the rate was three or four percent, given the state of the economy. Interest awards can really add up, especially when a make-whole remedy impacts a large workforce and interest accrues over the many  years it can take for final decision in a ULP case. As such, interest is normally a factor in litigation and settlement of these cases.

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