Pennsylvania Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Provisions in Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Orders

In a decision issued on September 14, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV ruled that certain restrictions ordered by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to slow the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional. Judge Stickman’s decision comes after several other Pennsylvania courts upheld the restrictions as being within Wolf’s authority and courts in other states had upheld similar types of orders.

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As Fall Approaches, WARN Act Lawsuits Likely to Heat Up

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses with no clear end in sight. While the prospect of a functioning vaccine may have a while to go, a spike in Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act litigation may be on the horizon. Furloughs and workforce reductions have been prevalent since mid-March, leaving millions of employees without jobs or on extended leaves while they wait (and hope) to be recalled to work. While only about a dozen WARN Act lawsuits have been filed to date, as layoffs extend beyond six months, new workforce reductions occur, and more plaintiffs’ attorneys shift their attention to WARN Act claims, the remainder of 2020 may become a hurricane season of sorts as WARN Act litigation could flood the courts. And as the days and weeks go by, an employer’s ability to successfully assert the “unforeseeable business circumstances” defense to providing less than 60 days’ notice of a “mass layoff” or “plant closing” has diminished and will only become more challenging for employers to assert.

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Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division Provides Work From Home Guidance

On August 24, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) published guidance addressing employer obligations to track employee hours while teleworking. The DOL emphasized that though the guidance is being issued in part due to the increase in teleworking arrangements with COVID-19, it applies to all telework or remote work arrangements, not only those caused by the pandemic.

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Employment Immigration: Continued Changes From USCIS and the State Department With COVID-19, Travel Bans and Processing

Business immigration in the United States continues the roller coaster ride of the last six months. With the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. immigration has been subjected to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office and consulate closures, travel bans, a three-month suspension of premium processing, and rumors of USCIS furloughs. This short article will address some of the most recent updates.

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The Lost Wage Assistance Program Provides Relief After the CARES Act $600 Weekly Benefit Expired

On August 8, 2020, President Trump authorized the creation of the Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) program to provide lost wage assistance to unemployed individuals as a result of COVID-19. The LWA is intended to provide additional unemployment assistance after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s $600 per week supplement expired on July 31, 2020. Under the LWA program, eligible claimants may receive $300 or $400 in supplemental benefits.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide grants to participating states, territories and the District of Columbia for lost wage assistance. States may provide eligible claimants $400 per week, with a $300 federal contribution, in addition to an individual’s regular weekly unemployment benefit (UI) amount. The benefit is funded using 75% from the Disaster Relief Fund administered by FEMA and the remaining 25% through state unemployment insurance funding.

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NLRB Expands Employer Options for Social Media and Non-Disparagement Rules

With the COVID-19 emergency impacting employers’ operations and the way employees work, more and more employees may start taking to social media to vent their opinions about work and current events (sometimes intertwining the two). Employee social media expression can damage an organization’s brand and violate its social media and non-disparagement rules. Discipline for social media expression can run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which provides certain protections for employee speech, including social media speech, so that employees often believe that anything goes in this forum. Fortunately for employers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently clarified the types of employee social media activity employers may regulate, giving employers more latitude to discipline employees for social media conduct that violates employer rules and threatens the employer’s reputation.

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