On March 16th, 2021, CGCC co-hosted a Legal and Policy event entitled, “COVID-19 in the US: Employment Law Changes and Challenges During the Pandemic” with CGCC law firm member Littler, the largest employment law firm in the United States.
The event invited Littler attorneys Philip Berkowitz, Devjani Mishra, and Melissa Peters to share their expertise and present recent changes in employment and labor law under COVID-19.
Key takeaways from the event include:
- Workforce reductions – Unfortunately, workforce reductions have been occurring with more frequency during the pandemic, but they can be done lawfully and in a way that is fair to employees, while protecting the employer’s interests.
- Challenges with returning-to-work – Many employees will need to return
to the office—and in fact, many employees want to return after spending more
than a year at home.
- As vaccinations become more available, employers may want their employees to be vaccinated as a condition of returning. Employers need to carefully consider whether to implement mandatory vaccination policies. While generally lawful, mandatory vaccination policies may increase the risk of claims of unlawful discrimination based on disability, age, gender, pregnancy, and religion.
- Records – Vaccination records must be kept confidential. In some cases, employers may need to pay employees for the time it takes them to get the vaccination.
- Accommodations – Employers may need to make accommodations for employees who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination due to a disability/medical reason or sincerely held religious belief. The laws of several states require that employers keep records reflecting the decision to grant or deny an accommodation to an employee.
- When employees return to work, the employer must maintain a safe working environment.
- Leaves of Absence
- Employers should anticipate that returning employees may request leaves of absence. Some of these leaves of absence may be required by law, including new laws passed in the wake of the pandemic. Employers need to understand when it is necessary to permit an employee to take a legally mandated leave.
- EEOC COVID Guidance: https://www.eeoc.gov/coronavirus
- Managers must be alert to demeaning remarks directed to employees who are or are perceived to be of Chinese or other Asian national origin, including about the coronavirus or its origins.
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CGCC members who have questions about these issues should feel free to reach out to CGCC Legal Counsel Committee Member Philip Berkowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 212.497.8481.