By Julio R. Olaya, Jr.
Over the past year, the news from our group has come in the form of alerts addressing recent changes in the law, mostly due to the pandemic. These are designed to keep employers apprised of legal changes and armed with knowledge to address issues that might arise. COVID-19 came about suddenly, and legislation and executive orders quickly followed. Our legal and business landscapes changed as a result, as did how we operate day to day. From the beginning of the pandemic to today, our labor and employment group has grappled with novel challenges, immersed ourselves in the new laws and regulations, and brainstormed together solutions to the new challenges employers are facing, both COVID-related and non-COVID related.
We anticipate that with the new administration, we will continue to see new developments and legislative changes in the labor and employment space. We will continue to send out alerts on these newsworthy items, but we also plan to take the time each month to recap the most important issues employers are facing.
The following are the top five issues we think are most important for employers to know right now:
1) Governor Signs Executive Order Assisting Employers on Unemployment Rates
Governor Hutchinson issued executive order (EO 20-54) on December 29, 2020, granting relief to employers whose unemployment rates might have been adversely affect by the economic effects of COVID-19. In the order, the Governor provided that in determining an employer's unemployment contribution rate beginning January 1, 2021, the chargeable benefits from April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 would not be included. This Executive Order also provides assistance for reimbursing employers (many nonprofits) and relieves them from reimbursing any benefits paid between April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020.
2) EEOC Releases New Guidance for Employers Regarding COVID-19 Vaccine
This article highlighted the EEOC’s new guidance published on December 16, 2020 for employers with regards to the COVID-19 vaccine. It covered a wide range of topics from administration of the vaccine, proof of vaccination, pre-vaccination medical screening, among others.
3) New COVID Stimulus Bill Provides Business Relief
The stimulus package, which totals nearly $900 billion, provides aid for businesses and includes expansions and revisions of existing COVID relief programs. Employers should be aware of the new guidelines for paid leave, unemployment relief, the Paycheck Protection Program and other loan and relief programs that are available.
4) Minimum Wage Increases to $11 Per Hour
Although already a few weeks into the new year, we think this reminder about the minimum wage increase is still important. The article gave employers an outline for making sure they are compliant with the new change in the law.
5) CDC Issues New Guidelines Related to Quarantine
In early December, the CDC issued new guidelines on quarantine that could impact employers.
While the above articles are full of information that we thought valuable for employers, they only scratch the surface. Everyone’s situation is different, and no amount of news alerts will be able to answer every question an employer may have to a specific situation. We plan to follow up, when necessary, with a webinar to better explain the issue and to answer questions. Our next webinar, which will focus on the issues highlighted above, will be Wednesday, Feb. 3 at noon.
If you have any questions about these or other labor and employment matters, please contact one of our attorneys.
Julio R. Olaya Jr., an associate at the firm, focuses his practice on litigation matters related to medical malpractice and labor and employment. He works to defend healthcare providers in medical malpractice litigation. Julio also uses his experience as a student attorney for Boston University School of Law Immigrants’ Rights Program to provide guidance and representation in handling immigration and compliance issues.
Disclaimer: The information included here is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for legal advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Attorneys.