As the Russian war on Ukraine continues, a growing chorus in the United States press for more ways to help the people of Ukraine.  Many companies have already responded by limiting or curtaining operations in Russia.  (A future blog will focus on the too many United States and international businesses that continue to support the brutal aggression either in the name of “profit” or the complacency which comes from being thousands of miles from the conflict.)

As the war continues, human resources and corporate leaders will be called on to do more to support their employees and families.  A recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offered recommendations for companies to support workers impacted by the crisis.  See  The Ukraine War Is Causing Some Workers Severe Anxiety; Employers Can Help.  Among other recommendations:

  • Consider providing a channel for employees to contribute to reputable humanitarian assistance programs;
  • Communicate with employees that it is okay to talk about their own anxiety and fears;
  • Consider encouraging employees to limit their “doom scrolling;”
  • Consider turning off television sets or tuning them to a non-news channel;
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of employee assistance benefits; and
  • Remind supervisors to be on the lookout for signs of anxiety, stress and other disruptive workplace behaviors associated with substance abuse and other issues.

Continue Reading Helping Ukraine

Vladmir Putin’s swift, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine instantly challenged the Western World and threatens to unravel the Post-World War Two order.  Seeing a world already exhausted and eager to “get on” from the two-year old Coronavirus Pandemic, perhaps Putin believed the United States and the West would quickly condemn the aggression and then return to “business as usual.” (Watch conspiracy theorists claim that the Coronavirus was developed in a Russian lab and intentionally released to battle the West.)

President Biden has risen to the challenge and constructed the largest coordinated response to aggression since George H.W. Bush built a “coalition of the willing” following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991.  In these first  days, we seem more unified and in common cause than we have been in a long time.

But it is early in this conflict.  This is day eleven.  Recall that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan lasted ten years, 1979 to 1989 – 3,650 days give or take.

Only 3,639 days left to go.

Continue Reading What it Means to Stand with Ukraine

In the hustle and bustle of year-end filings, the holidays and the rush and tumble of life, some may have overlooked a few of the more significant legal developments in 2021.  To help you stay “on track” for a successful 2022, this “Year-in-Review 2021” may help.  Of course, this post does not constitute legal advice, and no action should be taken based on it without first speaking to qualified legal counsel of your choice. 

COVID-19 Mandates

In March 2020, few predicted we would still be dealing with COVID-19 restrictions two-years later.  Yet here we are!  Conflicting mandates and restrictions have caused a good deal of confusion and frustration.  Here is a “score-card” of the status of things (which will likely change before you finish reading it!)

All employers that receive funds through Medicare or Medicaid must ensure all workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have applied for and have either received or are being considered for accommodations based on a sincerely held religious belief or a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The United States Supreme Court upheld this executive order in January 2022.

So-called large employers (those with 100 or more employees) are not required to mandate their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.  President Biden’s Executive Order imposing that mandate was overturned by the United States Supreme Court, which indicated a more “targeted” industry specific requirement may pass scrutiny.  Expect more developments in this area during 2022.

Certain Connecticut-based employers subject to Governor Lamont’s executive orders (primarily, but not exclusively, K-12 schools, certain municipal employers and health care employers) must require employees hired after September 27, 2021, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless the employee requests and receives or is being consider for an accommodation based on a sincerely held religious belief or a covered medical condition.  (Employees hired prior to September 27, 2021 may elect not to be vaccinated for any reason.)  Any non-vaccinated employee must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.  Employers must keep detailed records on employee vaccination status.  Continue Reading The Year-in-the-Rear-View (2021)

 

Connecticut’s Family and Medical Leave Act radically changes on January 1, 2022.  Before to 2022, Connecticut law provided for up to 16 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for covered life events.  Eligible employees were those who worked for a “covered employer” for more than one year and worked more than 1,000 hours in the previous 12-months.  “Covered employers,” generally, where those employers that employed 75 or more employees.  If those conditions were met, and the employee experienced a covered life event, then the employee could take up to 16 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave.

Effective January 1, 2022, however, Connecticut’s Paid and Family Medical Leave Act takes full effect – meaning that virtually all employees working in Connecticut (regardless of the size of the employer) will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid  job-protected leave.  Employees may either use their paid leave entitlement from their employer (being allowed to retain up to two weeks of paid leave for later use) or can take advantage of paid leave through a fund established from employee contributions (which began in 2021).

On December 1, I was privileged to present a one-hour webinar for the Pro Bono Partnership focusing on the intricacies of the Connecticut Paid and Family Medical Leave Act.  You may view the presentation and the materials here.

The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority began accepting applications for paid leave on December 1 and expects between 1,000 and 1,500 applications each day.

To the extent you have questions about the Connecticut Paid and Family Medical Leave Act, you should confer with legal counsel of your choice or reach out to the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority or the Connecticut Department of Labor.

The term “Churchillian” describes a writer or speaker whose style emulates that of Former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.  Politicians are called Churchillian when they appear to be uncompromising, focused, and strong.  Not often does one come across a Churchillian figure.  Rarer still when one comes upon a Churchillian response to a crisis.

In my May 7, 2021 Blog Post (“The Pandemic’s End Ends Not the Pain”), I outlined my thoughts about the next COVID-19 challenge – dealing with the economic consequences of four (4) million years of “lost life” and the ongoing economic impact to COVID-19 Long Haulers (those suffering Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome or “PACS”).  I candidly expressed my concern that these twin impacts disproportionately hit underserved and disadvantaged communities, and these impacts could last a generation or more.  And I boldly suggested that it did not have to be this way – That examples from our past could give a roadmap to lessen these twin injuries and help us move forward.

Continue Reading Time for Churchillian Action

Continues the great “Broccoli Fight of 2021.”

(I acknowledge the hyperbole.  Vegetables do that to me.)

Like George H. W. Bush, I do not like broccoli.  At least one Texas federal judge seems to love it and thinks all Texas employers can make their employees eat it or lose their jobs.

The Backstory:  I published two blog posts addressing whether employers can force employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations.  You can read them here (“Eat Your Broccoli, or Else!”)(April 16, 2021) and here (“Broccoli Must be Good for You:  The Government Says So”)(June 4, 2021).  I raised the question of whether the “boss” can require workers to submit to medical procedures (in this case, COVID-19 vaccinations) to keep their jobs.  I freely acknowledged that I received the vaccine as soon as I could, but I recognized that others might make different choices.  I also acknowledged that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had published materials to the effect that it believed federal EEO laws permitted an employer to require vaccinations (subject to certain Continue Reading A Court Votes for . . . Broccoli?

EEOC published more guidance saying employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.  The “fine print” behind the attention-grabbing headlines finds serious questions unanswered.

Continues exploring mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for workers.

The EEOC updated its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the cusp of the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, the unofficial “kick-off” to summer.  The Biden Administration and State Governments make no secret of their desire to get all Americans vaccinated so we can get back to “normal” (whatever that means).

Taking the broad view, contrasting approaches to vaccination incentives resemble a high school science experiment:  officials are trying different approaches to see what works best.  Krispy Kreme offers free donuts; Ohio offers a million-dollar lottery; Indiana offers free Girl Scout Cookies at selected sites; Miami offers a “shot” for a “shot” (free liquor to those 21 or older).

Some believe (that would be me) the CDC announced its sudden “no mask needed if vaccinated” guidance on May 13 to spur folks to get vaccinated. Continue Reading Broccoli Must be Good for You:  The Government Says So

Examines

The Next Challenge:  COVID-19’s Recovery

We rightly celebrate the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and the lifting of “stay-at-home” orders.  No one yet says the Pandemic is over.  Many see that the end is in sight, that there is “light” at the “end of the tunnel.”

If we are not careful, not thoughtful about the challenges on our joint recovery road, the light might be a train.

We will take a while to process the scale of COVID-19’s toll.  That toll does not measure easily.  More than 580,000 American lives lost.  Over 33 million Americans ill.  These numbers only begin the tally.  By one estimate, in 2020 alone, U.S. women and men lost over 4 million “years of life” – a measure used by insurance companies and actuaries to gauge the number of years shaved off “normal” life by disease and death.  Focus on that for a minute.  COVID-19 cut short four million years of productive life – Life people would have “used” earning livings, learning, enjoying other’s company, and engaging in those things which make life worth living.

The loss of four million years of useful life does not fit in my brain.  Can we put another number on it?  The median American makes $38,000 per year.  Do the math.  Four million times $38,000 equals what?  My calculator reads:  1.52e11?  That is One-Hundred, Fifty-Two billion dollars — $152,000,000,000.

Every dollar lost means less spent on college, retirement, entertainment, food, clothing, shelter, movies, music and so Continue Reading The Pandemic’s End Ends Not the Pain.

Explores mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines for Workers.

 

Vaccinations dominate the news.  Simultaneously offering hope and fear, “vaccine-talk” and discussions about “mandates,” “passports,” “segregation,” “dissent,” and “peer pressure” intertwine to create confusion and dread.  Mandating the use of any product should not be done lightly.  Remember Obamacare?  Forcing workers to use a product to keep their jobs strikes some as unfair.  Should the boss force workers to eat broccoli if that is good for them?  What if the boss can “prove” eating broccoli makes better workers, reduces sick leave and improves performance?  No one forced Popeye to eat his spinach.  Can “the job” force workers to stop smoking or drinking alcohol? Continue Reading Eat Your Broccoli, or Else!