June 2021 Connecticut HR Legal Updates

Connecticut Expands Breastfeeding Accommodation Requirements

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Connecticut

What happened?
On June 4, 2021, Governor Lamont signed House Bill 5158 (HB 5158) into law.

What are the details?
The new bill, effective October 1, 2021, guarantees an employee’s right to breastfeed or express breast milk at the workplace during their meal or break periods. Additionally, the employer will need to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express breast milk in private.

The room or other location will need to meet the following requirements: 

  • It must be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while the employee expresses breast milk;
  • It must include or be situated near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store breast milk; and
  • It must have access to an electrical outlet.

The new requirements will apply to the extent that they do not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. Undue hardship is described as “any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to facts such as the size of the business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.”

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can also be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the above law, and update their workplace policies as needed to ensure compliance with the new law.

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Connecticut Pay Equity Act Passed

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Connecticut

What happened?
On June 7, 2021, Governor Lamont signed House Bill 6380 into law.

What are the details?
The bill will be active starting October 1, 2021, and requires employers to disclose the “wage range” for vacant positions to employees and prospective employees and modifies prohibition against pay discrimination based on sex.

The wage range is defined in the law as the range of wages an employer anticipates relying on when setting wages for a position, and may include reference to any applicable pay scale, previously determined range of wages for the position, the actual range of wages for those employees currently holding comparable positions or the employer’s budgeted amount for the position. The law does not require an employer to disclose the amount of wages paid to any employee.

In addition to any preexisting restrictions, the new law makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Fail or refuse to provide an applicant for employment the wage range for a position for which the applicant is applying, upon the earliest of the applicant’s request, or prior to or at the time the applicant is made an offer of compensation.
  • Fail or refuse to provide an employee the wage range for the employee’s position upon the hiring of the employee, or a change in the employee’s position with the employer, or the employee’s first request for a wage range.

Additionally, the new law modifies the prohibition against pay discrimination on the basis of sex by paying wages at a rate less than the rate at which the employer pays wages to employees of the opposite sex for comparable work on a job. Determining whether work is comparable requires a review of various factors including “a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.” The new law makes clear that geographic location, credentials, skills, education, and training may be bona fide factors other than sex upon which employers may make compensation decisions.

The bill can be read here.

Articles on the bill can also be read here and here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information above and start preparing to make any necessary changes to their pay practices.

 

June 2021 California HR Legal Updates

Reminder: CalSavers Compliance Deadline

 In 2016, California Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1234 requiring the state’s Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board to develop a workplace retirement savings program known as CalSavers for private-sector workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan.

As a result, any employer with five or more employees must provide a retirement plan for their workers or register for CalSavers and facilitate employees’ contributions to individual retirement accounts. Deadlines for compliance vary according to the size of the business. An “eligible employee” is defined as anyone 18 years or older, working in California, and receiving W-2 wages.

Size of Business Deadline

  • Over 100 employees: September 30, 2020
  • Over 50 employees: June 30, 2021
  • Five or more employees: June 30, 2022

Businesses who fail to comply with the CalSavers mandate could be subject to penalties of $250 per employee if the employer does not comply within 90 days of receiving a notice requiring registration and $500 per employee if the employer does not comply with 180 days of receiving the notice may be imposed.

For more information please visit the CalSavers website.

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Cal/OSHA Updates COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards

Update Applicable to:
All California employers.

What happened?
On June 17, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated the COVID-19 Temporary standards.

What are the details?
On June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA approved a revised version of its Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”). The revised ETS is more closely aligned with guidance issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) with regards to face coverings, it still includes many controversial provisions relating to documenting employee’s vaccination status, providing approved respirators upon request for voluntary use, testing, and exclusion pay, among others.

The Department of Industrial Relations provided the following summary of changes:

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be offered testing or excluded from work after close contact unless they have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear them. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors.
  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be offered testing by their employer.
  • Employer-provided housing and transportation are exempt from the regulations where all employees are fully vaccinated.
  • Employers must review the Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.

An executive order issued by Gavin Newsom removes the typical waiting period that a normal change in standards would go through and instead makes these changes effective immediately.

An article covering the ruling may be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the changes and make any needed changes to their workplace practices in order to stay in compliance with the ETS.

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Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Small Employers in Marin County, California

Update Applicable to:
All employers in California’s unincorporated areas with 25 or fewer employees.

What happened?
On June 8, 2021, Marin County, California’s Board of Supervisors enacted an urgency ordinance.

What are the details?
The urgency ordinance will require that employers with 25 or fewer employees within Marin County’s unincorporated areas must provide supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) to their employees for certain COVID-19 related reasons through September 30, 2021.

Employees who have worked for an employer for more than two hours in the County’s unincorporated boundaries are applicable. Full-time employees normally scheduled to work 40 or more hours per week are entitled to received 80 hours of SPSL where other employees will receive SPSL equal to their average worked hours in a two-week period over the prior six months.

The hours will be provided to employees in addition to any paid sick leave that may be available to the employee(s) under the California Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act and pre-existing paid time off (vacation, sick and/or PTO) that was provided before March 16, 2020. Employers cannot require employees to use other benefits they provide before they can use SPSL. If as of June 8, 2021, an employee has 80 hours of accrued paid sick leave benefits or 160 hours of a combination of paid sick leave, vacation, and paid time off benefits, then an employer’s obligation to provide SPSL has been satisfied. Employers are also able to offset their SPSL obligation by the amount of COVID-19 paid sick leave hours already furnished to an employee under the FFCRA or Cal/OSHA regulations, along with any future substantially similar state of federal COVID-19 paid sick leave registration.

Employers must pay employees using SPSL at their regular rate of pay, although the ordinance does not address how to calculate the rate, but employers do not need to pay more than $511 per day or the $5,110 overall for an employee using SPSL.

Covered employees can use SPSL for their own personal reasons or to care for or assist an “individual”. An individual is an employee’s immediate family member, a person who regularly resides in the employee’s home, and a person with whom the employee has a relationship that creates an expectation that the employee would care for the person if quarantined, or when their care provider closes or is unavailable due to a public health or official’s recommendation. It does not include a person with whom the employee has no personal relationship. Covered uses of the provided SPSL include the following:

  • The employee:
    • Has been advised by a health care provider to isolate or self-quarantine, or is caring for an individual so advised.
    • Is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19, or is caring for an individual subject to such an order.
    • Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, or is caring for an individual experiencing such symptoms.
    • Obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine or experiencing symptoms related to the vaccine that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework.
  • Employee is caring for an individual whose school, senior or childcare provider, is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
    • Employers of a healthcare provider or emergency responder can deny a leave request if they make a good-faith determination that granting leave would create a staffing shortfall such that operational needs dictate denial of some or all of the leave request.

Employers may require employees to follow a reasonable notice procedure for any foreseeable absences and can require employees to identify the basis for the leave but cannot require employees to furnish a doctor’s note or other supporting documentation.

Within three days of the County’s publishing the ordinance, employers must provide notice, in English and Spanish, to employees of their rights under the ordinance in a manner calculated to reach all employees, including posting a notice in the workplace, on any intranet or app-based platform and/or via email. The ordinance further requires that for at least three years, employers must keep a record of each employee’s name, hours worked, and pay rate.

The ordinance can be read here.

Articles on the ordinance can be read here and here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should read the above information, as well as the ordinance to ensure they are in compliance with their workplace policies.

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Sonoma County California EPSL Ordinance Extended

Update Applicable to:
Employers in Sonoma County, California

What happened?
On June 8, 2021, the Sonoma County, California Board of Supervisors enacted Urgency Ordinance to amend Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) Ordinance No.6336.

What are the details?
The amendment to the ordinance extends the expiration date from July 1, 2021 to September 1, 2021.

The amendment now requires employers to provide 80 hours of 2021 EPSL to any employees whose normal work schedule is 40 or more hours per week and for other employees to receive a proportionate amount based on weekly worked hours. The employees can use the EPSL from January 1, 2021 through to September 30, 2021. Employees are able to use their EPSL for COVID-19 vaccines or if they are ill after receiving the vaccine and cannot work or telework.

Employers are able to offset the amount of Sonoma Valley EPSL by the amount of similar paid leave they must provide under California’s 2021 Supplemental paid sick law, Cal/OHSA exclusion pay requirements, or that they voluntarily provide (and receive federal tax credits for) under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

If an employee has at least 80 hours of accrued paid sick leave benefits or 160 hours of a combination of paid sick leave, vacation, and paid time off, as of June 8, 2021, this satisfies the employer’s 2021 Sonoma County EPSL obligations. If any employee has less than 80/160 hours by this date, the employer must provide EPSL in the amount of the deficit but may credit the COVID-19 paid sick leave hours provided under the California 2021 supplemental paid sick law, CAL/OSHA exclusion pay requirements or the voluntarily provided paid leave under FFCRA outlined in ARPA.

Employers that are already subject to California’s 2021 supplemental paid sick leave law, with 26 or more employees, the Sonoma County changes should have no impact. For employers with 25 or fewer employees that elected not to voluntarily provide leave per the conditions outlined for FFCRA under ARPA, however, and whose benefits package might not wholly or partially meet the generous policy exception, now would be an appropriate time to consider whether to revisit that decision.

The act can be read here.

An article on the act can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information provided, as well as the ordinance, to ensure compliance with their workplace policies.

 

 

June 2021 Virginia HR Legal Updates

Virginia Employee Medical Cannabis Oil Use Protections Law Passed

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Virginia

What happened?
On March 25, 2021, House Bill No. 1862 was passed.

What are the details?
The bill has been passed as of March 25, 2021, and will be effective as of July 1, 2021. This will prohibit an employer from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s lawful use of cannabis oil. Employers will need to confirm if a positive marijuana test result is associated with medical cannabis oil use as the law includes cannabis oil that contains THC.

The law will not restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit possession during work hours or take any adverse employment action for work impairment caused by use of the oil. It will also not require an employer to commit any act that would cause the employer to be in violation of federal or result in the loss of federal funding or a contract.

The bill can be read here.

An article written on the act is found here and here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information provided above and update their workplace policies to ensure compliance with the new law.

June 2021 Texas HR Legal Updates

Texas Passes COVID-19 Liability Shield Legislation

 Update Applicable to:
All employers in Texas.

What happened?
On June 14, 2021, Texas Governor Abbott signed the Pandemic Liability Protection Act into law.

What are the details?
Like the other COVID-19 related liability shield laws being passed, it creates a higher burden of proof from plaintiffs in cases alleging the contraction of COVID-19 in the workplace. Some of these higher burdens include:

The act can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should continue to conform to local safety requirements to ensure they are protected by this liability shield.

 

June 2021 Rhode Island HR Legal Updates

Rhode Island Minimum Wage to Increase to $15 by 2025

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Rhode Island

What happened?
On May 20, 2021, Governor McKee signed amended bill 2021-H 5130A

What are the details?
The bill will increase the minimum wage year over year, starting January 1, 2022, with January 1, 2025, resulting in a $15 per hour minimum. The increases to the minimum wage are as follows:

  • January 1, 2022 – $12.25 per hour minimum wage.
  • January 1, 2023 – $13 per hour minimum wage.
  • January 1, 2024 – $14 per hour minimum wage.
  • January 1, 2025 – $15 per hour minimum wage.

The amended bill can be read here.

Articles on the bill can be found here and here.

What do employers need to do?
Employer should review the above information and begin planning on any needed changes to their current pay practices.

 

June 2021 Oregon HR Legal Updates

Oregon Updates Family Leave Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers

What happened?
On June 8, 2021, Governor Brown signed House Bill 2474 into law.

What are the details?
HB 2474 amends the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) to update and expand the law’s eligibility and leave provisions which will take effect on January 1, 2022. The amendments give eligibility to take leave to employees reemployed after a separation or returning after a temporary work cessation within 180 days, expand eligibility and leave entitlements during public health emergencies, and remove gendered language.

Employees who are reemployed after a separation from employment or returning from work after a temporary cessation of scheduled work hours, within 180 days, are now eligible for leave in the following circumstances.

  • Employees reemployed or returning within 180 days who were eligible for OFLA leave at the time of separation from employment or the beginning of their temporary cessation of work will be eligible to take OFLA leave immediately upon reemployment or return.
  • Employees reemployed or returning within 180 days who were not yet eligible for OFLA leave at the time of separation from employment or the beginning of their temporary cessation of work will receive credit for time worked for the employer prior to the break in service for the purpose of establishing eligibility.

Employees returning after a period greater than 180 days must still reestablish eligibility for OFLA anew and will not receive credit for a prior service. While OFLA leave taken by employees who have been reemployed or have returned to work within a one-year period will continue to count toward the employee’s OFLA leave entitlement.

The eligibility of OFLA leave use has been expanded for any qualifying reason during a period of public health emergency to all employees of a covered employer if the employer has employed them for at least 30 days immediately before the leave begins and they worked an average of at least 25 hours per week during the 30 days immediately preceding the leave.

The bill also expands the list of qualifying OFLA reasons to include leave to care for a child of the employee “who requires home care due to the closure of the child’s school or child care provider as a result of a public health emergency.” As well as removing gendered language related to pregnancy and childbirth-related leave which allows any eligible employee may take OFLA leave for an illness, injury, or condition related to the employee’s own pregnancy or childbirth, without regard to gender.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should read the above information and update their leave policies as needed.

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Oregon Passes CROWN Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Oregon.

What happened?
On June 11, 2021, Oregon Governor Brown signed into law House Bill 2935, also known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair),

What are the details?
The act amends the Oregon Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, by including a new definition of “race” that “includes physical characteristics that are historically associated with race, including but not limited to natural hair, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” It further defines “protective hairstyles” to include any “hairstyle, hair color or manner of wearing hair that includes, but is not limited to, braids, regardless of whether the braids are created with extensions or styled with adornments, locks and twists.” Additionally, the act includes provisions regarding employer dress codes. A dress code will now be prohibited if they have a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class.

The bill can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should update their policies to reflect the new requirements.

 

June 2021 Nevada HR Legal Updates

Nevada Paid Vaccination Leave Amended

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Nevada with 50+ employees

What happened?
On June 9, 2021, Governor Sisolak signed Senate Bill 209 into law.

What are the details?
The bill is in effect immediately and will remain active through December 31, 2023. The bill states that employers with fifty or more employees must provide all employees of up to four hours of paid leave to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Employers who provide a clinic on-premises for employees to obtain the vaccine, as well as employers in their first two years of operation, are exempt from the requirements.

Employees must provide notice of their intent to use the leave at least twelve hours before using the leave. Employees will receive two hours for a single dose vaccine and those that have two-dose vaccines will receive two hours of vaccination leave per injection.

The bill does not exempt any seasonal, on-call, or temporary employees from the coverage of the leave. It also does not exempt any employers that already provide minimum paid leave that is required by the statute.

In addition to creating the COVID-19 vaccination leave, the bill also amends the existing mandatory paid leave law by adding that, after 90 days of employment, leave is available to employees without a reason or requiring the employee to find a replacement. The leave is available for the following uses:

  • Treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition.
  • Receiving a medical diagnosis or medical care.
  • Receiving or participating in preventative care.
  • Participating in caregiving.
  • Addressing other personal needs related to the health of the employee.

The Office of the Nevada Labor Commissioner will prepare a bulletin concerning the law’s respective provisions, which must be posted by the employer in a conspicuous location in each workplace.  The bulletin is located here.

The bill can be read here.

Articles on the bill can also be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information above and update their paid leave policies to reflect the new requirement.

June 2021 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Missouri Passes Lowered Vaccine Passport Requirements

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Missouri.

What happened?
On June 15, 2021, Governor Parson passed House Bill 271 (HB271) into law.

What are the details?
HB 271 states that no county, city, town, or village in Missouri that is receiving public funds may require vaccine documentation in order for a citizen to access transport systems, services, or other public accommodations.

The bill does not apply to private businesses or employers, and employers are still able to mandate vaccinations in workplaces that are consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers may review the information above and the law to be aware of the regulation changes in their area.

June 2021 Maryland HR Legal Updates

Maryland Emergency Leave Mandate

Update Applicable to:
Employers with essential workers in Maryland

What happened?
On May 28, 2021, Governor Hogan passed the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (HB 581).

What are the details?
The act has gone into effect starting on June 1, 2021, until the state of emergency expires and will provide paid public health emergency leave (“PHEL”) to essential workers during a catastrophic health emergency. The employer will also need to provide applicable working conditions that comply with a Federal or State agency during an “emergency”. The Act is in effect, but employers are not required to provide the leave until the date on which federal or state funding has been made available to them for this purpose.

Essential employers will be defined by the Governor, or Federal/State Agency as critical to remaining in operation during the emergency and employs essential workers. Essential workers are defined as any individual who performs a duty or work responsibility during an emergency that cannot be performed remotely or is required to be at the worksite and provides services that the Essential Employer determines to be essential or critical to its operations.

The PHEL mandate allows workers to take paid leave for specific COVID-19 related reasons and will be in addition to other paid leave benefits required under Maryland law. Full-time essential workers that work at least 40 hours per week will receive 112 hours of PHEL. While part-time essential workers receive PHEL based on the average of their worked hours in a six-month period that ends on the date the public health emergency was declared. Alternatively, if there were no hours worked in that period the PHEL will need to be calculated based on the greater of either the reasonable expectation at the time of hiring or the average number of hours per week that the Essential Worker is normally scheduled to work.

The act permits essential employers to adopt and enforce policies prohibiting improper use of PHEL and payout of unused PHEL is not required when an employee leaves employment. Essential employers may require a worker who uses PHEL to provide documentation of their need for the leave. If the employee fails or refuses to provide the documentation, the employer may refuse to pay the employee for the PHEL taken.

The PHEL is not currently required to be provided as there is no funding provided to the Act at this time. With past similar legislation, the state eventually passed amendments to remove budget considerations from the effectiveness of the law. With this in mind, employers may find that the law will go into effect before a budget is assigned to it. Once funding is made available to Essential Employers, they will need to provide the PHEL to their essential workers for reasons specific to the worker or a covered family member. The following reasons are applicable due to the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency:

  • Will be isolating, without an order to do so, as the worker is diagnosed with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency or experiencing symptoms of it and is waiting for test results to confirm.
  • Is seeking or obtaining medical diagnosis, preventative care, or treatment because the employee has been diagnosed.
  • To care for a family member who is isolating, without an order to do so, because of a diagnosis of the disease.
  • If a public health official or health care professional determines the Essential Worker or their family member’s presence at their place of employment or in the community jeopardizes the health of others because of their exposure to, or exhibited symptoms associated with, the disease, regardless of whether the Essential Worker or family member has been diagnosed with the communicable disease.
  • To care for a family member when the care provider of the family member is unavailable due to the emergency, or if the family member’s school or place of care has been closed by a federal, state, or local public official or at the discretion of the school or place of care due to the emergency, including if the school or place of care is physically closed but providing instruction remotely.

The act can be read here.

An Article on the act can also be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information provided, as well as the law, and start setting up the policies that will be required, once this bill is in effect.

June 2021 Illinois HR Legal Updates

Cook County Suspends Minimum Wage Hike

Update Applicable to:
Employers operating in the unincorporated areas of Cook County.

What happened?
Officials in Cook County have postponed the originally planned minimum wage increase that would have gone into effect July 1, 2021.

What are the details?
In response to the high unemployment level inside Cook County, officials have suspended this year’s minimum wage increase, per the Minimum Wage Ordinance. For the minimum wage increase to be suspended the unemployment rate needs to be higher than 8.5%, which was met in the previous year.

The official announcement may be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers will not need to take any action in response to this update.