COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

November 19, 2021

Who else can’t believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving? 2021 has been a major improvement over 2020, but we still have a long way to go. 2022 will be even better. We would like to thank our clients, our broker partners, our co-workers and our families. We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

U.S. Federal Updates

National Paid Leave

The ride continues. The Build Back Better Act has passed the House and will head to the Senate. The Act includes a slimmed down version of Paid Leave that we reported in this newsletter. Of note:

  • Leave would apply to all employers as well as all employed and self-employed workers.
  • Duration of paid leave is 4 weeks (or 20 days) for the same reasons as allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Maximum weekly benefit would be around $800

We shall see what happens in the Senate; definitely more to come.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Just in time for Thanksgiving vacations, the EEOC has updated its COVID-19 FAQs, better known as: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws. You can quickly find the new questions & answers by searching for 11/17/21. The focus of the updated guidance is mostly “retaliation” (who’s protected from retaliation, examples of protected activities, and much more) with a little “interference” for good measure.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

We’re sure everyone is well aware of the enforcement suspensions for the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for private employers with at least 100 employees. While the assumption is that the legal battle over the vaccine-or-test mandate will reach the Supreme Court, the White House is urging businesses to move forward with implementing rules related to the mandate.

President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors with a covered contract to be vaccinated against COVID-19 remains in effect at this time, though legislation was introduced yesterday to block the order. However, the deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated has been extended to January 18, 2022. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has updated their FAQs as well as their Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors document.

U.S. State Updates

Connecticut

The Connecticut Paid Leave (CPL) program will begin accepting applications for benefits on December 1, 2021 (for claims with a start date of January 1, 2022 or later). Workers will need to create an account with CPL before they are able to submit an application through the online portal (or if they want to be able to access the status of their application that was submitted via phone, email, mail or fax). They can view this step-by-step instructional video for more information.

District of Columbia

An emergency measure, the COVID Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021, has been passed by the DC City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bowser. The law will remain in effect until February 16, 2022.

The District’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act is amended to require employers to provide the following:

  • Up to 2 hours of paid leave per COVID-19 dose, and
  • Up to 8 hours of paid leave (per injection) during the 24-hour period following the 2-hour vaccination leave period if the employee or their child experiences side effects from the vaccination.

Employers are not required to provide more than 48 hours of leave in total in a year as of the effective date of the law.

The District’s leave law, DCFMLA, has also been amended. As of November 5, 2021, employees may use (unpaid) leave under the DCFMLA if they are unable to work because they have:

  • Tested positive for COVID-19 or are caring for a family member or individual with whom the employee shares a household has tested positive for COVID-19 and must quarantine;
  • A recommendation from a health care provider or a directive from an employer that they isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 (includes situations where the employee shares a household with an individual at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19);
  • Must care for a family member or an individual with whom they share a household, who has to isolate or quarantine pursuant to Department of Health guidance, health care provider recommendation, or the order or policy of a school or childcare provider; or
  • Must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

Employers may require (reasonable) certification of the need for COVID-19 leave. This act does not extend the overall leave entitlement for DCFMLA (remains at 16 weeks in a 24-month period). In other words, an employee who experiences multiple events in a given 24-month period would be limited to a total of 16 weeks.

Massachusetts

The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has released the 2022 PFML mandatory workplace poster as well as the 2022 notices for your workforce. All Massachusetts employers are required to provide notice to both their W-2 and 1099-MISC workers. You can find and download the poster and notices here. As a reminder, with the new contribution rates, employers are required to give notice to their employees within 30 days. The notice may be provided electronically and employees must acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information. You should retain the notices. Don’t forget to complete the information in the notice prior to sending to your employees and/or contractors.

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