COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

March 11, 2022

Today marks year two since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic…

Federal Update

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The EEOC has released updated guidance for employers on how to handle religious objections to COVID-19 vaccinations and requests for accommodations. They have also released their own internal accommodation request form.

State/District Updates

California

Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)

If you are looking for guidance regarding the 2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) that was signed into law on February 9, 2022 (and retroactive to January 1, 2022), look no further. You can find the updated SPSL FAQs here.

San Francisco – Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE)

The OLSE has released (temporary) updated guidance regarding the use of San Francisco paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons during the current local health emergency. Here are the details:

  • Rule 2.3 states that policies or practices that require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave of three or fewer consecutive work days shall be deemed unreasonable. Rule 2.3 is temporarily amended in that policies or practices that require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave of five or fewer consecutive days shall be deemed unreasonable.
  • Policies or procedures that require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave of more than five consecutive days (whether full or partial days) shall be deemed presumptively reasonable. However, if an employee is using paid sick leave for a COVID-19-related reason and is not under a doctor’s care, the employer shall accept the employee’s attestation of the need for paid sick leave pursuant to current CDC guidelines and OLSE Rule 2.4 (related to situations of a pattern or clear instance of abuse of paid sick leave).

This temporary amendment is effective for the duration of the local health emergency unless it’s revoked sooner by the OLSE.

Employers must allow employees to use accrued paid sick leave for the following reasons (during the current local health emergency):

  • To take time off work because public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend an employee isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of disease;
  • To take time off work for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment or vaccination side effects;
  • To take time off work because the employee’s business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation; or,
  • To take time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, child care provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

District of Columbia

As we’ve seen with other statutory benefit programs (e.g. New York PFL), the idea is to start small and build up the programs in time. Well, for the District’s Paid Family Leave (DC PFL) program (also known as Universal Paid Leave) things have progressed quickly. Apparently, utilization has not met the forecasts, so the program will be increasing significantly the duration of leave available to employees starting July 1, 2022 (this assumes that the Department of Employment Services is able to implement the changes in time).

For qualifying parental, medical and family leave, the maximum number of workweeks an employee can take under DC PFL will increase to 12 workweeks within a 12-month period.

Currently, DC PFL provides up to 8 workweeks for parental leave and 6 workweeks for medical and family leave. The maximum number of workweeks an employee can take for pre-natal leave remains 2 workweeks. If an employee has multiple events in a given 12-month period, they will be capped at 12 weeks of DC PFL.

Now for some good news for employers! As you know, DC PFL is funded by employer contributions. Every March 1, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) is required to provide a projection of annual revenues and expenditures for the Universal Paid Leave Fund (DC PFL). Not only is there sufficient funding for the DC PFL benefit expansion mentioned above, there is enough to lower the contribution rate from 0.62% to 0.26% (as of July 1, 2022).

Massachusetts

The COVID-19 Massachusetts Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program, effective May 28, 2021, will end on March 15, 2022. Employers must continue to offer leave for eligible employees through March 15. Employers may also continue to seek reimbursement for qualifying leave costs taken between May 28, 2021 and March 15, 2022. Applications for reimbursement must be submitted by April 29, 2022. The application is available through the Department of Revenue’s MassTaxConnect website and detailed instructions may be found here.

You may also like…