Mental Health Month, COVID-19, and State/Federal Updates

May 16, 2022

We have even more to cover this time around so make sure you have your favorite beverage and get ready.

May is Mental Health Month. Mental health is a subject that is near and dear to our hearts at The Larkin Company. We see day in and day out the impact mental health has on our client partners and their employees. We see the impact within our Larkin family and in our own lives and communities. It’s safe to say that mental health has affected each and every one of us in one way or another. In fact, per the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), nearly 1 in 5 Americans may experience some form of mental illness each year.

The good news is that the stigma associated with mental health in the past is fading away. High profile athletes and entertainers have brought their struggles to the surface. The drive is now there to support those who are suffering – to get them the help they need. This newsletter includes many resources that you may find useful in supporting your employees and the ones you love.

COVID-19 is unfortunately still with us – case counts are rising and the government is planning on a major surge this fall/winter. 16 major health groups are pushing the Biden Administration to renew the public health emergency (PHE) which is due to expire in mid-July. President Biden and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) previously declared that they would provide 60 days’ notice before lifting the PHE. We’ll keep you updated.

U.S. Federal Updates

Department of Labor (DOL) – Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

ODEP has a webpage devoted to mental health which has many great resources. Of note, Accommodation Ideas for Mental Health ConditionsResources for Fostering a Mentally Healthy Workplace, and Leading a Mentally Healthy Workplace. You can also register for a webinar on May 18, 2022 at 2:00pm EST regarding the importance of an individualized approach to mental health and wellbeing. You can register here.

ODEP recently updated its online resource page related to COVID-19 and Long COVID. You can find many resources including articles on providing COVID-19-related accommodations, tips for remote work accessibility for all, videos and more.

Department of Labor (DOL) – Civil Rights Division & the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

If you happen to use artificial intelligence (AI) in your hiring process, you may want to read the DOJ’s guidance document entitled Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Disability Discrimination in Hiring. The guidance discusses how the use of AI in hiring may result in unlawful discrimination against people with disabilities under the Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can also delve into more detail in the EEOC’s technical assistant document found here.

Department of Labor (DOL) – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA has mental health resources available here for your employees specifically geared towards suicide prevention. Resources include a postersuicide prevention lifelinecrisis textline, and online chatSuicidepreventionlifeline.org has specific resources available to help people cope. Resources include Black mental health, maternal mental health, LGBTQ+, loss survivors, and veterans. There are also ample resources regarding emotional wellbeing during COVID-19.

U.S. State Updates

Alabama

The Yellowhammer State has passed SB 31 (Adoption Promotion Act) which will require employers to provide employees with 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for the birth and care of a child born to the employee (during the first year after the child’s birth), or for the care of a child placed with the employee in connection with adoption (within one year of the placement of the child with the employee).

An eligible employee is one who has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period. Leave will run concurrently with any other leave provided under federal law (e.g., FMLA).

Leave may be taken due to the adoption of an ill or disabled child and must be considered on the same basis as comparable cases of complications accompanying the birth of a child of an employee.

If an employer provides paid leave to an employee for the birth and care of a child born to the employee, they must provide the lesser of either equivalent paid leave or two-weeks paid leave to an employee for the care of a child placed with the employee for adoption.

If both parents work for the same employer, the employer is only required to provide paid leave benefits to one parent for the care of a child placed for adoption with both employees.

Leave may be taken intermittently only if the employee and the employer agree. Employees must provide 30 days’ notice for foreseeable leave or as soon as practicable for situations where placement requires leave to begin in less than 30 days.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2022.

California

Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)

The DIR has released updated resources for the readopted COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that took effect May 6, 2022 and will remain in effect through December 31, 2022. We discussed the ETS readoption in our previous newsletter.

The following resources have been updated: FAQsFact Sheet for Employers and WorkersFact Sheet for Employers, and the COVID-19 Model Written Prevention Program.

Employment Development Department (EDD)

The EDD will likely be sending a reminder email to those with a Voluntary Plan (VP) in place of State Disability Insurance (SDI). One of the requirements for having a VP is to submit VP

Administrative Contact Forms on an annual basis to the EDD. We will prepare the DE 2520BV-A and DE 2520BV-C (we will complete the DE 2520BV-B with our contact information) and will send them to you for review and signature. Look for these to be emailed over in the coming weeks (the submission deadline is June 15, 2022). We will then submit all three documents to the EDD on your behalf.

The EDD’s 2023 Disability Insurance Fund forecast should be released over the coming weeks. We will keep a lookout and will send an update once that information is available.

The EDD also has updated its Disability Insurance Provisions brochure (DE 2515) that should be provided to new hires, as well as the Notice to Employees (DE 1858) which must be posted in the workplace by employers who are covered by State Disability Insurance (SDI). Note: If, in addition to being covered under SDI, your company is also covered under CA Unemployment Insurance (UI), then employers should use DE 1857A instead. The DE 1857A form has not been updated.

Colorado

The Division of Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) has provided some great information in its most recent newsletter. You can access their March webinar which discusses the interaction of FAMLI with other types of leave. Rulemaking is underway and you can find adopted and proposed rules here. Their level of outreach with employers is exceptional – you can request a FAMLI presentation for your organization via this form. Last but not least, if you really want to get involved, you can follow FAMLI on Facebook: ColoradoFAMLI and Twitter: @ColoradoFAMLI. If you haven’t signed up for their newsletter, you can do so here.

Connecticut

A quick reminder that the maximum weekly benefit under the Connecticut Paid Leave program is increasing to $840 starting July 1, 2022.

Delaware

The First State has indeed become the next state to pass a Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Law. Governor Carney signed SB 1 (aka the Healthy Delaware Families Act) earlier this week. Details of the law were in our previous newsletter. We’ll add this one to the growing list of new PFML programs that will be coming online in the next several years. We will of course keep you posted as pertinent information becomes available.

District of Columbia

Last fall the District made temporary changes to their Paid Family Leave (PFL) program as a result of COVID-19. Starting on October 1, 2021, the one-week waiting period for PFL benefits was suspended – meaning that benefits begin as of day one of an approved claim. This specific change is to remain in effect until one year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Given that the D.C. PHE expired as of April 16, 2022, the one-week waiting period will be reinstated as of April 16, 2023.

New York

While it seems to already be the norm as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work, and the “new normal,” the New York state legislature has passed a law that would require employers to make required workplace documents available electronically to employees through the employer’s website or by email. Notice will also need to be provided to employees that the documents are available electronically. The law applies to all documents (state and federal) that are required to be posted at their worksite. The bill has yet to be delivered to Governor Hochul who is expected to sign it into law. Once signed, the bill will go into effect immediately.

Oregon

If you are interested in participating in the rulemaking process for the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program in the Beaver State, now’s your chance. Public hearings begin this week to discuss this batch of rules. If you can’t make the virtual hearings, you can submit written feedback via email to OED_RULES@employ.oregon.gov. The deadline to submit feedback is 5pm PST on Tuesday, May 30, 2022. Here is the information for the upcoming webinars:

  • Thursday, May 19, 2022, from 9-11 a.m. – registerhere,
  • Saturday, May 21, 2022, from 10 a.m.-noon – registerhere, and
  • Tuesday, May 24, 2022, from 4-6 p.m. – registerhere

Washington

The Evergreen State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program recently adopted new rules that will go into effect on June 9, 2022. The first rule relates to the waiting period for PFML benefits. The waiting period will not reduce the maximum duration of an employee’s available paid family or medical leave. In other words, the waiting week will no longer count towards their leave balance. Further, a waiting period will not apply to a medical leave taken upon the birth of a child. It has also been clarified that weekly benefit proration and the calculation of typical work week hours will not apply to a week that is claimed to satisfy an employee’s waiting period.

Canada Provincial Update

Prince Edward Island

Since the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit have expired, the province’s COVID-19 Special Leave fund has made some changes. The fund has changed to provide up to 5 days per week, on two separate occasions, to a maximum of 10 days of wage support, to coincide with current isolation requirements in the province. Vaccinated Islanders with COVID-19 must isolate for 7 days while unvaccinated Islanders must isolate for 10 days. The fund is set to expire on September 30, 2022. You can learn more about the fund here.

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