July 29, 2022

COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

U.S. Federal Updates

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Earlier this week, the ADA achieved its 32nd anniversary. The landmark civil rights law, signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, requires equal opportunity for people with disabilities and an enduring commitment to diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

You can read the Justice Department’s press release here or this blog post from the Department of Labor – both speak of what’s been accomplished as well as current challenges (e.g. COVID-19, Artificial Intelligence, and Opioid Use Disorder). There are many more announcements and acknowledgments out there including this one from President Biden.

We would like to share a more personal message that our very own ADA Manager, Diane Carlin, posted to our internal team:

“As the ADA Manager I asked myself, what does this anniversary mean to me? Well, one of our company values is, ‘Every employee of our clients is a VALUED INDIVIDUAL who deserves our unqualified support and help.’ To me, the actions taken internally to focus on Inclusion & Diversity for our employees align perfectly with this value. Moreover, we administer the interactive discussion process through our ADA service for nearly 50 clients with more being added all the time. The ADA program is the reason why I joined Larkin six years ago, and the commitment Larkin frequently demonstrates to our own employees to enhance the work experience plus to our clients’ employees so that every voice is heard shows unequivocally how important we as an organization feel about Inclusion & Diversity. Yes, it’s the work we do but for the same standard to carry significant meaning between our own employees and client employees to me, is tremendous.”

You can see how passionate Diane is about the ADA and its vital importance to The Larkin Company and our client partners.

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

ODEP has released a new resource to assist employers with supporting their employees with Long COVID. Supporting Employees with Long COVID: A Guide for Employers addresses the basics about Long COVID as well as its impact on mental health and the workplace in general. There are many great resources within the document including some helpful questions & answers.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Does everyone remember the EEOC’s workplace guidance document “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws”? It has become quite extensive and has a lot of great information including some recent updates from July 12, 2022. This time around, the various updates focus on applicant screening for COVID-19, return to work issues, incentives for vaccination, required testing, and much more. To quickly find the updates, control-F and enter 7/12/22.

U.S. State (and D.C.) Updates

Colorado

Department of Labor and Employment (DLE)

Last month, the DLE released an updated Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinion (“INFO”) #6B. INFO #6B focuses on employer and employee rights and obligations under the Healthy Family and Workplaces Act (HFWA). The latest rendition clarifies the amount of sick pay that employees accrue when they carry over unused sick year over year. Clarification is also provided as to the amount of Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) that employees are entitled to receive in Colorado. To learn more, you can find the INFO here.

District of Columbia

Universal Paid Leave Act

A quick reminder that there is no longer a waiting period for the District’s Paid Family Leave program. This change is for all claims filed on or after July 25, 2022.

Massachusetts

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program

One of the “unique” aspects of the PFML program when it began was that employers could not supplement the PFML benefit with sick or vacation/PTO pay. If the state was aware that an employee was receiving sick/vacation/PTO, the employee would not receive any PFML benefits.

Thanks to the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget (signed yesterday by Governor Baker) and effective immediately, this will no longer be the case. The budget includes language that amends the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act to allow employees to supplement PFML benefits with “any accrued sick or vacation pay or other paid leave provided under an employer policy.” Employees now have the choice to supplement the PFML benefit and employers cannot require them to do so.

Oregon

Paid Leave Oregon

Paid Leave Oregon has launched a new website where you can find information, FAQs, rules, resources, and more. The site is more user-friendly, accessible, and mobile-friendly.

In August, Paid Leave Oregon is hosting weekly community conversations over Zoom where you can learn more about the Paid Leave Oregon program. You can sign up through the links below:

  • Tuesdays, 3-4 p.m., en español (Zoom meeting held in Spanish with English and ASL interpretation provided)
  • Thursdays, 3-4 p.m., in English (Zoom meeting with ASL and Spanish interpretation provided)
  • Fridays, 10-11 a.m., in English (Zoom meeting with ASL and Spanish interpretation provided)

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) will have a new system for employee contributions in September 2022. “Frances Online” will support both Unemployment Insurance and Paid Leave Oregon. The system will support contributions for Paid Leave Oregon in the first quarter of 2023. You can find more information and resources including FAQs here.

Vermont

At the beginning of July when everyone was thinking about hotdogs and fireworks, the state of Vermont issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a prospective insurance carrier to create and implement the Vermont Voluntary Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program. The carrier will be selected by September 2, 2022.

What’s interesting is that the state did not pass a law that mandates PFMLI for Vermonters – the State of Vermont Department of Human Resources took it upon itself to issue the RFP as a means to provide paid leave benefits to state employees. The program will be implemented in phases with the goal of covering all employees in Vermont.

Phase 1: Covers state employees with the state paying 100% of the premium for eligible employees. Coverage is effective July 1, 2023.

Phase 2: Expand coverage to eligible employers with 10 or more employees. Coverage is to be determined, but no later than July 1, 2024.

Phase 3: Expand coverage to small employers and self-employed individuals as well as individual eligible employees who opt-in to the program. Coverage is to be determined, but no later than July 1, 2025. Eligible small employers and individuals are defined as:

  • Small employers are those employers domiciled in Vermont with 2 to 9 employees.
  • Self-employed Vermont individuals (whose business is domiciled and registered in Vermont) who elect and pay for coverage.
  • Eligible employees who work for eligible employers that do not elect FMLI coverage, who elect to purchase FMLI on their own.

The RFP does provide the “proposed” details of phase one coverage (State of Vermont employees). Of note:

  • Benefit will be 60% of base weekly wage and the maximum weekly benefit will be based on the Social Security Taxable Wage base.
  • Benefit duration is 6 weeks and leave reasons include parental, medical, family care, and qualifying (military) exigency leave.
  • There will be a one-week waiting period for medical leave claims only.
  • Employees may receive partial payment while working intermittently or a reduced schedule.
  • An employee who has an active PFMLI claim and is not working intermittently or a reduced schedule must either choose to receive the PFMLI payment or be compensated by accrued paid time off (PTO). In other words, employees will not be able to take PTO and claim PFMLI benefits at the same time.
  • PFMLI will be the secondary insurance benefit for non-work related disability insurance benefits including short term disability (STD). *This goes against the grain as STD benefits are generally considered the secondary insurance benefit – that is, the STD benefit is reduced by what an employee receives from a state benefit. We hope that the state will provide further guidance on this topic.

We will keep you posted as more information becomes available regarding this new program.

Canada Provincial Updates

Ontario

The province’s Paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Regulation (Paid IDEL) was due to expire on July 30, 2022. It has been extended until March 31, 2023. You can refer to this newsletter from last December for details on the regulation.

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