On September 29, 2021, the day before it was set to expire, the Massachusetts legislature amended the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (MA EPSL), extending it until April 1, 2022 or the exhaustion of $75 million in program funds, whichever is earlier. Additionally, the amended MA EPSL expanded the reasons for which employees can use sick leave to include “to care for a family member who needs to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 immunization.”
In recent weeks, a growing conversation has unfolded about COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace. This conversation was further thrust into the spotlight last night, on September 9, 2021, when President Biden outlined a far-reaching COVID-19 Action Plan, which particularly seeks vast vaccine mandates in the workplace.
For employers, implementing a vaccine policy can be intimidating given the variety of state and federal regulators who have issued guidance on the subject. Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate may carry an extra threat of workplace polarization of which many employers are understandably wary. The purpose of this Client Alert is to summarily outline a toolkit of federal guidance, including President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, that an employer may consult, in part, when considering whether to implement a COVID-19 vaccine program in their workplace. Please note, all numbered headings below are hyperlinked.
OSHA’s Issues New COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards for Healthcare Industry and Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Other Industries
On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) unveiled its long-awaited emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) for curbing health and safety risks associated with COVID-19. Significantly, the ETS has a limited reach as it is required for only the healthcare industry with some exceptions. Unlike previous OSHA guidance, the ETS is a mandatory rule for covered employers.
In a decision that is sure to draw the attention of students, parents, and school administrators, on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the United Stated Supreme Court held that a Pennsylvania school district violated a student’s First Amendment rights when it disciplined her for posting vulgar language and gestures on social media from an off-campus location. While finding in favor of the student based on the particular facts of the case, the Court also addressed potential circumstances where a student’s off-campus conduct could be grounds for discipline, thereby leaving open the possibility that future cases could be decided differently.
MASSACHUSETTS AMENDS THE OPEN MEETING LAW TO TEMPORARILY ALLOW A PUBLIC BODY TO HOLD MEETINGS THROUGH REMOTE PARTICIPATION UNTIL APRIL 1, 2022
Today the Governor signed Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, which authorizes remote participation for all public bodies until April 1, 2022. This temporary measure provides public bodies with the time needed to orderly transition from fully remote meetings to in-person meetings. In response to public demand and interest from cities and towns, the General Court will take this time to determine whether remote participation is here to stay.
HALFWAY THERE: THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE PASSES TEMPORARY EXTENSION FOR REMOTE PARTICIPATION; WILL THE MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE FOLLOW SUIT?
Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021, the Senate, acting at warp speed, voted on amendments to S. 2467, the municipal relief legislation which includes provisions continuing the authority for remote meetings for all public bodies. The Senate passed several amendments, and then passed the bill to be engrossed, with an Emergency Preamble, so it could be effective immediately if passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor. The engrossed bill, reprinted as S. 2472, was sent over to the House later on Thursday afternoon.
AS MASSACHUSETTS REOPENS, TEMPORARY RELIEF TO HOLD REMOTE PUBLIC MEETINGS MAY ARRIVE BY THE END OF THE WEEK
On May 17, 2021, Governor Baker announced that the State of Emergency in Massachusetts will end on June 15, 2021. With this announcement comes the end of the authority allowing a quorum of any public body to meet remotely, unless the Massachusetts General Court takes timely action to amend the Open Meeting Law. Legislation extending this temporary authority beyond the June 15, 2021 deadline is pending in the Senate, and could be through to the Governor for signature by the end of the week.
On May 28, 2021, Governor Baker signed into law an Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave, the text of which can be found at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H3702/House/Bill/Text. This law took effect immediately on May 28, 2021. The law directs federal funds received by the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency into the new COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund. A website has been established regarding this new leave, which can be found here – https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-temporary-emergency-paid-sick-leave-program.
EEOC Announced Opening of EEO-1 Data Collection Period for 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Data Collection to begin on Monday, April 26, 2021
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that the EEO-1 Component 1 data collection for 2019 and 2020 will open on Monday, April 26, 2021. Private-sector employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with fifty (50) or more employees are legally obligated to file EEO-1 reports that consist of data regarding the demographic representation of their workforce. In 2020, the EEOC delayed the opening of the 2019 EEO-1 Component data collection due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, employers may begin filing their EEO-1 data beginning on Monday, April 26, 2021.
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) which provides for a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package. State and local governments, and also many educational entities, will receive substantial funding. Having endured the last year of the global COVID-19 pandemic, both states and local governments, as well as schools, have experienced unexpected expenses, losses in revenues, and budgetary burdens. The purpose of this Client Alert is to explain generally how funds from the ARPA relief aid have been designated to alleviate those COVID-19-related challenges.
Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Presents at the Mass Bar Association’s 43rd Annual Labor & Employment Spring Conference
Attorney Sarah Spatafore, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, participated as a labor panelist at the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 43rd Annual Labor and Employment Spring Conference earlier this month. Presenters at the conference, held at Suffolk University Law School, were chosen based on experience providing significant thought leadership in the areas of labor and employment law. Among the presenters were several judges and accomplished labor and employment law attorneys, as well as U.S. Secretary of Labor Read More
MHTL supports the international effort to help Ukraine and bring an end to the political and humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. Too long has the world, and this country also, allowed bad actors to use the weapons of war, including the threat of nuclear war, to achieve immoral and illegal ends. Ending the crisis in Ukraine is not enough. The world needs a solution, short of violence and war, to make sure that bad actors and those who Read More