As COVID-19 is back on the rise throughout the United States and various vaccine trials are occurring, employers are beginning to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all their employees. While no vaccine has been approved yet, predictions point to a possible release by the end of the year. The vaccine is not expected to be readily available until mid-2021 for the general public, which makes it difficult for most employers to mandate vaccination at least until 2021. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has yet to release guidance on COVID-19 vaccine so it is best to consider guidelines discussing flu vaccines for now. Although there are necessary accommodations due to federal legislation, vaccine programs are permissible.
There seems to be no end in sight to the various concerns associated with COVID-19, and experts are hesitant to say when and if life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” As the pandemic persisted, companies large and small quickly realized that jobs we all assumed had to be done in an office, can in fact be done from the comfort of one’s home. #WFH is a trending social media hashtag standing for “work from home,” and posts using this hashtag range anywhere from how to dress comfortably while remaining professional when working from home to setting up the perfect home office. #WFH, however, is not just a social media trend, but a new normal for many Americans as employers were forced to allow their employees to work from home due to health concerns related to COVID-19. This gives rise to questions such as, what about safety and security concerns related to employer data? And, where do employees draw the line between work and home when working from home? While this may be uncharted territory, top researchers say that #WFH may be the next big thing for companies worldwide.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) recently announced alterations to its previous regulations which expanded family and medical leave provisions and paid sick leave of April’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). These revisions serve to clarify the responsibilities of employers and the rights of workers as they relate to the paid leave of FFCRA. These revisions come after a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York which invalidated portions of the initial regulations. The WHD’s revisions are an example of the lack of clarity and adequate response from regulations designed to protect workers during the current pandemic.
The meat and poultry packing industry has recently fallen victim to the spread of COVID-19. Among fierce backlash over the federal government’s lack of action to protect meat packing facility workers, the CDC and OSHA released interim guidelines. These guidelines are to be followed by employers not only to keep workers safe, but to avoid a shortage of one of America’s most prized food sources: meat and poultry. The meat packing industry, as one of the most heavily-regulated industries in the United States, now faces increased regulation during a global pandemic.
For the first time since 2013, on Saturday, January 20th, 2018, the U.S. government ran out of money when Congress failed to pass a spending bill to fund the federal government. Much of the federal government’s operations have ground to a halt due to the lack of funding. Because Congress is seemingly at an impasse over immigration policy, the shutdown may last several days, if not weeks. In light of Loyola’s upcoming symposium exploring what happens when regulation is not enforced, it is interesting to consider how, in a similar vein, the shutdown affects compliance.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s severe flooding, the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas has made quite the media splash. Rising waters left the plant without power, forcing workers to transfer volatile organic peroxides into large refrigerated trucks with independent generators. In up to six feet of water, several of the trucks’ refrigeration systems failed, resulting in combustion of the hydrogen peroxide, a hazardous material under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. This is not the first example of chemical plants having issues with natural disasters; there were significant hazardous material concerns after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and more recently the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011. With no indication that these problems will be resolved, it is important to once again look at regulations placed on chemical plants in response to emergency.