Sexual harassment reforms fast approaching in response to Respect@Work (Australia)

Sexual Harassment DocumentIn the wake of a spate of high profile sexual assault and harassment allegations in recent weeks, the federal government has announced it will implement a suite of anti-harassment reforms in response to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s landmark Respect@Work national inquiry report, which was released in March 2020.

The Respect@Work inquiry found that Australia’s current legal and regulatory system for addressing workplace sexual harassment is “complex and confusing” for workers and employers. For example, the report highlighted that the complaints mechanisms for reporting sexual harassment are widely considered difficult to navigate. Last week the federal government published its long-awaited response to the Commissioner’s report. In agreeing (in full, in part or in principle) or noting the Commissioner’s 55 recommendations, the government has confirmed it will introduce legislative amendments designed to simplify and strengthen the national legal framework for combating sexual harassment at work (though the definition of harassment itself remains unchanged).

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DOL Returns to the Practice of Seeking Liquidated Damages in Settlements in Lieu of Litigation, Rescinding Trump-Era Policy (US)

On April 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-2, which provides updated guidance to Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) field staff regarding the practice of seeking liquidated damages in settlements in lieu of litigation. In so doing, the DOL rescinded a Trump-era policy aimed at reducing the imposition of liquidated damages in wage cases. Continue Reading

Free and Extended COBRA Coverage Under The American Rescue Plan Act Of 2021: Update (US)

Section 9501 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “ARPA”)[1] requires employers to offer free COBRA coverage to certain individuals between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. The ARPA provides tax credits to employers to offset the cost of the COBRA coverage. The right to free COBRA coverage extends to some individuals whose right to COBRA coverage previously ended.

The original version of this blogpost, written shortly after passage of the ARPA, reviewed eligibility free coverage and extended coverage, how the tax credits work, and potential issues pertaining to insurance coverages. On April 7, 2021, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued guidance on the law in the form of “Frequently Asked Questions” and various model notices that can be used in connection with the law.[2] This post reflects the DOL’s recent guidance. Continue Reading

Not seeking references on new hires — help or heresy? (UK)

Job InterviewInteresting question from a client the other day  – what if we simply gave up asking for references on new hires?  Just stopped it altogether and so saved all the HR time and delay and cost implicit in the reference-checking process?  Instinctively your response is not to be so daft, everyone always seeks references so it must be right, but then you begin to ask yourself why not, and why that isn’t actually (in the right circumstances) quite a good idea.

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New Acas guidance on the return to the workplace – the importance of talking back to your workers (UK)

Virtual DiscussionIn line with the impending movement back to the physical workplace comes some updated Acas guidance around consultation with your workforce about preventing the Coronavirus in the process.

The line between communication and consultation in the guidance is not always clearly marked, but that should not be an issue in view of Acas’s injunction that talking should be accompanied by listening, a clear and unprovoked strike at dinner parties right across North London. It also says that “you [and your staff] should always agree any actions together”, which is perhaps overstating the burden of consultation somewhat – that is for the employer to listen in good faith and with an open mind, but without any obligation to agree, nor any prohibition on taking steps which have not been agreed.

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US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of March 29, 2021

From our Capital Thinking blog, our public policy colleague Stacy Swanson shares the latest federal employment law developments in in the legislative and executive branches during the week of March 29.

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This is a weekly post spotlighting labor topics in focus by the US legislative and executive branches during the previous week. In this issue, we cover:

  • American Jobs Plan Unveiled
  • Responses to the Plan
  • Joint Employment Rule Update
  • Form T-1 Trust Annual Report Filing | Non-Enforcement Decision

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Future of the Workplace webinar 18 March – follow-up questions answered, Part 4 (UK)

Question and AnswersHere are two more questions from our webinar a week or so ago in relation to the process of bringing employees back to the workplace.  They echo a number of others in suggesting that employers anticipate a high level of resistance to a return to the office, at least in the short term, and are not always clear as to their rights to force the issue.

  • What if the employee feels commuting puts them at risk?
  • What if the employee declines to return on the grounds that he is “vulnerable” but does not provide any evidence in support?

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EEOC Announces New July 19, 2021 Deadline for Employers to Submit 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Data (US)

eeocOn March 29, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that data collection for 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 filing will open on Monday, April 26, 2021, and that employers will have until Monday, July 19, 2021 to submit their data for those years. Each year, employers with 100 or more employees (and federal contractors with 50 or more employees) must file EEO-1 Component 1 data, which consists of demographic information, such as race, gender and ethnicity information, of the employer’s workforce by job category.

As you may recall, in 2020, the EEOC delayed the opening of the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 Data Collection due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Therefore, this year, employers are required to make two submissions: one with 2019 EEO-1 data and one with 2020 EEO-1 data. The EEOC is extending the data collection period this year from 10 weeks to 12 weeks to provide employers additional time to file, acknowledging that the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workplaces across the country and recognizing that the requirement to submit two years of EEO-1 data is a substantial undertaking. Continue Reading

US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of March 22, 2021

From our Capital Thinking blog, our public policy colleague Stacy Swanson shares the latest federal employment law developments in in the legislative and executive branches during the week of March 22.

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This is a weekly post spotlighting labor topics in focus by the US legislative and executive branches during the previous week. In this issue, we cover:

  • Biden Administration Labor Leadership Update
  • Immigration/Labor-Related Bills
  • Equal Pay, Pregnancy Protections and Health Care/Social Service Worker Protections
  • Workforce Policies | HELP Committee Solicits Input
  • Farmworkers | Outreach, Education, and Enforcement Initiative
  • Tipped Workers Final Rule
  • EEOC Conciliation Rule Continue Reading

“Fair dismissal for not wearing face-mask” headlines hide full story (UK)

Lorry driver wearing maskIt’s not natural for our freedoms and permissions to be limited in the way they have been since last March, so whatever one’s own views, it is hardly surprising that some have found those restrictions hard to swallow and have railed against COVID-19 related rules, state imposed or otherwise. The requirement to wear masks in certain spaces has been the cause of particular resentment for some and so the conflict between those views and the requirements of employers was an inevitable one. The Employment Tribunal’s recent decision in Kubilius v Kent Foods Ltd is entirely unremarkable on the law but notable for its appearing to be the first reported judgment where the employee’s refusal to wear a facemask led to his dismissal.

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