US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of July 26, 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 July 26, 2021.

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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:

  • US Economy Update
  • COVID-19 Updates
  • Biden Administration Labor Leadership Updates
  • Final Rule to Rescind March 2020 Joint Employer Rule
  • Readout of the President’s Meeting with Legislators on Immigration
  • Commerce Secretary Spotlights Caregiving Services Challenges
  • Legislation to End Forced Arbitration in the Workplace Reintroduced
  • EEOC Voting Transparency Challenged
  • Northern Triangle Grant Funding Opportunity
  • OSHA-Shipbuilding Alliance Program Announced
  • Upcoming Congressional Hearing

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Returning to the workplace – Part 4: Now you see me, now you don’t … Monitoring teleworkers’ productivity (Belgium)

Working from home in Belgium Part 4The pandemic has given an enormous boost to working from home, in particular (to state the obvious) when it was mandatory. Where roles permitted it, even those employers and employees most vigorously opposed to it simply had no choice but to accept it. When quizzed about the reasons why they oppose WFH, most employers’ main reason will be that they fear a drop in productivity when the employee is left to his own devices. And even if surveys suggest that during the pandemic employees were in fact more productive working from home – because the daily commute was converted mostly into working time – the perceived lack of supervision on WFH remains a source of concern for employers.

In these times, where work that can be done from home will mostly be done by computer, information technology may at first glance offer a solution to these concerns. Over the years, numerous tech solutions have been developed to monitor employee productivity. This past year, there’s been an uptick in reports of companies using monitoring software to keep tabs on their employees working remotely, turning to technology to track their keystrokes, number of e-mails sent and internet search histories, even tools to take periodic screenshots of their computers.

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Biden Administration Suggests Long-Haul COVID Illness May Constitute A Disability Under ADA (US)

On July 26, the 31st anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Biden announced in a Rose Garden briefing that persons experiencing long-term COVID-19 symptoms may qualify as persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and other federal statutes that protect persons with disabilities, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”) and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a/k/a “Obamacare.”

Most individuals infected by the coronavirus recover from the COVID-19 illness after several days or weeks of illness, with no lingering effects. Some, however, report loss of taste or smell, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, dizziness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, depression or anxiety, chronic pain, or other symptoms weeks or even months after the virus load is undetectable in them. According to President Biden, these “long-haulers” or “long COVID” patients may qualify for protection under the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against, and requires reasonable accommodation for, qualified individuals with disabilities. Continue Reading

US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of July 19, 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 July 19, 2021.

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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 Updates
  • Commerce Department Announces $3 Billion Investment in America’s Communities
  • NPRM Announced to Implement $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
  • Democrats Highlight Need for Workforce Investments
  • House Oversight Committee Advances Federal Workers Paid Leave Bill
  • Forced Labor House Hearing Recapped
  • Welfare Reform Bill Reintroduced
  • Labor Department Grant to Address Mexican Labor Disputes
  • Labor Department Focuses on Guam’s Construction Sector and Prevailing Wage Rates
  • Upcoming Congressional Hearings

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Unconvincing lack of detail in UK government’s response to harassment consultation

Harassment in the Workplace DocumentSexual harassment is absolutely no laughing matter, but it is difficult to suppress a tired smile when reading the government’s Response to its 2019 consultation on harassment in the workplace.  This is very heavy on prospective voter-appeal but rather lighter (weightless, basically) on the practicalities.

We shall impose a proactive duty on employers to prevent harassment, it says earnestly , and we shall make them liable for harassment of their staff by third parties, in each case unless they have taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent that sort of thing happening.  You will probably recognise this “all reasonable steps” phrasing as a straight lift from the existing statutory defence in Section 109(4) Equality Act, which allows an employer to escape liability for the harassing conduct of its employees towards each other if it can show that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent it.

It is clear that some work has gone into the government’s Response.  There are many fewer spelling errors than usual, for example, and only a small part of the Ministerial Foreword is repeated in the Introduction immediately underneath it. However, it is also glaringly apparent that all that work has yet to lead to any concrete proposals as to how those two main recommendations could realistically be made to work in practice.

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US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of July 12, 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 July 12, 2021.

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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 Updates
  • Budget Reconciliation Spending Package Agreed to in Principle
  • House Appropriations Committee Advances Labor Spending Bill
  • Farmworker COVID-19 Vaccination Effort Urged
  • Federal Funding for Workers Adversely Affected by Foreign Trade
  • Federal Government Advisory Regarding “Forced Labor” Supply Chain Concerns
  • Upcoming Congressional Hearings

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No Summer Pause At The NLRB, As Changes At The Top Levels Of The Agency Are In Motion (US)

NLRB LogoThis summer has been an eventful one as far as it relates to high-level personnel matters at the National Labor Relations Board’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Developments in the Office of the General Counsel

As one of his first acts on Inauguration Day, President Biden fired Peter Robb, the Senate-confirmed General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”), even though Mr. Robb’s four-year term had nearly 10 months left in it. The General Counsel is the agency’s chief prosecutor, and in that role, among other things, is responsible for bringing cases before the five-member NLRB and in the federal courts, and thereby has a significant hand in shaping the nation’s labor policy. The union and worker rights community widely considered Mr. Robb to be hostile to their interests, and those groups celebrated not only when Mr. Robb was precipitously terminated, but also when Peter Sung Ohr, a long-time NLRB official considered to be more favorably aligned to their interests, was installed as Acting General Counsel. Continue Reading

Returning to the workplace – Part 3: Off to town for a home office? (Belgium)

I will start this third part of our Working from Home series with a confession: I worked the first couple of weeks of lockdown from a small table dragged in from our balcony. Not because I don’t have a fully equipped and ergonomically approved home office, because I do. I just didn’t like the vibe in there and preferred a different view. There, that should set the tone for today’s topic.

The ergonomics of working from home have long been neglected, but as WFH becomes mandatory for longer periods, questions on the topic are on the rise: where remote working is required either by government edict or employer preference, what obligations do employers have when it comes to the design of the employee’s home office?

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California Becomes More Expensive for Employers: Meal and Rest Break Premiums Now Track Overtime and Must be Paid at the Regular Rate of Pay, Retroactively (US)

Issuing the California Supreme Court’s decision in a much anticipated case, Justice Liu on behalf of a unanimous court explained in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC that “[t]he calculation of premium pay for a noncompliant meal, rest, or recovery period, like the calculation of overtime pay, must account for not only hourly wages but also other nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee.” Practically speaking, this means that whenever an employer pays a California employee a non-discretionary bonus or other amount, it must recalculate any meal or rest break premiums also paid to the employee in that pay. Continue Reading

US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of July 5, 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 July 5, 2021.

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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:

  • President Touts His Build Back Better Agenda
  • New Executive Order
  • USMCA Updates
  • Labor Department Child/Forced Labor Grant Announced | Malaysia
  • Upcoming Senate Confirmation Hearing

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