EEOC Provides Updated Guidance to Employers Regarding Title VII and Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates (US)

COVID-19 VaccineSince President Biden announced his “Path Out of the Pandemic” COVID-19 Action Plan on September 9, 2021 (see our prior post here), an increasing number of employers across the country have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies. Although these policies may differ in certain respects from employer to employer, they all include (indeed, must include) an opportunity for employees to request an accommodation from any vaccination requirement based on medical/disability grounds, or due to sincerely held religious beliefs.

As these policies have gone into effect, employers have confronted a slew of questions concerning the legal requirements, processes, and nuances of offering religious-based accommodations. In response to this outpouring of uncertainty, on October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its Technical Assistance guidance to provide employers with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning when they are required to accommodate (i.e., exempt)  employees from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements due to religious reasons under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Continue Reading

US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of October 18, 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 October 18, 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:

  • Reconciliation Spending Measure/Infrastructure Package Updates
  • Fed Reserve Weighs in on Labor Shortages and Inflation
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Mandate and Health Care Facilities Mandate Updates
  • Other General COVID-19 Updates
  • Vice President Promotes Unions
  • Workplace Protections for Nursing Mothers
  • WSJ Editorial Board Weighs in on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
  • Forced Labor Update
  • FACOSH Nominations Solicited
  • Labor Department Confirmation Updates

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US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of October 11, 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 October 11, 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:

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Mandate Updates
  • Other General COVID-19 Updates
  • Labor and Supply Chain Disruptions
  • Reconciliation Spending Measure/Infrastructure Package Updates

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Update Regarding US COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Traveler with passport and caseAs we previously posted last month, the United States is rescinding and replacing the geographic COVID-19 travel bans with new proof of vaccination requirements for all international travelers. These new requirements will pertain to those entering the U.S. via air, sea or across the land border with Canada or Mexico. As reported by numerous news outlets, the White House recently announced the new air travel requirements will take effect on November 8, 2021. Continue Reading

COVID-19: what next for UK employers, Part 5 – are they at risk under the away goals rule?

What Next? Part 5Here is another good question from our What Next webinar a couple of weeks ago. More to follow soon.

If someone whose role involves International travel has a medical condition which makes that travel undesirable in a post-pandemic World, would the capability dismissal process be applicable?

Probably so, but we need to look at the question in a little more detail before we can be sure.

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EEOC Updates Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Programs (US)

COVID-19 VaccineSince the start of the pandemic, the EEOC has periodically updated its informal guidance to address emerging topics related to COVID-19, include regarding vaccination, which is top of mind for many U.S. employers. This week, the EEOC updated its informal guidance to address questions regarding COVID-19 vaccination and vaccination incentive programs. Takeaways from the updates include the following:

  • An employer may require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII (related to religion and pregnancy) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agency warns against policies that might have a disproportionate impact on certain groups of employees, therefore consistent application of mandatory vaccination policies is essential. Specifically with respect to pregnant employees, although the EEOC echoes guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraging persons who are pregnant or breastfeeding to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, if an employee seeks an exemption from a vaccination requirement due to pregnancy, employers must ensure that the pregnant employee is not discriminated against compared to other employees similar in their ability or inability to work. Accordingly, the pregnant employee may be entitled to accommodations such as job modification, telework, changes to work schedules or assignment, or leave, to the extent such modifications are provided for other similarly-situated employees whose request for exceptions to vaccination policies are granted.

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“There are only two ways of telling the complete truth – anonymously and posthumously” (UK)

Silhouette of businessman in office meeting room

That was according to a US economist, Thomas Sowell, but it also came up at a recent webinar we did on whistle-blowing and grievance investigations.  We were talking about limits on the employer’s ability to use evidence from witnesses whose identities would not be disclosed to the person accused.  The short point was that to act upon evidence against someone where that someone does not know who gave it, is to risk a serious undoing in front of the Employment Tribunal.  Not every allegation requires the person accused to know who made it as a pre-requisite of being able to defend it, but many do, especially around bullying/ harassment or other behavioural issues.

But then “What about anonymous whistle-blowers?” popped up on the chat box thing, and it is a good question.  Let us say that you receive a note in HR from an unknown email address or on otherwise unidentifiable paper.  A named manager, it says, is a habitual bully and maker of sexist remarks, is having an affair with a number of customers and offering them less than commercial terms for your product, regularly drives when under the influence of narcotics, has failed to make the workplace Covid-secure and is thoroughly loathed by all his subordinates, hence a recent rash of departures.

Is that from a current employee?  A contractor?  A vengeful ex or disappointed business counterparty? Someone he sacked? In reality, it may not much matter – if those issues are genuine then the important thing is that you find out, and not from whom or with what motivation.

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How to stay competitive as a global employer in today’s challenging landscape

Global HR AuditGlobal businesses today face an ever-increasing set of complex issues.  From managing flexible and hybrid working arrangements borne out of the pandemic, to meeting diversity and inclusion expectations and demonstrating the worth of their workforce, each issue brings its own challenges that employers must successfully address if they are to stay competitive.

How employers address these big issues rests on a set of HR documents and policies which must not only lay the framework for their approach at both the local and global level but also meet the legal requirements in each country of operation around the world. Increasingly, however, it is no longer enough to achieve bare compliance  – the pressure is to go beyond that baseline and demonstrate your values as an employer to attract and retain the right talent, as well as meet wider environmental, social and governance expectations.

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US Federal Labor Viewpoints – Week of September 27, 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 September 27, 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:

  • Reconciliation Package Updates
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Mandate Updates
  • COVID-19 Updates
  • New Job Quality Initiative Announced
  • U.S.-EU Trade and Tech Council Meeting Recapped
  • Worst Forms of Child Labor Annual Report Released
  • Mine Workers Safety & Health
  • Upcoming Congressional Hearing

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Employer’s case for fair dismissal lacks appeal, finds Court (UK)

Unfair dismissalThe Court of Appeal confirmed in Gwynedd Council – v – Barratt and Hughes last month that the failure to offer an employee the right to appeal against his dismissal will not inevitably make the termination unfair but is merely one piece of the puzzle in a range of factors which are considered when determining the issue of statutory fairness.

Barratt and Hughes were both employed as PE teachers at a community school run by Gwynedd Council in Wales.  When the Council decided on the closure of various schools in order to make way for a shiny new model on the same school site, it announced that all teachers’ contracts would be terminated.  They were actively encouraged to apply for posts at the new school as a suitable alternative, and any candidates who were not redeployed would be offered redundancy.

The success rate of teachers securing posts at the new school was generally high.  To their dismay, however, neither Barratt nor Hughes was offered employment at the new school and both were instead made redundant.  Each claimed unfair dismissal.

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