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Read the latest news from Scali Rasmussen, including legal alerts and event listings.

Preparing for the federal COVID mandate

Exception for prior COVID infection?

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On September 9, President Biden announced that the Department of Labor would develop an emergency rule to require employers with 100 or more employees – amounting to over 80 million employees – to mandate vaccination of their workforce against COVID-19 or have employees regularly test for COVID-19. The Biden administration has not yet released the new rule for private employers, but many businesses are starting to prepare.

Preparing for the federal COVID mandate

Protecting employee privacy

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This month, the Biden Administration announced that it has directed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue Emergency Temporary Standards requiring that employers with 100 or more employees mandate that employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or test on a weekly basis for COVID. OSHA has not yet released these Temporary Standards, but the news has already raised important questions for employers, including how to handle employee medical information. This article reviews the state of the law with respect to employee health information and makes recommendations regarding what every employer should do now to prepare for the new Temporary Standards.

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It’s been a busy 2021 and the momentum is only picking up as we enter the second half of the year. In our continued efforts to regularly keep our clients and friends apprised of useful news, information and resources that can impact your business, we have assembled this list highlighting some of our activities over the past 12 months.

An American solution

Automotive franchise laws serve local communities and consumers

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It is fashionable of late to decry the franchise automotive retail system as inefficient, costly to consumers, and unable to innovate. These complaints are partially inspired by the rise of new brands such as Tesla that do not rely on independent, franchised dealers to sell their vehicles and, therefore, run into conflict with franchise laws in many states. In the authors’ view, what the critics miss is that the franchise system and franchise law are a result of a long history of conflict between manufacturers and dealers that governments mediate for the benefit of consumers and local economies.

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Los Angeles County will issue a new health order that will mandate that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks when in public indoor spaces starting at 12:01 AM on Sunday, July 18. Currently, only individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks in public indoor spaces. This new mandate follows on the heels of recommendations from the County that everyone wear masks indoors in response to the increase in spread of COVID-19 due to the prevalence of the Delta Variant. County health officials said that this mandate will likely be in place until there is a decrease in transmission County wide.

Reimbursing business expenses

Litigation hot topic

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At the beginning of the pandemic we shared how telework realities of quarantine resulted in potentially new reimbursable business expenses for employees such as home internet, home telephone, utility, office furniture and other costs. Now, even when employees are getting back to the workspace, many will continue to use their personal devices for business use. Where such use is reasonable and necessary, the employer must reimburse such expenses. The first step is to make sure employees can seek reimbursement for expenses such as cell phone use. Since reimbursement of business expenses is a non-waivable right, employees are entitled to reimbursement and can bring a class action or PAGA case seeking the same even if they never directly requested reimbursement from the employer. Several such cases have already been filed across California.

Cal/OSHA publishes new employee rules

More changes still likely

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In November of 2020, Cal/OSHA adopted emergency COVID-related regulations to prevent the spread of COVID in the workplace. Six months later, on June 4, 2021, it announced changes to these restrictions that it will likely formally adopt in the next few days. These restrictions apply to employers and their employees.

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Congress passed the American Rescue Plan in March of 2021 to extend the paid leave tax credits available to employers with less than 500 employees through September 30, 2021. While employers are no longer required by federal law to provide the leave, if this leave is voluntarily provided (or, provided pursuant to a state or local mandate), employers can continue to obtain tax credits for the maximum amount allowed under federal law for leave taken through September 30, 2021. Please note that the amount paid to the employee may not exactly match the tax credit available if the state or local order requires paying out such leave at a different amount than the federal maximum tax credit.

COVID vaccine mandates

Not recommended at this time

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As we transition back to the “normal” times before March 2020, many employers are wondering whether they can mandate that their employees be vaccinated for COVID. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) have released guidance, stating that subject to certain religious and medical exemptions, the answer is yes. However, we do not recommend employers implement a vaccine mandate, and instead recommend employers take a more relaxed and voluntary approach to obtaining high rates of vaccination among their employees. We have provided the following Frequently Asked Questions and answers.

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