On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance to assist businesses deemed “non-essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic as they reopen their workplaces. OSHA’s new “Guidance on Returning to Work” sets forth a number of basic principles that OSHA recommends guide employer actions, including specific examples. The document also reminds readers that responsibilities always apply under OSHA’s Employer’s General Duty Clause, references a number of existing OSHA standards that apply to re-opening activities and reopened workplaces, and identifies other sources of guidance and requirements.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
How can employers protect workers against coronavirus exposures? In expanding parts of the country, most employers do so by complying with applicable Shelter in Place orders. Workplaces still in operation face more complicated occupational health situations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; directly and through its subsidiary National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)) and other occupational health agencies issue guidelines for workplace safety, which can be used in locations that are still open. (This approach is typical; I wrote about their Zika Virus guidelines HERE). In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides interpretive guidance on how to apply disabilities and anti-discrimination laws to the design and implementation of protective programs.Read More
Because federal anti-discrimination statutes include “sex” discrimination but do not define the term, its interpretation evolves with social and political changes, with policy changes by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which administers and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a variety of subsequent laws, and with court decisions. A major present debate is whether “sex” encompasses “sexual orientation” – which would protect non-heterosexual employees against employment action based on their sexual orientation. On February 26, 2018 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its own precedent, and decided that homosexual employees are protected.Read More
Federal laws prohibit employers from basing employment decisions on a variety of factors, including “disability.” Private employers are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while public agencies are subject to the Rehabilitation Act. Both laws are administered and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with states generally cooperating with EEOC or imposing similar requirements on state and local agencies. EEOC generally provides the same requirements and guidelines to both sets of employers, but there are differences.Read More
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers and enforces most national anti-discrimination laws. As part of these responsibilities, EEOC issues formal regulations, and a host of less formal guidance documents – some directed to employers, some to employees, and/or some to the agency’s own personnel. In August 2016, EEOC reissued EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues (“the Guidance”), describing its approach to situations where employees claim they’ve suffered retaliation for asserting rights against discrimination under the laws EEOC administers, or even just for questioning workplace rules and situations.Read More
In July 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) Number 13673, establishing a series of reporting and procedural requirements for federal contractors, inducing them to provide “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” to their employees. Some requirements are specific in the EO, while others were left for clarification by revisions to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), for contracts subject to these requirements. (I blogged about the EO here). None became effective in 2014, but instead they have awaited the FAR revisions. The revised FAR has been issued effective October 25, 2016, for appropriate contracts issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The new requirements will be phased in, covering contracts and subcontracts for goods and services greater than $50 million immediately, and those greater than $500,000 effective April 25, 2017.Read More
Federal laws prohibit employers from basing employment decisions on a variety of factors, including “sex.” This term is not defined, leaving its interpretation to change and expand with social changes and court decisions. The central entity creating and applying these interpretations is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which administers and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a variety of subsequent laws. On July 15, EEOC reaffirmed its present interpretation, in an enforcement decision in which the plaintiff claimed he was denied access to a promotion because he’s gay (Baldwin v. Foxx). The EEOC’s order includes a clear summary of the agency’s approach to sex discrimination cases:
Federal laws protect individuals against job discrimination based on a variety of “protected classes” of characteristics. Most represent physical characteristics, such as race, sex, and disability. In addition, however, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship.
On January 30, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published a proposal to revise its requirements for covered Federal Government contractors and subcontractors, including federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors. This proposal would implement provisions in Executive Order (EO) Number 13672, which President Obama issued on July 21, 2014 (I blogged about the E.O. here). These revisions expand anti-discrimination responsibilities of federal contractors and federal grant recipients, to cover “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Once implemented, employment practices in these workplaces will match private employers’ responsibilities under a growing number of state laws, and under some federal court cases interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
On July 31, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) Number 13673, establishing a series of reporting and procedural requirements for federal contractors, inducing them to provide “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” to their employees. Beginning in 2016, these new requirements will apply to contracts and subcontracts to provide more than $500,000 in services and/or non-standard goods to federal agencies. Some requirements are specific in the EO, while others will become clearer after revisions to the contracting standards codified as the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).