The Supreme Court decided not to hear two cases this month where employees alleged that their requests for time off due to religious obligation were unlawful. In one case, a Jehovah’s Witness had been denied time-off on the Good Friday holiday and congregational duty the following Wednesday. After failing to report for work on both of those days, he was suspended two days without pay. The lower court found that accommodations would have resulted in more than minimal hardship for his employers.
Virginia has enacted a new overtime wage law, the Virginia Overtime Wage Act. For hourly employees, overtime pay will be 1.5 times their regular hourly rate. For salaried employees, overtime pay will be 0.025 times their total wage paid for the workweek. Employers may also face greater liability for misclassifying employees as exempt under the new law.
In Montana, a court found that the state’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act applied to Montanans who are employed by out-of-state employers. This is an important reminder for any employers with employees in Montana: if the employee is primarily performing their duties in Montana, your agreement with them is likely subject to Montana law.
OSHA has issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) which aims to protect workers from retaliation against employees because they report unsafe and unhealthy work conditions. This applied to reporting which might be done internally or to OSHA. As of mid-April, OSHA had received 5,188 whistleblower complaints related to COVID-19.
Here are some questions we have been getting about the COVID-19 Vaccine relating to your small business
Can we require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer is yes! As an employer you can require that your employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, if you do there are legal requirements and accommodations you must make. With that in mind, it is recommended that employers offer vaccination on a voluntary basis rather than implementing a mandatory policy. There are other policies you can put in place which can give your employees a gentle nudge towards, such as offering PTO for employees to get their vaccine.
Can we ask an employee if he or she has received the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes! You can ask your employee if they have been vaccinated. You should be careful not to ask for additional medical information. After employees have given you a yes or a no, instruct them not to provide additional medical reason behind their choice.
Can I tell employees if a co-worker has tested positive for the coronavirus or other communicable disease?
No, you cannot. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has privacy rules. Employers should inform other employees in the workplace that a possible exposure has occurred without disclosing who the individual is.
Small Business Update
Tax Credit for Giving Employees PTO to get the vaccine.
Do you want to encourage your employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine and receive tax credit at the same time?
This tax credit is funded through the American Rescue Plan and is eligible to employers that voluntarily provide paid time off to get and receive a Covid-19 vaccine.
The tax credit is only available to organizations with fewer than 500 employees and can cover up to $511 per day for each vaccinated employee.
At a small business, a COVID outbreak can be devastating. If you are an employer interested in incentivizing the vaccine for your employees, using a part of your tax credit as an offering for employees could be the push you need to see a high rate of vaccination among your staff.
Small Business Update
Here are some tips to avoid an outbreak in your workplace
As vaccinations for COVID-19 finally start to ramp up, many businesses are thinking about opening and allowing employees to return to the workplace.
When you are making a plan to welcome employees back, there are several recommendations from the CDC on how to make your first weeks back as safe as possible.
- The first, and most important, recommendation is to tailor your plan to your workplace. An office on two floors with 50 employees will have a much different plan than an open shop floor with 20 employees. Identify all the areas in YOUR place of business where there could be the potential spread of COVID-19, and start building your plan there.
- Encourage your sick employees to stay home. You can test people as they come into the building for signs of fever, or you can implement a flexible, non-punitive, paid sick leave to support sick employees in making healthy choices. There are many ways to incentivize stay home while sick beyond verbally telling employees to do so.
- Consider using barriers between workstations and creating your own 6-foot rule in the office. Screens such as plastic or glass stop the spread of COVID-19 between spaces and allow for easy cleaning. Keeping employees 6 feet away from each other has been recommended since the beginning of the pandemic and is a safe policy to engage in when possible.
- Finally, we recommend posting safety and health information for employees. Have hand washing poster available in the bathrooms and social distancing posters where they can be seen. Provide cleaning supplies for personal workspaces and posters which describe the best ways to use those materials. Knowledge on how best to fight COVID-19 is valuable for employees, not only in the office, but everywhere they go.
Using more than one method outlined above can be the best way to effectively combat COVID-19.
The more effective measures to stop the spread used, the higher likelihood of positive results in your own business.
Remember to speak frequently with employees to see how they adapt to new policies and adjust as needed to keep your workplace harmonious. As always employees should report to their supervisor or HR department when they have concerns.
If you have questions about any of these recommendations or want to know about the best way to field employee concerns, set up a free call with us at CYB Human Resources and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Celebrating holidays like Cinco De Mayo at the workplace or sponsoring a bash outside of work can be a great way to build morale in your place of employment. If you are looking to host something this month, we have some tips to keep your employees safe while letting them get their party on.
- Keep covid precautions in place. That means keeping a distance of six feet when possible and encouraging mask-wearing. Be sure to provide access to somewhere everyone can wash their hands frequently. And encourage sick employees to stay home, perhaps have a plan for an event next month so anyone who has to miss this time does not feel left out.
- If there will be drinking, plan, and do not allow anyone to leave without a sober ride. Call them a rideshare so you can be sure they have made it home safe. Some companies even create a code for their employees to use for a free ride! This is an awesome idea.
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