Maryland Joins a Number of States by Enacting a Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

Maryland recently became the tenth state to enact a paid family leave law – joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and San Francisco.  Although the legislature passed the Maryland Time to Care Act of 2022 by a supermajority vote on March 31, 2022, Governor Hogan opposed the bill and vetoed it on April 8, 2022.  Just one day later, however, the legislature voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto by an overwhelming majority.  

Although the bill will be phased in over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, Maryland employers should pay close attention to the law and the regulations that the Maryland Department of Labor will be implementing within the next year.  To get ahead, employers should proactively make plans to revise their current leave policies and reach out to their HR and payroll providers to ensure that they are prepared to handle the necessary payroll tax contributions.

Effective Dates and Roll-Out of the Act

Similar to how the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions implemented their paid family leave laws, the law will be phased in over the course of several years.  Specifically, the Act establishes a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund that will require all employers with 15 or more employees, all employees, and all self-employed individuals that elect to participate in the program to make contributions a fund beginning October 1, 2023.  Notably, employers with less than 15 employees are not required to contribute to the fund, but employees of those small employers will still be required to contribute to the insurance fund.

The contribution rates will be set by the Maryland Secretary of Labor by June 1, 2023.  Covered employees will be eligible to claim and receive benefits approximately a year-and-a-half later on January 1, 2025.   The funding requirements and employer/employee contribution rates will also be periodically reviewed and subject to change based on bi-annual studies and recommendations by the Maryland Secretary of Labor.

Coverage and Qualifying Events under the Act

The Act defines “covered employer” broadly to any person or governmental authority that employs at least one individual in the state of Maryland.  However, there are certain limitations on who is eligible to claim benefits.  Covered individuals – i.e. employees eligible to claim benefits under the Act – are defined as employees who have worked at least 680 hours over the 12-month period immediately before the date that leave is to begin.

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Natural Hairstyles in the Workplace: The CROWN Act

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.” More than half a century after Aretha Franklin first sang those lyrics, state legislatures, local municipalities, and Congress are passing the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair legislation (“CROWN Act”). Before the flurry of legislation aimed at protecting natural hair, some appellate courts already applied the protections of Title VII liberally. In Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., the 7th Circuit held a plaintiff’s EEOC charge sufficiently alleged race discrimination where plaintiff’s EEOC charge stated plaintiff’s boss denied plaintiff a promotion because plaintiff “could never represent [defendant] with [an] Afro.” 538 F.2d 164, 168 (7th Cir. 1976). Other courts, however, took a narrower approach. In EEOC v. Catastrophe Mgmt. Solutions, the 11th Circuit reasoned “Title VII protects persons in covered categories with respect to their immutable characteristics, but not their cultural practice[,]” thereby upholding a race neutral grooming policy that prohibited dreadlocks. 852 F.3d 1018, 1028-34 (11th Cir. 2016). Indeed, as recently as 2018, the U.S. Armed Forces maintained grooming policies that prohibited natural or protective hairstyles commonly worn by Black servicemembers because the hairstyles were “unkempt.”

The CROWN Act

More than a dozen state legislatures already passed a variation of the CROWN Act Continue reading

Challenges to California’s Corporate Board Diversity Laws Continue

A number of lawsuits challenging California’s corporate board diversity laws are still working their way through litigation, even years after the legislation went into effect.

Senate Bill 826

In 2018, California enacted Senate Bill 826, requiring California-based publicly held companies to have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors.  Such boards needed to have at least one female director by the end of 2019.  By the end of 2021, boards needed to have two female directors if the corporation has five directors and three female directors if the corporation has six or more directors.  A corporation out of compliance faces a $100,000 fine for the first violation and a $300,000 fine for a violation in any subsequent year. 

Assembly Bill 979

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Congress Bans Private Arbitration for Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

On February 10, 2022, the Senate passed legislation ending the use of forced arbitration in lawsuits involving sexual assault and harassment claims.  The bill – the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act – passed the Senate by a voice vote just days after it passed the House by a vote of 335 to 97.  The legislation is now before President Biden, and it is expected that he will sign the bill soon. 

This law has been in dispute along partisan lines for nearly a decade, as Republican lawmakers had traditionally opposed the legislation.  However, the #MeToo movement, which included claims against some members of Congress in the past, paved the way for lawmakers to find common ground and resolve the partisan gridlock. 

The law will take effect immediately upon President Biden’s signature, and it will apply to any and all claims of sexual assault or harassment, as defined under federal, state, or tribal law, that arise or accrue after its enactment. Employers that currently use arbitration clauses to manage sexual assault and harassment claims should take steps to review and amend their practices accordingly and prepare for the potential that current and past allegations of sexual misconduct will become public.

Employers will be prohibited from implementing policies or contracts that funnel assault and harassment cases into private arbitration – meaning claimants have the right to file lawsuits in federal, state, or tribal court, which is open to the public.  The law also prohibits employers from using joint-action waivers prohibiting class actions. Therefore, parties are now able to collectively file class action lawsuits alleging widespread sexual assault and/or harassment.

The law raises several new considerations for employers about how to manage claims of sexual assault or harassment. The public nature of filing claims in court elevates the risk of reputational harm for employers, as well as increases liability risk due to the potential for a proceeding before a jury.  Due to the elimination of private arbitration for these claims and the increased risks, plaintiffs now have more leverage in settlement negotiations.

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Paid COVID-19 Supplemental Sick Leave Returns to California, Again

California Governor Newsom has signed legislation extending a new allotment of up to 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to California workers through new Labor Code Sections 248.6 and 248.7.  The leave is retroactive to January 1, 2022, and continues through September 30, 2022.  Small businesses that employ 25 or fewer workers are not covered by the legislation.   

Use of Sick Leave for Reasons Related to COVID-19

The legislation provides for up to 40 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work or telework for certain reasons related to COVID-19, including:

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[Webinar] 2022 California Employment Law Update 

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT, join Andrew J. Sommer and Megan S. Shaked for a webinar regarding 2022 California Employment Law Updates: New Legal Requirements and Practical Compliance Strategies Every HR Professional and Manager Should Know.

2022 brings changes for California employers to a range of topics touching on traditional employment law matters as well as health and safety concerns, including related to COVID-19. This webinar will review compliance obligations for companies doing business in California, as well as discuss the practical impact of these new laws and best practices for avoiding potential employment-related claims.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

The Latest with Pres. Biden’s Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine-Mandate Executive Order

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

It has been a real adventure trying to track all the different legal challenges in so many different courts to President Biden’s various different executive actions related to vaccination.  While the fate of the OSHA Vaccinate-or-Test ETS (dead) and the CMC Healthcare Vaccine-Mandate (very much alive) are essentially settled by the Supreme Court, the Federal Contractor Vaccine-Mandate Executive Order (EO 14042) is still meandering its way through the federal courts.  And there was a lot of activity in the courts this past Friday, January 21st, regarding the federal contractor EO and the federal employee vaccination mandate.

In the first case, Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden, employees of federal contractors and employees of the federal government together are challenging both Executive Orders 14042 (vaccine-mandate for federal contractors) and 14043 (vaccine-mandate for federal employees).  Judge Jeffrey V. Brown (a Trump-appointee to the S.D. of Texas) issued an opinion and order enjoining only enforcement of the federal employee mandate.  Judge Brown’s reasoning in that case boiled down to a conclusion that injunctive relief is appropriate because: (1) the “Hobson’s Choice” of a workplace vaccine-mandate creates irreparable harm; and (2) the challenging federal employees have a likelihood of success on the merits because the President acted ultra vires and the implementation of EO 14043 violates the Administrative Procedures Act.  Notably, Judge Brown declined to take action with regard to the federal contractor EO, noting that Judge R. Stan Baker (a Trump appointee to the S.D. of Georgia) in Georgia v. Biden had previously enjoined the federal government from enforcing the vaccination mandate on a nationwide basis.

While Judge Brown’s decision in Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden did not change the status of the federal contractor EO, on the same day, Judge Baker issued a new order with regard to the injunction he had put in place in Georgia v. Biden in December.  First, Judge Baker declined to address whether private federal contractors are enjoined from mutually agreeing with a federal agency to include COVID-19 safety clauses in their contracts; i.e., to voluntarily comply with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) guidelines, as he viewed that as improperly seeking an advisory opinion while the case is pending on appeal.  But on the broader question as to the scope of his national injunction, on Friday he wrote: Continue reading

NYC’s Private Employer Vaccine Mandate – Everything You Need to Know [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, Dan C. Deacon presented a webinar regarding NYC’s Private Employer Vaccine Mandate – Everything You Need to Know.

On December 19, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a private employer vaccine mandate which requires workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public for work to provide proof of vaccination before entering the workplace. The mandate did not provide much of a runway for employers to come into compliance, as employers had to make sure employees received their first vaccine dose by December 27th – just eleven days from the announcement.

It is also important to remember that all New York employers remain subject to the NY HERO Act, which requires employers to implement a written airborne infectious disease plan and certain exposure controls whenever the Health Commissioner declares a public health emergency involving an airborne infectious disease.

During this webinar, we provided a detailed analysis of this latest development and answered key questions including: Continue reading

[Panel Webinar] OSHA COVID-19 Regulation and Enforcement Post-Supreme Court

Block your calendars and make sure you join us on Thursday, January 20th at 3 PM ET for a very special bonus event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series in the form of a panel webinar program regarding OSHA COVID-19 Regulation and Enforcement After the Supreme Court Stayed the Vaccinate-or-Test ETS.

Presented by
Conn Maciel Carey LLP with Special Guests
Neal Katyal and Jordan Barab

In this exclusive, bonus program we will facilitate a panel discussion regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision to stay OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test emergency temporary standard, what that decision means for employers in fed OSHA and State OSH Plan states, and how OSHA will address the COVID-19 hazard in the workplace moving forward.

We are especially excited to be hosting a remarkable cast of panelists for this event:

  • Neal Katyal – former Acting Solicitor General of the United States and leading Constitutional Law expert; Partner at Hogan Lovells and Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center
  • Jordan Barab – President Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and Acting Head of OSHA; former Sr. Policy Advisor to the US House Education and Labor Committee
  • Moderated by Eric J. Conn, Chair, Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s national OSHA Practice Group

The Supreme Court has spoken, and OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing and Face Coverings Emergency Temporary Standard is once again subject to a nationwide judicial stay.  The conservative majority on the Court reasoned that the 50-year old OSH Act does not include an explicit-enough delegation of authority from the US Congress for OSHA to issue a regulation that addresses an issue that is not unique to the workplace and which is of such great economic and social significance. Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh announced that “OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.”

So, the big question facing employers now is what are the potential regulatory pitfalls from unwinding or stopping the implementation of any of their COVID-19 prevention and/or vaccination policies developed either in response to OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS or more general efforts to keep up with CDC recommendations and/or protect against OSHA General Duty Clause citations?  Or said another way, without the COVID-19 emergency standards, what does OSHA expect from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid enforcement? Continue reading

[Webinar] NYC’s Private Employer Vaccine Mandate – Everything You Need to Know

On Tuesday, January 18, 2022 at 2 p.m. ET, join Kara M. Maciel and Dan C. Deacon for a webinar regarding NYC’s Private Employer Vaccine Mandate – Everything You Need to Know.

On December 19, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a private employer vaccine mandate which requires workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public for work to provide proof of vaccination before entering the workplace. The mandate did not provide much of a runway for employers to come into compliance, as employers had to make sure employees received their first vaccine dose by December 27th – just eleven days from the announcement.

It is also important to remember that all New York employers remain subject to the NY HERO Act, which requires employers to implement a written airborne infectious disease plan and certain exposure controls whenever the Health Commissioner declares a public health emergency involving an airborne infectious disease.

During this webinar, we will provide a detailed analysis of this latest development and answer key questions including: Continue reading