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Employment Law Updates – Recent Developments and Questions

In the last week there have been new updates relevant to employees and employers.

EMPLOYERS CAN MANDATE VACCINATION WITH LIMITED EXCEPTIONS

The question that everyone wants answered is whether it is legal for employers to mandate vaccinations. The answer is generally YES. Employers can mandate vaccination of its employees. However, employers cannot do so if the employee has a “sincerely held” religious belief or have a disability that prevents them from getting the vaccine. In both instances, an employee may have to provide documentation to support their request for exemptions. For more information about what may need to be shown to obtain an exemption contact Sheree Donath.

NEW YORK STATE HERO ACT NOW IN EFFECT

On September 6th, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State Department of Health designated COVID 19 as a highly contagious and communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public. As a result, employers must now activate their airborne infections disease exposure plans under the New York State’s HERO Act that were previously prepared, posted and disseminated to their employees. For more information on the New York State’s HERO Act and its requirements click here.

The New York State’s HERO Act contains an anti-retaliation provision for those employees who exercise their rights under the law.

The New York State Department of Labor has also issued information and frequently asked questions regarding the New York State HERO Act.

The New York State Department of Health’s designation is currently only in effect until September 30th. At that time, the commission will review the level of COVID-19 transmission in New York and make a determination as to whether the designation will halt or remain in effect.

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S PROPOSED “PATH OUT OF THE PANDEMIC”

President Biden has proposed a path to reduce the number of Americans that have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. There is currently no timeframe for implementing the plan but it is expected to move forward quickly.

The plan includes, among others: mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for employers with 100 or more employees or requiring a negative test from unvaccinated workers on a weekly basis; requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for federal workers and contractors that conduct business with the federal government; requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers at hospitals that receive Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement; requiring employers to provide paid time off to employees to obtain the vaccination and/or to recover from any symptoms that arise due to receipt of the vaccine.

There are various open issues that need to be resolved with this plan. Among them, who is required to pay for unvaccinated employees to be tested on a weekly basis? Will the testing time for those who opt out of the vaccine be compensable? Can employees opt out of testing if they have religious or medical exemptions? When are the above to be implemented?

COBRA SUBSIDY COMING TO AN END

Employees who were eligible for COBRA subsidy under the American Rescue Plan due to an involuntary termination, the COBRA subsidy is set to end on September 30, 2021. If you are receiving the COBRA subsidy and your COBRA is paid on a monthly basis then you may be responsible for payments starting October 1st. If your COBRA is paid mid-month, then your subsidy may continue until the middle of October. To date, the subsidy has not been extended.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR OPTIONS AND OBLIGATIONS

Contact Sheree Donath at 516-804-0274 or at sheree@donathlaw.com or through Donathlaw.com for more information on your rights and obligations in the workplace or to try and navigate your employment in this continuously changing environment.

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