News & Analysis

Getting back to 'normal'? Here are some points to consider

As employers look to a postpandemic recovery, they're shifting their attention toward getting back to "normal." But normal isn't what it used to be, and you now have to focus on keeping employees healthy—and keeping your operations legally compliant. It's not going to be as simple as telling people to resume their work as they did before COVID-19 struck. Thoughts of personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering and administrative controls, discrimination risks, and more are now front and center.

HR Technology

New platform offers help navigating government relief programs. A company providing HR software announced a new platform in April aimed at helping employers navigate various COVID-19 government relief programs. Justworks launched the tax deferral feature and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reporting functionality as part of its COVID-19 relief center built into its software. The relief center enables customers to opt into deferring their employer-paid Social Security taxes and granting businesses access to more working capital to pay their people as early as their next payroll cycle. Organizations also can navigate to reporting, where they can generate a specialized PPP report for their PPP loan application as well as access other recently launched tools to schedule COVID-19-related paid leave for their employees and claim the applicable tax credits through the feature.

Employers mulling mandatory COVID-19 testing, vaccinations as employees return

Many employees were allowed to telecommute temporarily during the COVID-19 crisis. Others were furloughed or laid off. As some of them begin to return to the workplace, employers may be considering whether to conduct mandatory coronavirus testing. If a vaccination is developed, can you require employees to take it? And what is your recourse if an individual refuses? Let's look at the measures you can adopt to protect your workforce.

OSHA issues revised guidance for recording COVID-19 cases

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently issued revised enforcement guidance for recording COVID-19 cases, effectively rescinding the previous guidance memorandum of April 10, 2020.

How employee's refusal to return to work affects jobless benefits

Although Minnesota continues to reopen, some employees remain steadfast in their desire not to return to work. Some may refuse because the working conditions are unsafe or they generally fear catching COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic. Others may fear their jobs aren't "suitable employment." Finally, some may be temporarily receiving more benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Each refusal may affect the individual's continuing claim to unemployment compensation benefits.

COVID-19 fears may give rise to growing efforts to unionize

Over the past 20 years, union membership has declined significantly, and the numbers have continued to fall despite efforts to recruit new members. Mounting employee health and safety concerns over the coronavirus, however, could give rise to a new wave of union organizing activity in the coming months.

One-year-of-employment rule doesn't apply to pregnancy, MN court says

When legislators add new provisions to existing laws, it's often difficult to determine how the new language interacts with the preexisting statutory scheme. Case in point: The existing rule requiring workers to be employed for a year before seeking parental leave doesn't apply to pregnant employees seeking on-the-job accommodations, the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled.

MN courts still require severe or pervasive conduct to prove hostile work environment

For more than 30 years, Minnesota courts have followed federal law in ruling hostile work environment sexual harassment is actionable (or pursuable in court) only if the behavior is severe or pervasive enough to alter the individual's work environment. Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court was asked to reevaluate the standard to determine if it needed to be modified or relaxed.

Bad behavior not enough to create hostile work environment

Federal courts have become increasingly reluctant to find bad behavior at work is enough to establish a prohibited hostile work environment. A recent case from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (which governs federal cases in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) indicates just how difficult it has become for employees to establish the existence of a sufficiently hostile work environment to rise to the level of prohibited discrimination.

Pandemic sparks unexpected question: What if workers unwilling to return?

Restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic are beginning to ease in many parts of the country, and employers are starting to call back the millions of workers who joined the ranks of the unemployed a few months ago. Many workers are champing at the bit to get back to work, but others are hesitant. And that can put already-struggling employers in a bind.