Arkansas News & Analysis

  • Title VII protects gay and transgender workers, high court rules

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals for being gay or transgender, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a landmark ruling on June 15. In the 6-3 opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Court reasoned discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII because "homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex." The ruling resolves a split of authority among the lower courts and affects employers with 15 or more employees, which are covered by Title VII.

  • Summer camp closures may qualify for childcare leave under FFCRA

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued guidance on whether the pandemic-related closures of summer camps and other enrichment programs for children would allow an eligible employee to take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

  • OSHA issues guidance on cloth face coverings, surgical masks, respirators

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, employers have struggled to understand the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) position on cloth face coverings and surgical masksspecifically, whether the agency requires or recommends their use and whether they constitute personal protective equipment (PPE). Although the issues may seem trivial, employers want to know what their compliance obligations are. On June 10, the agency issued frequently asked questions (FAQs) and responses about the equipment. Some, but not all, questions were answered.

  • Kansas retroactively restricts COVID-19 lawsuits

    The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature passed and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly recently signed a measure to shield businesses and healthcare providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits. Even though the Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act didn't become effective as a law until June 8, it will be applied retroactively to any coronavirus claims accruing on or after March 12, 2020.

  • EEOC: You can't require employees to undergo antibody testing

    On June 17, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance concerning the use of COVID-19 antibody testing. Relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) interim guidelines, the EEOC affirmatively stated employers cannot require COVID-19 antibody testing before permitting employees to reenter the workplace.

  • Pandemic-fueled uptick in online activity likely to give rise to accessibility lawsuits

    With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing most of us to either shelter in place or severely limit our outside activities, people everywhere are online more than ever. As a result, website accessibility lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are expected to increase sharply. Title III of the ADA requires places of public accommodation with websites (including retail businesses) to ensure their websites are accessible to everyone, including visually impaired individuals using screen-reading software.

  • OSHA weighs in on use of face coverings, including non-PPE, in the workplace

    On June 10, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a series of questions and answers regarding the use of face coverings in the workplace. The guidance, which also clarifies the difference between the various types of face coverings and offers recommendations about their applicability in the workplace, can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/covid-19-faq.html#cloth-face-coverings.

  • Employers caught in middle when COVID-19 safety guidelines, workplace laws collide

    Returning to work after stay-at-home orders are lifted raises a host of issues for employers. For one specific group of employees, you may have thought the issue was clear: People in at-risk categories for catching COVID-19 should remain away from the workplace and instead work remotely. But that isn't the case, according to a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) update.

  • Racial tension coupled with COVID anxiety challenging workplaces in new ways

    It has been a long and tragic spring and summer for employers as well as society at large. The coronavirus pandemic sent legions of workers to the unemployment rolls, and others had to learn how to do their jobs remotely—all while dealing with the threat of an all-too-often deadly disease. Then, on May 25, came news of another black person dying in police custody, the latest in a string of such deaths. The viral video of George Floyd handcuffed on the ground with a white officer's knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes sparked outrage that erupted in massive protests across the country and abroad. Inequality and prejudice—not new issues in the workplace—came to the forefront, leaving many employers wondering what actions they should take.

  • Looking ahead after pandemic: Employers likely to see enduring change

    What's the world of work going to look like in the weeks and months ahead? Some workplaces in some parts of the country will be farther along the road to recovery than others, but few will go back to being just like they were before words like coronavirus, pandemic, and COVID-19 became all-consuming thoughts. The months of business shutdowns, remote work, and uncertainty have changed employee attitudes and employer practices—changes that are important for management to understand as employers move forward.