Iowa News & Analysis

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    HR pros respond to crisis by linking laid-off workers with employers. As unemployment soared past record highs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, some HR professionals and their organizations launched efforts to bring together companies laying off or furloughing employees with companies in urgent need of workers. People + Work Connect was designed by chief HR officers from Accenture, Lincoln Financial Group, ServiceNow, and Verizon, according to an announcement from Accenture. The People + Work platform is designed to enable companies to share the experience and skills of their laid-off or furloughed workers with other companies on the platform that are seeking workers. Censia also announced its ReadyToHire initiative, which allows companies to add their displaced employees to a specialized website to help them find jobs with organizations that are hiring. In addition to allowing employers to put people on the ReadyToHire list, individuals can add their own names. The company's AI technology matches workers to open positions suitable for their skills. Both initiatives are free to use.

  • Federal Watch

    OSHA reminds employers against retaliation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that it is illegal to retaliate against workers because they report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotions, or reductions in pay or hours. The agency stresses that workers have a right to file whistleblower complaints if they believe their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights under whistleblower protection laws.