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Can Employers Offer COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives for Employees?

Can employers offer incentives for employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine? In short, yes. Incentives may take many forms, such as a one-time bonus, a gift card or a few extra vacation hours. Employers can get creative.

According to McDermott’s Michelle S. Strowhiro, Judith Wethall and Ludia Kwon, there are two issues to consider when implementing a vaccine incentive program for purposes of complying with employment and benefits laws: the concepts of coercion and reasonable accommodation.

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COVID-19 Laws and Regulations: A Midyear Update

As employers navigate evolving COVID-19 state and federal rules, workplaces will have to stay vigilant about changes throughout the second half of 2021. These include changes to mask mandates, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard and the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act.

Recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, for example, confirmed what employment lawyers had already been counseling businesses to do, according to McDermott partner Carole A. Spink in a recent Law360 article.

“The guidance was important because it did clarify that employers can provide incentives for voluntary programs. [There] was a big open question about, ‘Am I going to get into trouble because I’m trying to incentivize people to be vaccinated?'”

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Drug Prices Are Prime Target in Biden’s Competition Order

President Biden’s July 9, 2021, Executive Order—which seeks to increase competition throughout the American economy—takes aim at prescription drug prices. In this article, published in Law360, McDermott partner Emily Jane Cook says Biden’s focus on drug prices is unsurprising given the “significant public interest and frustration” with drug costs.

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How to Handle an Influx of HR Accommodation Requests

As employees begin to return to their offices, human resource teams are being inundated with accommodation requests. The reasons behind these requests include:

  • Concerns about COVID-19 exposure;
  • Convenience of working from home;
  • Lack of child care options and costs of care; and
  • Weariness of daily commute.

McDermott’s Laurie Baddon says in an article published in SHRM that employers should share their policies with their workforces well in advance to give HR and legal teams time to process and assess accommodation requests.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A

Can employers mandate some employees get the vaccine and not others? Is there an obligation to consider requiring a COVID-19 test before coming back to work? What are the potential workers’ compensation claims relating to possible adverse reactions to a vaccine? Should employers mandate vaccinations?

In this article, McDermott partners Carole Spink, Joseph Mulherin, Kathleen Quinn and Troy Van Dongen answer common employer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Ruling Gives Ammunition in Fights Over Health Insurer Clawbacks

A recent ruling from a New Jersey federal district court gives ammunition to providers fighting to stop insurers from engaging in cross-plan offsetting, a common billing practice where health insurers attempt to claw back overpaid claim money from one patient by withholding payment from another patient in a different health plan.

The ruling—which found that the practice violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—could lead to more lawsuits and changes to plan documents. McDermott partner Judith Wethall said in a recent Bloomberg Law article the ruling was more significant than the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit’s 2019 ruling in Peterson v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc.

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Global Employment Law Update

Employment law continues to evolve, and it can be a challenge amid an ever-changing landscape of local employment laws for human resources executives and employment counsel at multinational businesses to maintain a consistent global corporate culture.

McDermott’s Global Employment Law Update brings you the key highlights from across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin and North America. Developed in collaboration with peer firms operating in more than 50 countries, this resource guide contains summaries of the laws and significant court decisions that impacted employers and employees all over the world. It includes:

  • COVID-19 legislative updates
  • Remote work and telecommuting policies
  • Data privacy protections
  • Minimum wage and salary compensation updates
  • Changes to labor protection laws
  • Sexual harassment modifications

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Employers and Artificial Intelligence: Six Pitfalls to Watch Out For

As governments lift COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, employers are turning to artificial intelligence tools to accelerate their hiring processes.

However, these AI-based tools can open businesses up to discrimination claims if they are not careful, according to McDermott partner Brian Mead.

“[The technology] could decide that certain words [are] unlikely to [yield] successful candidates, and then it’s prescreening out members of protected classes and categories of applicants in a discriminatory way,” Mead said in a recent Law360 article.

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Business Leaders Must Confront the Corporate Impact of the CDC Mask Controversy

When the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its mask guidance in May, the news caught many people—especially corporate America—off guard.

In this Forbes article, McDermott partner Michael W. Peregrine argues that companies need to provide stakeholders with clear health and safety messaging in light of mandates from state and local governments.

“Companies can ill-afford to drift in the wind of confusion and controversy, and they can’t be blindsided by further guidance change should there be an increase in reported cases or should variants, like those first found in India, surface in the United States,” Peregrine writes.

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