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Four Discrimination Questions Employers Have About COVID-19

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have gained a greater understanding about the virus’ relationship with US anti-discrimination laws. With the inevitable rise of future variants and long-haul COVID-19 cases, however, businesses are still navigating murky waters. In this Law360 article, McDermott Partner Lindsay Ditlow offers perspective about worker accommodation requests and what they mean for employers.

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Four Trump-Era Bias Policies Stymied by Biden in 2021

Throughout US President Joe Biden’s first year in office, the Biden administration reversed numerous Trump-era policies, including those concerning the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal contractors, wage data and LGBTQ bias. In this Law360 article, McDermott Partner Rachel Cowen offers insight into how the friction between religious and LGBTQ rights will continue to play out throughout employment law.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

On October 4, 2021, the US Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs.

Employers have grown more interested in exploring incentives designed to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among employees. Some employers have announced plans to charge unvaccinated employees higher contributions for health coverage than vaccinated employees, while some have been considering other options, such as excluding coverage for COVID-related illnesses, charging higher cost-sharing for COVID-19-related illnesses and offering more generous plan options to employees who are vaccinated.

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Red Tape, Legal Risk Douse Fervor for Surcharges on Unvaccinated

Companies curious about a major airline’s unvaccinated healthcare premium surcharge are discovering that it may be too complex to copy. The airline recently announced that unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s health plan would see a $200 monthly surcharge. In this Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall said the compliance hurdles are “tricky and kind of dilute the message.”

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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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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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VIDEO: COVID-19 Vaccination and Five Key Considerations for Healthcare Employers

The question of whether or not to make vaccinations mandatory for workers is being considered by employers globally, particularly those in the healthcare sector. In this video, McDermott Will & Emery partner Carole A. Spink outlines some of the most common employer-related vaccine questions, including incentives and data privacy concerns. Spink and McDermott partner Paul McGrath recently also wrote for McDermott’s International News about this topic.

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How the American Jobs Plan Would Affect the Workplace

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, union neutrality and changes to wages and enforcement of health and safety regulations are part of the legislative plan on its way to Congress. Of these proposals, the PRO Act, which has already passed the US House of Representatives, may face the most opposition in the Senate.

In a recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management, McDermott partner Ron Holland examines the potential impact of President Biden’s infrastructure package on the American workforce and economy.

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