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The Challenges and Opportunities of Hybrid Work

What are some of the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work arrangements? In this Lexology GTDT Market Intelligence article, McDermott Partner Carole Spink offers insight about tracking remote work, navigating local rules, and protecting confidential and propriety information.

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Finding the Right Hybrid Work Balance

Law firms and other members of the corporate world are seeking to find the right balance between in-person and remote work. According to this American Lawyer article, McDermott Chairman Ira Coleman noted the “cultural expectation” of in-person work at his firm.

“One of the big challenges for us is trying to navigate how we think about mentorship and apprenticeship when so much of the work we’re doing now is actually being done virtually,” Coleman said.

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Whistleblowers, Fears of Losing Funds Key to Enforcing US Vaccine Rules

Even though the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccination rule for employers (though not for the healthcare sector), businesses should continue preparing for important OSHA deadlines.

According to this Reuters article, workplace whistleblowers and fears of disappearing federal funds will likely help with vaccination mandates within businesses, hospitals and nursing homes. However, OSHA is unlikely to demand proof from every healthcare provider of vaccination and testing protocols. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also typically does not survey accredited healthcare providers unless there is a complaint or a need for recertification, McDermott Partner Sandra DiVarco noted.

“On a stakeholder call, CMS reiterated their desire to work with providers to come into compliance and not to sort of send SWAT teams to go out and look for problems,” DiVarco said.

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Women and the Pandemic Workplace: Corporate Leadership’s Important New Challenges

While a recent McKinsey and LeanIn.org women and the workplace study pointed to positive gains for women in corporate leadership roles in 2020, women continue to face substantial burdens in their careers. According to this Forbes article, McDermott Partner Michael Peregrine says such burdens pose a “significant threat to the economic and cultural health of an organization.” These burdens include hierarchical validation, burnout, and significant bias and discrimination for women of color.

“Ideally, boards can use the 2020 progress as evidence that their leadership on gender equity can—and does—make a difference,” Peregrine notes.

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Businesses Left in Limbo on COVID-19 Mandate

Following a US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision to temporarily block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new vaccine requirement rule, many employers have found themselves in a state of confusion. According to this article published in The Hill, businesses could face steep penalties if they willfully violate the rule, such as fines of more than $130,000. But even though the rule is temporarily blocked, McDermott Partner Michelle Strowhiro said businesses should continue preparing for important OSHA deadlines.

“I think it’s prudent for employers to proceed with planning assuming that the OSHA rule, at least in some form or fashion, will be implemented pending final resolution of the various court cases,” Strowhiro said.

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Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks New OSHA Rule

On November 6, 2021, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued on November 4, 2021, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement COVID-19 vaccination policies. The ETS is stayed until further notice, halting its implementation temporarily. While the future of the ETS remains uncertain, employers may want to continue preparing for the ETS as if it is going to take effect while litigation continues.

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OSHA and CMS Vaccination Rules Released: Here Are the Details

On November 4, 2021, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect employees of large employers in all industries from COVID-19. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) simultaneously released its Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule, applicable to most Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers, which must be met to continue participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Finally, the White House announced that its previously published federal contractor vaccination mandate would be updated to move the compliance deadline from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022.

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When Is COVID-19 a Disability? Courts Tackle Issue in Bias Cases

A Pennsylvania federal judge recently allowed an employee to move forward with a discrimination lawsuit after her employer terminated her following a positive COVID-19 test result. According to this Bloomberg Law article, the judge noted that COVID-19 could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, it’s unclear if the ADA also protects infected workers before they display long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. McDermott Partner Brian Mead said the employee’s presentation of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms (including loss of smell and taste) was also key in the judge’s ruling.

“The difference between having a cough or a substantial lung impairment is the difference between being covered by the ADA or not covered,” Mead said.

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Bridging the Generation Gap: True Value in Having Young and Old Working Together

What are the impacts of a multigenerational workforce, and how do you best bridge generational differences in the workplace?

In this Chicago Lawyer Magazine article, McDermott Partner Tina Martini suggests that multiple generations of employees can have varying ideas about how to approach issues, as well as having distinct points of view.

“There can be adverse consequences in not having different generations represented, including the potential for it to negatively impact your ability to recruit and retain top talent,” Martini notes.

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