Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-20-2021: How to spot a fake vaccine card

The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane 21 games for violating the League's Covid-19 protocol. His offense: supplying a fake vaccination card. 

Fake vaccine cards are out in the world, easy to find, and easy to use. Their use is also a federal crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison and grounds for termination of employment. Yet, as workplace vaccine mandates become more prevalent (and soon federally mandated), more anti-vax and vaccine-hesitant employees will take the risk instead of losing their jobs.

Do you know how to spot a fake vaccine card? Here are some telltale signs.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

UPDATE: HIPAA (mis)information and the Covid vaccine

Earlier this week I wrote about a national payroll provider that shared some very incorrect information about an employer’s HIPAA responsibilities on its website.

That company, ADP, saw my post and reached out to me to let me know that they updated their article.

“I saw your blog that highlighted an oversight from one of our writers on our Spark Blog. It was good to see in that we were able to correct it immediately.”

(Sadly, the Oxford comma omission persists, but I’ll take my victories where I can get them.)

You can find their updated article here

Well played, ADP. 👏 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-14-2021: We still don’t know what OSHA’s vaccine standard says … but we’re getting closer

Late Tuesday, news broke that OSHA had submitted in vaccine mandate Emergency Temporary Standard to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for its review. What does this mean? It means that OSHA has taken the first important step towards publishing the ETS and implementing its vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more employees.

But that's it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-13-2021: Unfortunately I need to keep clarifying misconceptions about HIPAA

I came across the following information on the website of a prominent national payroll provider:
Q: In what ways can/should HR departments capture and record employee vaccination information? What are the HIPAA implications?

A: When it comes to recording this data, it's a good idea to keep it separate from other employee information on file. It should not be part of standard employee records and should be accessible to as few people as possible. Because vaccination records are covered under HIPAA regulations, businesses must ensure they're diligent about securely collecting, recording and storing this information to limit the risk of compromise.
It cuts me to the quick to see an entity that should know better getting HIPAA so very wrong. If they can't get it correct, we have little hope that the general public will stop raising HIPAA as an objection to any disclosure of their health information, including vaccination status.

So, to clear the air once and for all, this is what HIPAA covers and doesn't cover, and why it does not apply to employers gathering vaccine-related information from employees.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-12-21: A prior Covid infection is not a defense to an employer’s vaccine mandate

"I don't need the vaccine; I've already had Covid and have superior natural immunity" is a popular refrain from some people who've been infected with Covid and, for that reason or another, are hesitant to get the Covid vaccine.

Does that argument hold up against an employer's vaccine mandate? According to two federal courts that recently examined the issue, the answer is a clear noKheriaty v. Regents of the Univ. of Calif. (decided 9/29/21 by a California federal court judge) and Norris v. Stanley (decided 10/8/21 by a Michigan federal court judge) each examined whether an employee was entitled to a preliminary injunction against their employer's vaccine mandate.

In each case, the Court sided with the employer and rejected the employees' pre-existing immunity arguments.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-11-21: World Mental Health Day

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. It was also day 579 of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Covid-19 has altered all of our lives; all employees are dealing with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

19 months into the pandemic, more than 45 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19, 733,000 have died, and millions more have suffered debilitating illnesses. These are actual people, not just statistics, and we all know someone this virus has impacted.

Many of us have dealt with the stress of layoffs, furloughs, lost income, closed businesses, and the stress that flows from figuring out how to pay the bills and feed our families.

Parents have balanced the second job of homeschooling (or at least assistant homeschooling) their kids against their primary job of their actual paying job.

While life has returned to some semblance of normalcy, there remain many too many of us who are unvaccinated and, thanks to Delta, we all still live with the worry of contracting this virus merely by stepping out into the world. 

As a result, some of your employees are working with and through mental health issues of varying degrees caused by all of this stress, change, and loss. Some will be dealing with the exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, and some will have what I am calling Covid-19 PTSD.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-7-21: EEOC brings its first pandemic-related lawsuit over a denied WFH accommodation

The fact that an employer temporarily excused performance of one or more essential functions when it closed the workplace and enabled employees to telework for the purpose of protecting their safety from COVID-19, or otherwise chose to permit telework, does not mean that the employer permanently changed a job’s essential functions, that telework is always a feasible accommodation, or that it does not pose an undue hardship. These are fact-specific determinations.

EEOC's What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws

According to the EEOC, just because an employer previously offered remote work during the pandemic for some or all employees does not mean that remote work is an appropriate accommodation for any specific employee after it recalls employees to the physical workplace.

What does this look like in practice? A lawsuit the EEOC recently filed will test its limits.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-5-21: Would you rather? Get fired? Or get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Last week I asked a simple question on LinkedIn
If your employer is mandating the Covid vaccine, would you rather get fired or get the shot?
More than 1,500 people responded, and the results shocked me. 27 percent — that's more than one out of every four respondents — say that they'd choose termination of their employment over a jab of the Covid vaccine. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-29-21: We need to talk about the rise in anti-Semitism and Nazi symbolism

"You're being a Nazi by mandating masks and vaccines."

"'Papers, please.' I refuse as a condition of entering a store or attending a concert."

"What's next, quarantining the unvaccinated into camps?"

"Vaccine mandates violate the Nuremberg Code." 

"Do I need to remind you of the late 1930s and into the '40s in Germany and the experiments with Josef Mengele? What was it? A shot? These were crimes against humanity."

And on, and on, and on. I've had enough.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-28-21: White House issues Covid vaccine mandate guidance for federal contractors and subcontractors

If your business is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you have until December 8 to ensure that your employees are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to guidance published late Friday by the White House's Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. There is no testing-in-lieu option available for these employees.

What exactly does this guidance mandate?

Monday, September 27, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-27-21: Repeat after me. “A vaccine mandate is not coercive.”

Today's post is for anyone who believes that a workplace vaccine mandate is coercive or deprives employees of their free choice not to get vaccinated.

A federal court recently upheld an employer's vaccine mandate for its employees. In and of itself that holding is not earth shattering or even particularly newsworthy. In fact, it's consistent with virtually every other case in history to rule on a vaccine mandate at work.

This case stands out to me not because of what it held, but because of what the judge said about the free choice employees still maintain on whether or not to get the Covid vaccine, despite their employer's mandate:

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-23-21: If you’re tired of reading what I have to say about workplace vaccine mandates, now you can listen to what I have to say

A huge thank you to the producing team at WCPN's The Sound of Ideas and host Rick Jackson for inviting me on to yesterday's program to discuss President Biden's workplace vaccine mandate. It was a fun and engaging 17 minutes of conversation, and I always enjoy doing live radio. (Also, thanks, Rick, for plugging the blog.)

If you missed it live, The Sound of Ideas archives all of its shows on its website, and you can (re)listen to yesterday's here.

Here's a quick preview, a clip of me laying out the pros and cons of the vaccine mandate from an employer's perspective.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-21-21: Covid-19 has now killed as many Americans as the Spanish flu

Covid-19 just passed a grim, sad, and preventable milestone. It has killed as many Americans, 675,000, as the last pandemic we suffered, the 1917 Spanish flu. That's more than 226 9/11s.

What makes Covid-19 so much worse than the 1917 pandemic is that we know so much more and we should have been able to end this long before reaching this point.

More than anything else, we have a virus-slowing, life-saving vaccine that 45 percent of the country has failed to fully take. Before the vaccine, we had face masks that a similar percentage of our country railed and rallied against. 

As a nation, many too many of us have chosen politics over science, and fiction over reality. As a result, too many have died, and more have fallen ill and suffered.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-20-21: Fetal stem cells and vaccine-mandate religious exemptions

As the debate over religious exemptions to workplace Covid vaccine mandates, one hospital has taken a unique approach to verify the sincerity of its employees' anti-vax religious beliefs.

The issue stems from the misconception that Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's mRNA vaccines contain aborted fetal cells, and certain people's religious objections to abortion.

In reality, the vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells, although Pfizer and Moderna did use fetal cell lines — cells grown in a laboratory that are based on aborted fetal cells collected generations ago — in testing during research and development of the mRNA vaccines.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Coronavirus Update 9-15-21: Do mandatory vaccination policies have an adverse impact on minority employees?

With President Biden's announcement of his plan to vaccinate all employees of employers with 100 or more employees, the nation is keenly focused on workplace mandatory vaccination policies. This has led some to question whether the President's plan unlawfully discriminates against minority employees.

There is little doubt that vaccination rates among Blacks and Hispanics lags behind that of Whites (which isn't that great to begin with). At the latest count, only 43% of Black Americans and 48% of Hispanic Americans are vaccinated, compared with 52% of White Americans. The reason for this greater vaccine hesitancy within minority communities is understandable and well documented, particularly when the government is promoting or flat-out requiring the vaccine. See the Tuskegee Experiment (one of our nation's greatest embarrassments … and that's saying a lot).

All of this begs the question — is a mandatory vaccination policy discriminatory against Blacks and Hispanics. Or, more technically speaking, does such a policy adversely impact them?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

BREAKING NEWS: Biden to announce vaccine mandate for all employers with 100 or more employees

CNN is reporting that President Biden will announce an executive order directing the Department of Labor to draft an emergency rule requiring that all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure all of their workers are either Covid vaccinated, or Covid tested once a week. This goes along with another expected executive order requiring all government employees and employees of government contractors to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of opting out through regular testing.

The legality of the last two (federal employees and federal contractor employees) is not in question. President Biden is absolutely within his authority to mandate as to both.

But as to other employers? If someone wants to explain to me how the Department of Labor can mandate Covid vaccinations or testing for employers, I'm all ears. Because unless I totally misunderstand administrative law (and I don't think I do), that type of measure needs to be enacted via a law passed by Congress and signed by the President, and not by executive order.

This is a developing story, which I will update as necessary. Stay tuned.

Coronavirus Update 9-9-21: Don’t forget about overtime laws when paying employees pandemic-related bonuses

If you pass any restaurant these days you'll almost certainly see a sign like this one: 

"Now hiring: $________ sign-on bonus."

I've seen that blank filled in with numbers as high a $1,000 to work at a fast-food restaurant.

Employers are paying these bonuses because they continue to struggle to fill job vacancies in the tightest and toughest labor market I've ever witnessed.

If you find yourself in this position, do not forget about the wage and hour implications of these bonus payments, specifically their inclusion in the "regular rate" for purposes of calculating an employee's overtime premium.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-31-21: Despite FDA and CDC warnings to the contrary, Ohio court orders hospital to administer Ivermectin to Covid patient

Ivermectin is a high potency medication used to prevent or treat parasites in livestock. It's FDA-approved for limited use in humans, such as in specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and certain skin conditions. It is not an anti-viral medication. 

Yet, the drug has grown in popularity among conservatives, fueled by endorsements from people like Senator Ron Johnson and Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. It is not approved to treat COVID-19 infections, and both the FDA and CDC have issued strong warnings against its use for that purpose. Nevertheless, reports of poisoning related to the use of Ivermectin have increased threefold this year, spiking in July, and feed stores in states with low vaccines rates selling out of the drug.

Courts are now wading into the issue, but not how you'd expect. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-30-21: Vaccine mandates and unemployment compensation


As the mandates are increasing and the “deadlines” fast approach, YOU SHOULD NOT QUIT YOUR JOB. Do not be fooled if your boss says you must resign. Make your boss fire you and do not sign anything or agree to anything that says otherwise. Do not agree with “voluntary resignation.” If you are fired, you are eligible for unemployment. Anything else and you are not.

This statement, variations of which are making the rounds on social media and elsewhere online, is very, very wrong (at least in Ohio).

An employee fired for declining a vaccine mandate (for a reason other than a bona fide medical or religious excuse) is not eligible for unemployment.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-26-21: Incentivizing Covid vaccinations through insurance-premium penalties for the unvaccinated

Delta Air Lines has decided to try a different approach to get as many of its employees vaccinated as possible. It's imposing a $200 charge for any unvaccinated employees on its health plan. Think of it as a smokers' penalty, but for the Covid vaccine.

NPR has the details:
Delta Air Lines will charge employees on the company health plan $200 a month if they fail to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy the airline's top executive says is necessary because the average hospital stay for the virus costs the airline $40,000.