Friday, August 20, 2021

WIRTW #592 (the “welcome back” edition)

Covid has taken a lot from us. One of the things it robbed from this space is its weekly "What I'm Reading This Week" ("WIRTW") feature. For 591 pre-Covid Fridays, I published a list of the best workplace-related things I read on the Internet that past week.

Today (and hopefully for every Friday from this point forward), I am delighted to bring this feature back from its pandemic slumber.

Here is the 592nd edition of What I Read This Week

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-19-2021: The (Un)Healthy American, along with other more reputable organizations, help Americans dodge vaccine mandates

Meet Peggy Hall. She runs a website called The Healthy American

What is The Healthy American? For starters, it's a website that NewsGuard ranks 22.5/100 (a failing grade no matter how you slice it), for, among other sins and errors, publishing false and irresponsible misinformation about the Covid vaccine. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-18-2021: Back to school presents fresh challenges for working parents and employers

Today my kids go back to school. 10th grade for Norah and 7th grade for Donovan. I am so thankful that their school is requiring universal masking regardless of vaccination status. Not all students, however, are so lucky. Only 10 states currently require masks in schools, while eight states outright prohibit schools and school districts from mandating them. That means that 32 states leave this decision up to individuals school districts and parents.

This presents a major problem. Just look at these headlines from schools that are already back in session.

And that's just the tip of the Covid outbreak iceberg. This will be an absolute crisis in a matter of weeks unless all schools and school districts mandate universal masking regardless of vaccination status and get as many vaccinated as possible. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-17-2021: Are your work-from-home employees working more one job from home?

This headline in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye: These People Who Work From Home Have a Secret: They Have Two Jobs.

A small, dedicated group of white-collar workers, in industries from tech to banking to insurance, say they have found a way to double their pay: Work two full-time remote jobs, don’t tell anyone and, for the most part, don’t do too much work, either.

Alone in their home offices, they toggle between two laptops. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8-16-2021: With more businesses implementing vaccine mandates, more people turn to illegal fake vaccine cards

With more employers mandating vaccines for their employees, and businesses, cities, and schools doing the same for customers and other non-employee visitors, more people who resist the vaccine are turning to fake vaccine cards to remain employed or otherwise gain access.

As I wrote a few months ago, using a fake vaccine card is a federal crime. 18 U.S.C. sec. 1017 criminalizes the fraudulent or wrongful use of a government seal (in this case, that of the CDC). It is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. 

The illegality, however, hasn't stopped people, and the market is growing.

Friday, August 13, 2021

What Would Ted Do? #WWTD

First, there was my Golden Rule of Employee Relations: Treat your employees as you would want to be treated (or as you would want your wife, kids, parents, etc., to be treated).

Next there was my Platinum Rule of Employee Relations: Treat your employees as they would want to be treated.

Finally came my Eight Word Meaning of Life and its Corollary: Be kind to others and do good things … and do all you do with [mucho mucho] joy.

Today, I'm going to sum all of this up in one tidy four-word question.

What would Ted do?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–12–2021: Justice Department confirms that ADA applies to Covid “long-haulers"

A few weeks ago I opined that the ADA likely covers Covid long-haul symptoms as protected disabilities that employers must accommodate.

In recently published policy guidance, the Department of Justice agrees. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–11–2021: Mad as hell

How are you? Delta is spiking Covid infection rates to their highest levels since last winter. Hospitals are again facing a crisis of space. Breakthrough infections are a grim reality. Masks are again becoming part of our daily lives. How am I? I'm mad.

How mad? Mad enough to voice my resentment to WebMD.

"I am angry, I am resentful, and I think it’s a fair and appropriate response," says Jonathan Hyman, a Berea, OH, attorney who blames the unvaccinated for the backslide in pandemic progress.

Hyman has been following the difficult guidelines health experts have been urging from the beginning. He has been masking up, avoiding large gatherings, postponing travel, and he signed up to receive the vaccine as soon as it was available.

"We have been responsible, I did everything I was supposed to do," says Hyman, 48, who didn't visit his parents for 18 months to keep them safe. "Yet here we are, 16, 17 months later, and it feels like we're in the exact same place we were last summer, and it’s all because some people refuse to do the responsible things they were told to do."

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–10–2021: Vaccines and religions accommodation requests

"I need an accommodation for your mandatory vaccination policy. The vaccine is against my religion."

As more employers roll out vaccine mandates, more will be faced with this exact scenario.

Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances, as long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship. 

Two, and only two, religions, however, actually support people not getting vaccinated as a tenet of the religion — Christian Scientists and the Dutch Reformed Church. There are an estimated 106,000 Christian Scientists in the United States, and 194,000 members of the Reformed Church. That's a tidy total of 300,000 potential religious objectors based on their religion's actual teachings, period (or only 0.25% of all employees). But that minuscule number does not end the inquiry.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–9–2021: CNN fires three employees for lying about vaccine status

CNN — which is requiring all in-person employees to be fully vaccinated — has fired three employees for going into the office unvaccinated.

In an email to staff (as reported by Deadline), CNN president Jeff Zucker wrote:
In the past week, we have been made aware of three employees who were coming to the office unvaccinated. All three have been terminated. Let me be clear — we have a zero-tolerance policy on this. You need to be vaccinated to come to the office. And you need to be vaccinated to work in the field, with other employees, regardless of whether you enter an office or not. Period. We expect that in the weeks ahead, showing proof of vaccination may become a formal part of the WarnerMedia Passcard process. Regardless, our expectations remain in place.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The 11th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2021” is … the Cosby Suite

If you're my age, when you hear the name Activision you think of games like Kaboom!, Pitfall!, and the Atari 2600. If you're younger you might think of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater or Call of Duty. No matter your age, after you read this lawsuit, you'll only be able to think, "OMG, what the hell is wrong with them?!"

According to the lawsuit the State of California is bringing against Activision Blizzard, "During a company event … [key World of Warcarft developer Alex] Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling [them] he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them. This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees. Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the 'Cosby Suite' after alleged rapist Bill Cosby."

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–5–2021: Debunking dangerous anti-vax theories and organizations like The Solari Report

You've read my posts from earlier this week, listened to the newly self-appointed quarterback of Team Vaccine Mandate, and decided to require the Covid vaccine for all of your on-site employees. After you announce your mandate, an employee enters your office to present the following ultimatum: "I'll get the vaccine," the employee tells you, "as soon as you sign off on this document." 

The employee then hands you the following form, which it found on a website called The Solari Report.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–4–2021: The dam is breaking on mandatory Covid vaccines, and the flood is coming

The news on mandated Covid vaccinations is coming fast and furious, from courts, governments, and private businesses.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–3–2021: What the CDC’s new mask guidance actually says and means

Since there was so much confusion that resulted from the last time the CDC updated its mask guidance for the fully vaccinated, I thought it best to take a look at its most recent pronouncement, explain exactly what it means, and detail whom the CDC recommends should now be masking up indoors.

According to the CDC, the fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, meaning 50 or more cases per 100,000 people. For the unvaccinated, the guidance remains as it always has been—mask up indoors and in most cases outdoors.

What is an "area of substantial or high transmission? As of today, any county colored orange or red on this map. 

Nearly 80 percent of all counties in the United States meet this definition.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Coronavirus Update 8–2–2021: Employers, now is the time to mandate Covid vaccines

As short as a few weeks ago, I'd have told you that the choice to get vaccinated is a personal one, and that employers that mandated the Covid vaccine for their employees were over-stepping into their employees' medical privacy.

That was before last week's news that the Delta variant has taken hold and taken off. As we now know that Delta is more transmissible than the chickenpox or the common flu, impacting younger people, and likely more dangerous than prior variants, our country is in a dark place with this virus, and it's rapidly getting darker.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Coronavirus Update 7–23–2021: We talkin’ bout masks! We ain’t talkin’ bout the vaccine, we talkin’ bout masks.

I'm not proud of this but i just made a scene in public for the first time in my life… I walked into a Starbucks and they asked me to put a mask on! I yelled this is ridiculous, so I turned around and walked out. I know what you're thinking… My first mistake was walking into a Starbucks:)

Actor Kevin Sorbo, on LinkedIn, 7/20/21

I came across the post written by the former Hercules actor a couple of nights ago while perusing my LinkedIn feed. Three things came to mind.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Coronavirus Update 7–22–2021: How the ADA and FMLA apply to Covid long haulers

The risks associated with Covid-19 aren't limited to the 625,000 Americans this virus has killed or the 2.3 million hospitalizations. One of the greatest risks comes from the fact that nearly one-third of Covid-19 patients will develop long-haul symptoms that long outlast the actual infection, and further that nearly one-third of all Covid long haulers had asymptomatic Covid cases. These long-haul symptoms can include fatigue, respiratory problems, "brain fog," body aches and muscle pain, abdominal issues, and loss of smell and taste. They can be quite debilitating and last for months or longer.

If you have an employee experiencing one or more of these long-haul symptoms, what are your legal obligations to that employee under ADA and FMLA?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Coronavirus Update 7–21–2021: Employers, now is the time to ready your back-to-school plans

Children nationwide are getting ready to go back to the school for the 2021 – 22 school year, the third school year students and their parents will be living and dealing with, Covid-19.

Here's what we know about what this school year will look like.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

When protected concerted activity isn’t protected

Netflix has fired three marketing executives for criticizing their co-workers over Slack. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "the executives in question thought the messages were private. An insider says an employee stumbled across several months’ worth of these messages and reported it."

Monday, July 19, 2021

An adverse jury verdict is just a number on a piece of paper

Late last week, a federal jury tagged Walmart with a verdict totaling more than $125 million in a disability discrimination lawsuit the EEOC brought on behalf of an employee with Down syndrome.

The facts were not great for Walmart.