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Baby, It's COVID Outside: How to Return to Work Safely After the Holidays
By: Sarah Stula

You know it’s the holiday season when the kids come home from college, the Griswolds take vacation, and Santa Claus comes to town. But for many, the most wonderful time of the year has become a cause for concern. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and family gatherings inevitable, you may be worried the virus will spread in your workplace faster than holiday cheer. Don’t have a blue Christmas—plan now to keep your workplace safe this season by revisiting your COVID-19 policies.

Review the Updated CDC Guidelines
As the medical community learns more about COVID-19, the CDC continues to update its guidance. For example, the CDC recently expanded the definition of a “close contact” to include more brief encounters. Before, “close contact” was defined as being within six feet of a confirmed positive COVID-19 case for 15 consecutive minutes or more. Now, “close contact” is defined as being within six feet of a confirmed positive case for a total of 15 minutes (see “Updated Definition of ‘Close Contact’” elsewhere in this blog).
The CDC also shortened the recommended length of quarantine time after exposure. Until recently, the CDC advised that individuals in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should quarantine for 14 days. Though 14 days is still the gold-standard, the CDC now says that individuals who do not develop symptoms may end their quarantine after just 10 days, or even seven days if they test negative.
Employers should also be careful to review the latest guidelines issued by their state and local      Continue Reading...
Kansas COVID-19 Immunity Law Raises Questions for Employers
By: Sarah Stula

With the economy largely reopened, but COVID-19 cases continuing to fluctuate, some businesses are concerned about lawsuits from customers and guests who may be exposed to, and subsequently become ill from, the coronavirus while on their premises. In June, the Kansas Legislature addressed these concerns when it passed the COVID-19 Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act, which, among other things, grants Kansas businesses immunity from COVID-19-related civil claims if they substantially comply with required “public health directives.” Here are three things Kansas employers should know about the Act.

(1) What does the Act do?
The Act grants immunity from liability in a civil action for a COVID-related claim to any person conducting business in Kansas who substantially complies with required public health directives. The Act broadly defines “person” to include individuals, for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, and government entities. One example of a situation that may be covered is when a patron dines in at a restaurant and later tests positive for COVID-19. Even if the patron can show causation by linking her COVID-19 exposure to the restaurant, then the Act may shield the business from civil liability if the restaurant substantially complied with applicable public health directives.

(2) What are “public health directives”?
The Act defines “public health directives” as any federal, state, or local statutes, rules, and regulations regarding COVID-19 that entities or individuals are required by law to follow.

(3) How long is the Liability Act in effect?
The Act retroactively applies to claims      Continue Reading...

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Becomes Law
By: Sarah Stula

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which, among many other things, provides paid leave for employees who must stay home to care for themselves or their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, the Senate passed the Act, and President Trump signed it into law. The Act makes sweeping changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and has immediate consequences for employers.

The Act creates two types of paid leave: (1) up to two weeks of sick leave for an employee who is subject to quarantine or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, is caring for someone who is quarantined or ill, or is caring for a child who cannot go to school; (2) and up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for an employee to care for a child who cannot go to school or daycare because of COVID-19. Employers will be subsidized for the paid leave through tax credits.
Employers must prepare to implement the Act as soon as possible. Though a deep dive is needed to fully understand your organization’s obligations under the Act and implement a compliance plan, here are some of the important things you should know right now.

1. When is the Act effective?

The new paid leave rules will take effect “not later than” April 2, 2020, and expire on December 31, 2020.
2. Which employers are      Continue Reading...
An Employer's Guide to Avoiding Tattoo Nightmares
By: Sarah Stula

Perhaps your parents warned you as a teenager that if you got a tattoo, you would never get a good job. But millennials have turned this adage on its head.

Tattoos are no longer taboo. Nearly half of millennials have at least one tattoo, and the workforce is becoming more inked than ever before. As the popularity of tattoos (and tattoo reality-TV shows) continues to grow, employers may wonder whether to permit the visible display of tattoos in the workplace. Here are some tattoo policy tips for both private and public employers.

Tips for Private Employers

If you are a private employer, you may generally adopt dress code policies that require employees to cover their tattoos at work if their display could harm the company’s public image or otherwise interfere with your business. But you should also take precautions to prevent discrimination claims that could arise from a tattoo-concealment policy. These precautions include: (1) stating a legitimate business reason for adopting the policy; (2) applying the dress code equally to all similarly situated employees; and (3) enforcing the dress code consistently.

Any tattoo-concealment policy should be compliant with local, state, and federal anti-discrimination laws, and employers should be careful that the policy does not disparately impact protected classes. For example, if only employees of a certain nationality or gender are disciplined for failing to cover their tattoos, then those employees might allege that the policy is pretext for illegal discrimination. The same would be true if an employer refused to hire      Continue Reading...

Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Good Reasons to Stop Asking About Salary History
By: Sarah Stula

Does your company ask about salary history during the application and hiring process? If so, you may want to re-think that approach.

Nationwide, women earn about 85% of men’s wages, and Kansas is no exception. In an effort to help reduce the gender pay bias, a growing number of states and cities have banned employers from inquiring about salary history during hiring. The rationale behind these bans is that, when salary offers are based on salary history, women who have been previously underpaid will continue to be underpaid. Thus, salary history inquiry bans aim to stop the cycle of underpaying women.

Salary history inquiry bans have been adopted from coast to coast—from California to New York City—and now, Kansas City, Missouri, has joined their ranks. Effective October 2019, the Kansas City ordinance generally prohibits an employer with six or more employees from engaging in certain hiring practices, including: (1) inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history; (2) searching public records to obtain salary history; (3) relying on salary history to make hiring decisions; and (4) retaliating against an applicant for failing to disclose salary history. These prohibitions do not apply to applicants for internal transfers or promotions with their current employer, and employers are permitted to discuss salary expectations with applicants.

If your company operates in Kansas City, Missouri, or other locations with salary history inquiry bans, you obviously need to update your hiring procedures accordingly, or risk liability and penalties down the road.

But even if an employer is not subject to a state      Continue Reading...


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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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