President Biden Points Government Orders Impacting Employers Amid Pandemic |

The following article was first published on the Shipman & Goodwin law firm’s website in the Employment Law Letter section.

In his early days in office, President Biden issued a wave of executive orders to protect workers amid the pandemic.

According to the White House, the key policy objective underlying any regulation is to implement and unite evidence-based measures to support the workforce and protect those hardest hit by the pandemic, including communities of colored and working class Americans Promote inclusive and diverse workplaces.

These orders can have a significant impact on your workplace. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Protection of the health and safety of workers

OSHA-covered employers (i.e., most private employers and federal government employers) may need to take additional precautions with regards to COVID-19.

By February 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor must:

a. Issued revised workplace safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic;

b. Consider whether mandatory immediate action is required, e.g. B. wearing masks at work and, if necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021.

c. Review OSHA’s COVID-19 enforcement efforts and identify short, medium, and long-term changes to better protect workers and ensure fair enforcement;

d. launch a national program through OSHA to focus on enforcing the most serious violations that seriously endanger the greatest number of workers or violate the principles of retaliation; and

e. Create a multilingual outreach campaign to educate workers and their representatives (including trade unions) about their rights, with a focus on the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

For public sector workers, the ordinance instructs various department heads to coordinate with states and unions to ensure that their OSHA-approved OSHA-approved health and safety plans adequately protect workers and to work with states that do not have such plans to strengthen worker protection against COVID-19.

Finally, the ordinance instructs the Department of Labor to work with department heads to ensure that other categories of workers, including miners and others not covered by OSHA, consider measures to protect workers, including implementing temporary emergency measures.

However, the order makes it clear that it does not create any right or advantage that could be enforced against the US government or its departments or agencies.

Connecticut employers have already been required to adhere to the industry rules put in place to operate during this pandemic through Governor Lamont’s own instructions.

Some other states have similar rules, including New York. Employers must therefore ensure that they comply with both federal and state regulations.

2. Economic aid in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic

President Biden called on the U.S. DOL to clarify whether workers can refuse employment that threatens their health or the health of others in their household, and if they do, they will still be eligible for unemployment insurance.

It is not yet clear how this clarification will affect employers in Connecticut. For example, the Connecticut Department of Labor has issued guidelines advising that employees who are at high risk of serious illness may refuse to work in certain situations and still be eligible for unemployment insurance.

3. Protection of the federal workforce and the requirement to wear masks

Federal employer: Federal employees on duty or on-site, federal on-site entrepreneurs, and anyone in federal buildings or states must adhere to CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures.

The heads of the agencies can make categorical or case-by-case exceptions as required by law (e.g. to accommodate a disability), but must require alternative protective measures such as additional physical distancing.

All exceptions must be documented in writing.

The heads of the agencies should provide masks to federal employees whenever possible.

The Department of Health and Human Services is also developing a COVID-19 test plan for federal workforce.

All other employers: HHS will be engaging state and local leaders to encourage the use of masks across the country and to create incentives for the use of masks.

Safer Federal Workforce Task Force: The contract establishes a new task force that will provide guidance on testing, contact tracing, physical distancing and occupancy standards, air filtration, equipment, disinfection and cleaning, teleworking, vaccine distribution and management, and other infrastructures necessary to combat COVID-19.

Note that the order does not create any right or benefit that could be enforced against the United States government or its departments or agencies.

4. Federal Government promotion of racial justice and support for underserved communities

President Biden issued this order to address “deadlocked differences in our laws and public order” through a “comprehensive approach to promoting justice for all.”

The Order aims to improve the opportunities for historically underserved communities.

In particular, the Order defines justice as “the consistent and systematic treatment of all persons, including those belonging to underserved communities, such as those belonging to underserved communities, in a fair, just and impartial manner. B. Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous and Native American people, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, other colored people; Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer; People with disabilities; religious minorities; People living in rural areas; and people otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality. “

Recognizing that such equity “requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making,” all federal agencies are required to review internal equity within 200 days and come up with a plan of action to remove the unequal barriers to opportunity identified in the guidelines and guidelines of each agency can be found in programs.

The Domestic Policy Council of the White House has the task of coordinating efforts to implement equity policy throughout the federal government. It is the responsibility of the Director of OMB to study and identify the best practice for valuing equity and to produce a best practice report within six months.

This order also revokes former President Trump’s order to restrict the delivery of diversity and inclusion training for federal government employees and contractors.

5. Preventing and combating discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation

President Biden expanded federal non-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The order implements the US Supreme Court decision in the consolidated cases of Bostock v Clayton County, Altitude Express v Zarda, and RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC and ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as Prohibition of discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The order also builds on the Supreme Court’s decision to instruct federal agencies to interpret all federal anti-discrimination laws that prohibit gender discrimination, such as Title IX, to protect them from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression .

The new administration pushed ahead with this policy of protecting the gender identity of individuals on Monday, signing an additional executive order lifting former President Trump’s ban on transgender people openly serving in the military.

6. Protection of the federal workforce

President Biden restored collective bargaining power and protection for federal employees through an order that repealed a number of executive orders from his predecessor that had restricted the federal unions ‘collective bargaining power and facilitated the termination of federal employees’ employment.

Specifically, the mandate will reduce the prior creation of Schedule F staff to repeal civil defense by reclassifying federal employees working in policy-oriented roles to occupational classifications that make it easier to dismiss and replace them at will .

The ordinance also instructs agencies to “negotiate permissible, non-compulsory negotiation issues when contracts are under negotiation,” and calls on the Human Resources Bureau to report to the President with recommendations “for a minimum wage of $ 15 / hour to promote for federal employees. “

We expect President Biden to issue additional executive orders in the coming days and weeks that will affect employee rights in the workplace. Stay tuned.

About the authors

Keegan Drenosky is an associate in the Stamford office of Shipman & Goodwin. She works in the field of labor and labor law as well as commercial disputes.

Sarah Westby is an associate in the Hartford office of Shipman & Goodwin and a member of the company’s Employer Defense and Labor Relations practice group.

Daniel Schwartz is a partner in the Hartford office of Shipman & Goodwin and has decades of experience solving complex labor law problems for companies.

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