Questions about what the COVID-19 vaccine means for employers?
By now you may have heard the news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, with more vaccine candidates on the way. We’re here to briefly answer some questions about what these developments may mean for employers going forward.
When can I reasonably expect a vaccine to be available to myself or my employees?
While two vaccines are currently authorized for emergency use, most states have phased plans for vaccine distribution due to a currently limited supply. Colorado, for example, expects to vaccinate high- and moderate-risk frontline medical workers and long-term care facility staff and residents in the winter, other essential workers and higher-risk individuals in the spring, and the general public in the summer of 2021. This timeline is subject to change based on the availability of the vaccine. The CDC indicates on their website that “all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.”
Can I require my employees to take the vaccine?
The EEOC has released guidelines regarding mandatory vaccinations which indicate that employers my adopt mandatory vaccination policies so long as they are job-related. It will be important to consider and properly account for reasonable accommodations that may be necessary for individuals with disabilities and sincerely held religious objections to the vaccine. Moreover, employers must consider their obligations under collective bargaining agreements if working with unionized employees.
One of the most important considerations when contemplating a mandatory vaccination policy is the availability of the vaccine. Employers should avoid implementing mandatory vaccination policies until vaccines are widely available to the general public.
Moreover, if an employer decides to adopt such a policy, they must address in the policy a timeline for receiving the vaccine, documentation requirements, how to request an exemption, safety protocols for individuals who cannot take the vaccine, and where the vaccine is available in the community.
What about social distancing and wearing masks?
The CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash their hands often, stay home when sick, and practice other health guidelines even as the vaccine is rolled out to the general public. As we continue to learn more about the vaccine, it will be important to maintain, update, and adhere to company policies regarding COVID-19 guidelines and best practices.
Key pieces for compliance now
The Act includes requirements for posting positions that include:
If you are posting positions, these positions must include pay ranges
Pay ranges may be broad and can include the lowest paid to highest paid ranges for a position that the employer would in "good faith" pay for the position
A general description of benefits - which guidance shared from the CDLE is stated to be benefits which are tax-based (health and welfare, bonuses, pay for time off, and paid leave options etc.)
The Act also includes requirements for posting internal opportunities for promotions. All opportunities for promotion at a company, must be announced to all team members at the same time and all qualified candidates need to be reviewed.
A promotional opportunity includes any promotion in compensation, benefits, status, duties, or access to further advancement.
According to the CDLE final rules, a promotional or hiring opportunity exists when the employer has or anticipates a vacancy in an existing or new position that could be considered a promotion for one or more team member(s). A “team member” includes any person employed by an employer covered by the Act.
Therefore, if any vacancy arises that could be considered a promotion for any person employed by a company, all reasonable efforts should be made to share this internally with all team members.
As of 1/1/2021 the Healthy Family Workplaces Act new requirements begin. The new rules require employers to allow employees to accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 48 hours of paid sick leave to employees for time off. Employees may use this time off for reasons that include: have or need to seek a diagnosis for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents the employee from working, or a family member of the employee they must care for from working.
The Act also allows for the sick leave to be used for an employee or the family member of an employee that has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and the use of leave is to seek services (counseling, relocation or legal services), or to seek treatment and help for victims of domestic abuse.
In addition to these requirements, the HFWA wage protection rules allow for public health emergency leave that allow for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in the event of a public health emergency. This allows for employees to care for themselves or their family members who may be dealing with illness and need to isolate due to a communicable disease. A few key pieces of the legislation include:
An employer may count an employee's unused accrued paid sick leave toward their supplemental paid sick leave required
An employee may use this paid sick leave from the start of the leave in the Act (1/1/2021) up until 4 weeks after the end of the public health emergency
All other reasons for paid sick leave would be included in this extended public healthie emergency
We’re here to help you navigate the changing state, federal, COVID and post-COVID employment landscape. Check back often for updates!