Quick Hits - April 14, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

Quick Hits - April 14, 2021

State of Michigan establishes a communication toolkit for COVID-19:  The State of Michigan has created a communication toolkit that will assist employers with access to important communication resources as they work to educate their employees about the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. This toolkit includes graphics, videos, and handouts that are ready to share with your networks in newsletters and on social media. New content will be added frequently.  Please visit ASE’s Coronavirus Resources page for a link to the kit and other resources or access it directly here.

$15 per hour national minimum wage becoming a reality? The Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that Democrats can use special budgetary rules to avoid a GOP filibuster on two more pieces of legislation, setting the stage for President Biden's infrastructure agenda to pass in two packages with simple-majority votes.  It's a win for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that allows him to pass Biden's $2.25 trillion package by revising the fiscal 2021 Budget Resolution.  Schumer could pass a budget resolution for fiscal 2022 to do a third reconciliation package for the second half of the Biden infrastructure agenda. Or the fiscal 2021 budget could be revised a third time to set up a third reconciliation package.  If they do a new budget resolution, they can add the $15 minimum wage provision to the bills.  Currently, the Senate parliamentarian has denied the democrats the ability to add it to the current budget reconciliation process.  Source:  The Hill 4/5/21

Experiencing more employee complaints than normal?  Since the start of the pandemic, 48% of employees have reported a work issue to their HR department, according to a report by payroll services company Paychex. Forty-four percent of employees have received disciplinary action due to their behavior while working remotely.  COVID has been emotionally challenging for employers and employees: 84% say they have dealt with emotions related to stress — including anxiety, sadness and anger — according to a February survey by the American Psychological Association. Employees may be expressing these feelings in the workplace, resulting in HR complaints. Fifty-two percent of HR complaints were associated with employee disputes, the Paychex survey found. A third of workplace complaints had to do with being denied time off work, with women more likely than men to have their requests rejected.  HR managers have been challenged during the pandemic to adapt quickly to their employees’ needs and provide the support employees are requesting. Almost half of HR professionals said their biggest challenge during COVID has been dealing with concerns over employee morale and mental health.  Source: ebn 4/6/21

Pandemic has led to higher addiction rates: Versta Research conducted their 2020 Behavioral Health Pandemic Impact study on behalf of The Standard, surveying 1,425 full-time employees in the U.S. about mental and behavioral health issues in the workplace.  Of the 49% of workers who reported struggling with some level of addiction, the number of workers reporting lower productivity or missed work because of substance abuse or addiction has nearly doubled since 2019, with about one-third (36%) further reporting that it has affected their work more since the pandemic began. Nearly half of full-time workers now report problem use of alcohol, drugs or prescription medication, and one in five (19%) report at least weekly usage. Alcohol remains the most common substance abused by workers, while 1 in 10 report struggling with prescription medication during the past year. Source: Business Wire 4/1/21

Ready to start business travel?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its domestic travel guidance for fully vaccinated people, lifting certain testing and self-quarantine requirements and recommending precautions like wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. But health officials continue to discourage nonessential travel, citing a sustained rise in cases and hospitalizations. The CDC updated its website to reflect the latest scientific evidence, writing that "people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States." The announcement comes less than a month after the CDC first released updated guidance about gatherings for fully vaccinated people, which it described as a "first step" toward returning to everyday activities. We’re slowly getting back to a new normal.  Source:  NPR 4/2/21

If you think hiring is difficult, what about employee retention? One third of millennials intend to seek a new job when the pandemic ends, and about 26% of all employees will look to change jobs, with 80% of them anxious about career growth, according to a Pulse of the American Worker Survey from Prudential. The Labor Department found that about 3.4 million US employees left their jobs in February, and almost 50% of the employees surveyed who intend to leave their jobs said they'd give their employer a grade of "C" or lower for their workplace culture efforts during the pandemic.  Source:  Forbes 4/6/21

Undue hardship under a religious accommodation standard will remain a low bar: In a surprise to many observers, the Supreme Court did not take up the opportunity to overrule Title VII precedent establishing that employers suffer an "undue hardship" in accommodating an employee’s religious exercise whenever doing so would require them "to bear more than a de minimis cost." Justices Gorsuch and Alito dissented, saying, among other things, that under Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U. S. 63 (1977), Title VII’s "undue hardship" test has become the "odd man out" among civil rights statutes.  Arising from a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment against the employee’s claim that his employer refused to accommodate his religion—Jehovah’s Witness—holding that the employer did not have to offer any accommodation that would have imposed an undue hardship on its business.  The Sixth Circuit pointed out that the company’s undue hardship was interpreted to mean "(apparently) anything more than a ‘de minimis cost.’"  Source: CCH 4/7/21, Small v. Memphis Light, Gas and Water, No. 19-5710 (6th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 12, 2020)

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