Quick Hits - March 10, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - March 10, 2021

Quick HitsMichigan’s Workplace Safety Ambassador Program going strong: Be the next business to schedule a free COVID-19 safety consultation and earn a "Proud Participant of the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Ambassador Program" window decal as a part of the Michigan Occupation Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Ambassador Program. MIOSHA in partnership with NSF International provides workplace safety ambassadors who help Michigan businesses better implement COVID-19 regulations and best practices. Over 2,000 businesses across Michigan have participated in the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Ambassador Program since September 2020. Overall, the ambassadors have reported high rates of willingness to participate, compliance with COVID-19 workplace safety requirements, and eagerness to enhance protocols as suggested by the consultants.

Employee wellbeing programs not that effective:  U.S. employers are expanding efforts to enhance their employees’ wellbeing as they map out a benefit strategy for operating in a post-pandemic environment. These initiatives come as less than three in 10 employers say their wellbeing (29%) and caregiving (27%) programs have been effective at supporting employees during the pandemic. That’s according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson, which also found the majority of employers cite rising stress and burnout as the number one wellbeing and mental health concern — generated by an increase in caregiving needs and a lack of social connections. More than half of respondents (54%) report rising stress or burnout as the biggest wellbeing challenge connected to the pandemic, while 40% cite higher mental health-related claims as a top challenge. To address these challenges, 62% cite enhancing mental health services and stress/resilience management as a top priority over the next six months, compared with just 47% six months ago. Additionally, developing a strategy for benefits in a post-COVID-19 environment is a top priority over the next six months (33%). More than two-thirds (68%) cite communicating benefits and wellbeing programs as a top benefits priority over the next six months. Source:  Willis Towers Watson 2/25/21

If you suspect FMLA abuse: A long-time DuPont employee took FMLA leave to recover from a foot surgery. While on leave, and while receiving short-term disability pay, other DuPont workers reported seeing the technician "walking around at a pool party," despite her doctor's orders that she should not put weight on her foot. After hearing this report, company management hired an investigative agency to surveil the worker to ensure she was following her doctor's restrictions. Initial surveillance captured the technician climbing in and out of her SUV, driving, walking, descending stairs, and lifting a small child — activities that directly violated her doctor's instructions and conflicted with her report that "she could barely walk." Later, when the technician returned to work on light duty and on a limited schedule due to persistent pain, surveillance recorded her "walking through a Wal-Mart parking lot without crutches, a boot, or a limp, getting a manicure and pedicure, and mowing her lawn on a riding tractor for 90 minutes." The company fired her several weeks later. She sued, claiming, among other things, FMLA leave retaliation. The court ruled in favor of DuPont stating that using video surveillance to prove an employee's behavior was inconsistent with her stated need for disability leave does not violate FMLA.  Source: HR Dive 2/25/21, Snyder v. EI DuPont de Nemours Inc., No. 18-1266 (District Court of Delaware, 2/5/21).

Despite the pandemic, hospitals expected to lose money: Under an optimistic scenario, hospitals would lose $53 billion in revenue this year. The loss would primarily come from a $27 billion decline in outpatient revenue and $17 billion for inpatient as well as $9 billion in emergency department revenue. Under a more pessimistic scenario, hospitals would lose $122 billion thanks to a $64 billion decline in outpatient revenue.  Hospitals could lose billions more if consumers and hospitals adapt to a “new normal” of slower or only partial recovery of patient volumes. Another concern is a cyclical rise and fall of COVID-19 surges as residents stop social distancing before herd immunity is reached, the report said. While hospitals are still expected to see revenue declines in 2021, major increases in supplies and staff are expected to continue this year. Kaufman Hall estimated that supply expenses such as purchasing personal protective equipment increased 13% in 2020 compared to 2019, and labor expenses increased by 14% despite “many hospitals furloughing portions of their workforce.”  Source:  Fierce Healthcare 2/24/21

EEOC annual report is released: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 enforcement and litigation data.  EEOC’s comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for FY 2020 can be found here (readers can also see detailed breakdowns of charges by state). In FY 2020, the EEOC received 67,448 total charges.  The top five charge types of discrimination for FY 2020 were retaliation—all statutes (37,632); retaliation—Title VII only (27,997); disability (24,324); race (22,064), and sex (21,398).  In total, in FY2020, EEOC secured a record-breaking amount of recovery, more than $535 million, for workplace discrimination victims.  This recovery includes $333.2 million in monetary relief in the private and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and other administrative enforcement.  The recovery also includes $106 million in monetary relief obtained through litigation—the highest such recovery since 2004.  The EEOC secured more than $96 million in monetary relief for federal job applicants and employees.  Source:  EEOC 2/26/21

OSHA takes on two new whistleblowing statutes:  On February 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will oversee worker retaliation complaints filed under the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (CAARA)1 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).2 With this move, OSHA now oversees the enforcement of the whistleblower provisions of 25 different statutes, including those related to workplace safety and health—the Agency’s original mandate—but also several concerning consumer products, food safety, securities, motor vehicle safety, health insurance, and financial reform, to name a few. Employers will want to advise members of management and human resources, including investigators, to be aware of whistleblower complaints that could involve CAARA and the AMLA. The enactment of these new workplace retaliation provisions provides an additional opportunity for organizations to review and strengthen their anti-retaliation policies and communicate to all employees their commitment to ethical conduct and non-retaliation.  Source: Littler 2/19/21

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