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SUPREME COURT TO HEAR VACCINE DIRECTIVES CHALLENGES IN JANUARY
Lawsuits aiming to block the Biden administration’s vaccination directives for certain private employers and health care workers will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in early January.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) emergency temporary standard (ETS), businesses with at least 100 employees must ensure workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. A federal appeals court had temporarily blocked the rule, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on December 17th in a consolidated action, meaning that employers will have to comply unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise.
Another directive from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires COVID-19 vaccination for staff employed at Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and suppliers. State attorneys general challenged the health care rule in multiple lawsuits with different outcomes. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a district court’s order that had blocked the directive nationwide, but the requirement remains blocked in 25 states. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the rule nationwide.
Oral arguments in both matters are scheduled for January 7th. Whether or not to block the directives will not be decided until the arguments are heard.
Responses Due December 30th
Justice Brett Kavanaugh is assigned to hear emergency appeals from the 6th Circuit, but he will likely refer the OSHA ETS challenge to the full Supreme Court. The consolidated action was brought by state attorneys general and private employers that argue OSHA’s “claimed authority over employees’ private lives and vaccine status is an egregious government overreach.” The court asked the DOJ to respond by December 30th to the challengers’ request to reinstate the stay against the directive. Responses from challengers in the CMS health care matter are also due December 30th.
CMS Health Care Rule Paused
The Biden administration said it will not implement the CMS health care mandate while the legal challenges ensue. States where the health care mandate remains blocked include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. A Missouri district judge’s order that blocked the directive from applying in 10 other states that sued separately also remains in effect after the 8th Circuit recently declined to lift it.
Tight Deadlines for ETS Compliance
Under OSHA’s ETS, employers may choose to require vaccination or allow covered employees who are unvaccinated to wear a mask and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis. The start date for the testing requirement has been extended to February 9th but many other components of the ETS take effect on January 10th, such as the requirement for employers to determine the vaccination status of each employee and develop a written policy.
To give employers time to comply, OSHA will not enforce any requirements under its ETS until January 10th. Additionally, the agency “will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9th, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good-faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard,” according to an OSHA update.
To summarize, standards that would have taken effect on December 6th, such as vaccination verification rules and indoor masking requirements for unvaccinated workers, will begin on January 10th. Weekly COVID-19 testing policies for unvaccinated workers must be implemented by February 9th, IF the rule is upheld. 5 HR Trends to Monitor in 2022
Many human resources (HR) functions were quickly reimagined in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and HR professionals should continue to expect new challenges in 2022. Here are five HR trends to monitor this upcoming year:
1. Hybrid Workplace SustainabilityMost workplace leaders expect that at least some of their employees will work remotely after the pandemic. As such, many employers will factor in hybrid work when creating or updating workplace policies and processes.
2. Attraction and Retention Amid Labor ShortagesThe current labor shortage has been an obstacle for most employers and is likely to continue into the new year. Generally, employees are seeking opportunities that offer better compensation, benefits and flexible work arrangements.
3. Investments in HR TechnologyIn 2022, many employers will integrate technology into more HR processes or build upon their existing practices. Technologies are being used to create efficiencies and improve processes, such as recruitment, onboarding, and learning and development.
4. Growing Demand for New SkillsetsDesired skillsets vary by organization and industry, but many employers are pursuing high-level digital and communications skills for potential and current employees.
5. Employee Health and Well-beingEmployee health and well-being will remain a top concern and priority for both employers and employees. Caregiving, mental health and adjusting to remote work will likely remain top challenges.
Employer TakeawayAs the pandemic evolves, employers will need to innovate and stay on top of trends to meet the needs of employees. Reach out to us today for resources on these topics and other workplace trends. Employee Benefit Plan Limits for 2022 Many employee benefits are subject to annual dollar limits that are periodically updated for inflation. The IRS typically announces the dollar limits that will apply for the next calendar year well before the beginning of that year. This gives employers time to update their plan designs and ensure that their plan administration will be consistent with the new limits.Although most of the limits will increase for 2022, some of the limits remain the same.
Increased LimitsFor plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022, the following limits have increased:
Health savings account contributions:
– Single coverage—$3,650 (up $50)
– Family coverage—$7,300 (up $100)
High deductible health plan (HDHP) out-of-pocket maximum limit:
– Single coverage—$7,050 (up $50)
– Family coverage—$14,100 (up $100)
Health FSA contribution limit—$2,850 (up $100)
Health FSA carryover limit—$570 (up $20)
Transportation fringe benefit plan monthly limits—$280 (up $10)
Employees’ elective deferrals to 401(k) plans—$20,500 (up $1,000)
Tax exclusion for adoption assistance benefits—$14,440 (up $140)
Unchanged LimitsCertain limits will not change for 2022, including the HDHP minimum deductible and catch-up contribution limits to HSAs or 401(k) plans. The tax exclusion for dependent care FSA benefits also returns to traditional rules.EEOC Issues New Guidance on COVID-19 and ADA Disability
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what employers may or may not do to comply with federal fair employment laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new FAQs specifically address the definition of “disability” and how to determine whether an individual with COVID-19 meets it under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA and COVID-19 BackgroundUnder the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees may face liability if they take certain adverse employment actions against individuals who have been diagnosed with or are believed to have COVID-19. The ADA also requires these employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including any related to COVID-19. Smaller employers may be subject to similar rules under applicable state or local law.
Three-Part DefinitionThe EEOC’s new FAQs clarify that COVID-19 may qualify an individual for ADA protection based on “actual” disability, a “record of” disability or being “regarded as” having a disability. Employers must perform an individualized assessment to determine whether a specific employee’s COVID-19 meets any of these definitions.
Disability TypesCOVID-19 is an actual disability if it is a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The FAQs provide examples of situations in which an individual with COVID-19 would (and would not) meet this definition.
The FAQs also explain and provide examples illustrating how certain adverse employment actions may violate the ADA even if an individual only had COVID-19 in the past (“record of” disability) or is mistakenly believed to have COVID-19 (“regarded as” having a disability).
10 Employee Retention Resolutions for 2022
With a new year upon us, your attention is likely focused on setting financial and productivity goals for your business. As you plan, make sure to look at one area you may have overlooked: employee retention. Employee retention has a huge impact on your bottom line, and now is a great time to make some employee retention resolutions that will pay off all year long. Watch the video to learn 10 key employee retention resolutions for 2022.