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Summary of Answers at 8 on June 9th, 2021

Reminder that we have a few “special” sessions upcoming:

  1. COVID-19 Pulse Survey Results -Wed. June 16th at 8 a.m.
    Join this special session of our weekly Answers at 8 webinar. Catapult HR Advisor Renee Watkins and Kathryn Sears will host. Becky Drozdz from Catapult will also join us to discuss the results of a COVID-19 member pulse survey: Register here.
  2. Ongoing HUB webcasts (for details click here)

6/9 – The COVID safety rules have changed….Now What?
7/12 – The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Benefits: 2021 and Beyond – 2:00 PM EST
8/24- Health Insurance in the Carolina’s –Past Present & Future: A panel discussion with executive leaders from 4 leading insurance carriers providing health insurance to the Carolina’s – 10:00 AM EST
10/11 – Disability Insurance Plan Essentials – What you need to know – 11:00 AM EST

Legal Updates

  • NC Executive Order 216 went into effect on June 6, 2021. This means that all existing claimants of unemployment benefits will be required to fulfill work search requirements including 3 employer contacts per week and must have an account with NC Works.
  • There is also a program in NC that has been proposed (and in fact did make it through the house last week) about a reemployment incentive program funded through DES.
  • The federally subsidized unemployment benefit of $300/week is set to expire in September, but several states made the decision to end that program early. In South Carolina, for example, these benefits will end on June 30th. NC is now also discussing an early end to benefits.
  • Virginia Overtime Law: Effective July 1st, Overtime (for non-exempt employees and salaried non-exempt) is still paid at 1.5 times for hours worked over 40 in a given workweek but there are changes as to how to calculate regular wage for overtime purposes.

EEOC Versus OSHA Guidance

EEOC Vaccine Incentives:
On June 1, 2021, the EEOC provided some FAQs around vaccine incentives. This included:

  • An employer may offer an incentive to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation that they received a vaccination on their own (chose the location for the vaccine).
  • An employer may offer an incentive to employees for voluntarily receiving a vaccination administered by the employer or its agent as long as the incentive is not so substantial as to be coercive, and as long as the employer does not acquire genetic information while administering the vaccines. The EEOC does not offer any guidance at to what “so substantial as to be coercive” means, but many companies are offering a hundred dollars or a day off. Again, this only comes into play if you are offering the vaccines in-house or contracting with a specific provider. A lottery of a larger incentive may be appropriate as well.
  • Incentives cannot be offered to family members.
  • An employer may offer vaccinations to an employee’s family members if those vaccines are voluntary, employees are not penalized if their family members are not vaccinated, and all medical information obtained from family members during the pre-vaccine screening process is only used for the purpose of providing the vaccination, is kept confidential, and is not provided to any managers, supervisors, or others who make employment decisions for the employees.

OSHA (Where is the guidance?)

We have been telling members to wait for OSHA guidance which was supposed to be provided by the end of last month, but it has just been released and the full guidance will be published shortly. We will talk about this soon on Answers at 8.

What does this mean? It means that technically, the guidance issued on 1/29 (remember just guidance, not law) is still the least risky option for employers.

That guidance still recommends face masks, social distancing and cleaning protocols. However, after the CDC came out with guidance on what fully vaccinated people could do, OSHA posted a statement that they are “reviewing the recent CDC guidance and will update our materials on this website accordingly. Until those updates are complete, please refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers.”

At this point, there is not a nice, neat one-size-fits-all answer so we are walking members through the various points to consider as they weigh the risk/reward with their particular industry and business. Some of those points are:

  • Company size and trust level
  • Employee morale issues and working conditions
  • How many employees are vaccinated and more importantly how many are not?
  • Past COVID-19 activity in the workplace
  • State/local guidance

And of course, we are recommending having a COVID-19 plan in place-one that can be updated as conditions change.

Helpful Tools:

This week we discussed some of the common questions we’ve had from members. As a follow-up we wanted to provide a link to the COVID toolkit which includes materials related to unmasking, return to the office, vaccinations and hybrid work.

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