President-Elect Biden Announces Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his Choice for Secretary of Labor

By: Kara M. Maciel, Eric J. Conn, and Beeta B. Lashkari

On January 7, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden announced his much-awaited choice for nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor, selecting Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.  Mayor Walsh made his mark as a labor leader, ultimately heading the Building and Construction Trades Council from 2011 to 2013.   Mr. Walsh was also a full-time legislator, serving in the Massachusetts state legislature for some 17 years before being elected mayor in 2014.Picture1

If confirmed, it is expected that Mayor Walsh’s close personal friendship with President-elect Biden will elevate the importance of the Labor Department in President Biden’s cabinet, allowing a Secretary Walsh significant influence in the Administration.

Mayor Walsh’s strong ties to organized labor and his selection follows through on President-elect Biden’s campaign promise to give unions a stronger voice in labor policy in his Administration. Mayor Walsh has a reputation as a “pragmatic deal maker,” and he is respected in Massachusetts by both business and labor for his reasonable approach to solving labor and employment issues facing the state.

Of the many issues likely to be tackled by the Labor Department over the next few years, one of the first and most impactful will be the likely issuance of a federal COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard by OSHA.  President-elect Biden has pledged to have OSHA quickly address this issue.  If a federal ETS is promulgated, it would replace the current Administration’s approach, which has relied heavily on CDC and agency guidance, as well as existing OSHA standards, like the respiratory protection standard and recordkeeping rules, to issue citations.  With respect to COVID-19, under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, the City of Boston implemented a Continue reading

How Employers Should Respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV” or “coronavirus”) is a respiratory illness that, with its spread to the United States, is raising important issues for employers.  This guide explains the outbreak, the legal implications of it, and how employers should be responding now to employees who might have the virus, are caring for affected family members, or are otherwise concerned about their health in the workplace.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

First detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, 2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus reportedly linked to a large outdoor seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.  At this time, it is unclear how easily the virus is spreading between people.  Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and the general feeling of being unwell.  The incubation period is approximately 14 days, during which time an individual may see no symptoms but may still be contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports that an ongoing investigation to determine more about this outbreak is underway, that the situation is rapidly evolving, and that more information will be provided as it becomes available.

As of January 30, 2020, there have been approximately 8,100 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in many countries, including in the United States.  On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”  On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the country’s healthcare community in responding to 2019-nCoV.  Additionally, on the same day, the President of the United States signed a presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Legal Implications for Employers

With the presence of coronavirus in the United States, employers must be vigilant in complying with the various labor and employment laws implicated by the virus.

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Clinton or Trump? The Future of Employment Law and Workplace Safety Regulation

By Kara M. Maciel, Eric J. Conn and Nick W. Scala

What has evolved (or devolved) into perhaps the most controversial election in American history, could translate in a couple of months into a whirlwind for labor and workplace safety policy. Stark differences between the major candidates promise either an onward march for Obama-era rules and enforcement philosophy, or a sudden rollback of the Obama Administration’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement agenda.

How this election turns out will have lasting consequences for a range of labor initiatives and policies, many of which have led to some of the Obama Administration’s most heated policy debates. These range from forcing disclosure of so called “persuaders” involved in union organizing to a publicelection-webinar-cover-slide shaming campaign seeking to put employers’ safety data online.

As we discussed during a recent Conn Maciel Carey webinar, the results on Nov. 8th will have a huge impact on how the Labor Department proceeds with both new regulations and enforcement policies. Everything from Wage and Hour to OSHA and MSHA will be affected – and stakeholders will feel the differences quickly regardless who wins the election.

On most issues, a Clinton win would cement what the Labor agencies under Obama view as their mandate to keep issuing tougher rules on behalf of workers and unions. Generally, an election of Trump means DOL will scrap the lion’s share of its current agenda, and begin to repeal regulations finalized over Obama’s two terms, since his economic plan relies heavily on easing regulatory burdens on businesses. Continue reading

“Whistleblower Investigations – OSHA’s 11(c), Title VII, and other Statutes” [Webinar Recording]

On Wednesday, April 19, 2016, Kara M. Maciel and Jordan B. Schwartz delivered a webinar regarding OSHA Whistleblower Investigations as part of the Firm’s 2016 OSHA Webinar Series.

A host of federal and state laws include provisions prohibiting employers from retaliating against whistleblowers who engage in activities protected by the statute.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and several other laws that regulate the relationship between employers and employees, contain such whistleblower protections.  Pursuant to these protections, the laws also provide a mechanism through which employees can report incidents of retaliation to the government to investigate and potentially bring an enforcement action against the employer.  With the number of whistleblower claims continuing to rise in 2015, it is imperative for employers to understand what types of actions could be the impetus for a whistleblower investigation and the potential consequences.

Participants in the webinar learned the following: Continue reading

Workplace Violence: Employer Liability in Virginia and Potential VOSH Penalties

By Daniel C. Deacon and Kara M. Maciel

Workplace violence has become a serious issue for employers throughout the United States. In the wake of the recent mass shootings that occurred in San Bernardino, CA and Hesston, KA, both of which occurred at least in part at an employer’s workplace, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for violence in the workplace and ways in which it can be prevented.  Although these two incidents may not have been foreseeable or preventable,WPV Image these incidents will nevertheless bring more attention to this issue, including by litigants and regulators.

Workplace violence can be categorized in three ways:

  1. Violence by an employee;
  2. Violence by a stranger; or
  3. Violence by a known third party.

Depending on the facts of each incident, an employer may be faced with a lawsuit and/or a regulatory investigation and enforcement action.  In Virginia, the law generally shields employers from liability for physical harm caused to employees or customers by the violent acts of co-employees or third parties.  However, even if an employer evades civil liability, employers may still be subject to an investigation by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, and incur significant civil penalties.

Given the potential for both a civil suit and a government investigation, employers should implement workplace policies and programs that help keep the workplace safe and free of workplace violence.  This article details the potential legal liabilities and penalties employers may incur from workplace violence incidents, and provides guidance on how prevent such incidents or liabilities from occurring. Continue reading

Workplace Violence: No Longer Just a Police Issue [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, Eric J. Conn and Kara M. Maciel delivered a webinar regarding “Workplace Violence: No Longer Just a Police Issue.”

Every year, approximately 10% of workplace fatalities result from intentional violent acts.  The prevalence of workplace violence is even more alarming when you take into account non-fatal assaults and threats of violence.  This particular workplace hazard is uniquely challenging because the threat is often from outside the workplace, including non-employee third parties.  Regardless, workplace violence has also become a hot button enforcement issue for OSHA, citing employers under the OSH Act’s catch-all General Duty Clause for employers who do not do enough to protect their employees from violent acts.  Beyond OSHA, workplace violence can also implicate other employment laws.  For example, if violent acts or threats occur because of symptoms of an employee’s disability, the handling of discipline and termination gets tricky under the ADA.  Likewise, Workplace Violence Webinar Cover SlideHR issues related background checks and negligent hiring could also contribute to civil liability.

Therefore, it is important for employers to develop and implement an effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program and appropriate hiring practices.  This webinar advised employers about their legal obligations to address workplace violence and the implications if they fail to do so.  It also provided employers with the knowledge and tools they need to Continue reading