Waitress in a maskIn keeping with his candidate promises, President Biden’s new appointees issued new COVID-19 regulations. Under the prior administration, the EEOC concluded an employer could require an employee to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. While subject to certain limitations, such as accommodations for medical conditions and religious objections, this was a significant win for employers as they tried to return to normalcy.

Lack of consistency among government agencies

The EEOC’s pronouncement was seen as giving employers the approval to encourage vaccination. BJ Zarvis of Pewter Mug restaurant, “I saw this information as a way to give me, my employees, and my customers some comfort knowing that they were coming to a safe place.”

But then OSHA, under the new Biden administration, announced that any employer that created a mandatory vaccination plan would be subject to OSHA reporting rules if there were any adverse effects from the vaccination. Any lost days would be reportable, which potentially subjects the employer to higher insurance rates and fines. “When I heard about OSHA’s position,” said Zarvis, “I decided it wasn’t worth it to make it mandatory.”

Luckily, OSHA’s position took considerable heat from the public, across the political spectrum, such that it finally announced it was rolling back its position and not making adverse effects from a mandatory vaccination program reportable. So employers like Zarvis can again consider the pros and cons of making vaccinations mandatory.

What is keeping employers from mandating vaccinations?


Continue Reading How are Florida employers keeping up with ever-changing vaccine requirements?

COVID-19 VaccineWith three coronavirus vaccines approved for use in the United States, an end to the pandemic appears in sight. But returning to normal comes with plenty of unknowns. For employers looking to reduce (or eliminate) virtual working, several pertinent questions are now surfacing.

Can I ask employees if they have been vaccinated?

The law generally prohibits employers from probing into an employee’s medical history. It is acceptable for a supervisor to ask if an employee is feeling OK or can complete work for the day. However, it is another story when an employer starts asking questions to determine if an employee is pregnant, diabetic, or suffering from some illness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from forcing an employee to disclose disabilities or serious medical conditions.

Thankfully, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has removed any uncertainty about how the ADA applies in this context. According to recent guidance from the EEOC, employers are permitted to ask employees if they have been vaccinated and for documentation of the vaccine. Employers should, however, avoid health inquiries that probe into other areas not related to the vaccine, as this could run afoul of other employment laws relating to discrimination and disability.

Can I offer incentives for my employees to be vaccinated?


Continue Reading Coming Back to Work – Common Coronavirus Questions by Employers

webinar photoKeeping up with the employment law changes under the Biden Administration can be a challenge. Members of Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A. and Marks Gray, P.A.’s legal teams will host a virtual one-hour session to help business owners, human resource professionals, and in-house counsel understand what these changes mean for employers now, and how to prepare for what might be on the horizon. Click here to download the program brochure.

Program Overview

Guest speaker Giselle Carson, an immigration and compliance attorney with the Marks Gray law firm in Jacksonville, will kick-off the session. She will provide an update on H1B caps, travel bans and consulate processing, as well as I-9 flexibility.

Next, Employee Benefits Attorney David Ledermann will provide an overview on COBRA changes. These include the new federal COBRA subsidy under the American Rescue Plan Act and related notice requirements, interaction with the extended time periods previously granted relating to the pandemic-related national emergency, potential subsequent availability of special enrollment rights in the Health Insurance Marketplace, and considerations relative to Florida’s mini-COBRA law.


Continue Reading 100 Days In: Update on Biden Employment Policies

photo of HR Policies and ProceduresAs the nation begins the slow recovery from the COVID pandemic, businesses will start to return to some level of “normalcy.” But that normalcy will be in a vastly different governmental environment. During the Trump years, businesses benefited from the administration’s pro-business attitude. The Biden administration has made it clear it intends to adopt a pro-employee, pro-union stance. In its first 100 days, the administration has begun to set the pieces for its long-term goals.

What impact will the Equality Act, if passed, have on employers?

One of the more visible areas of change is coming in the civil rights arena. President Biden fired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s general counsel in March when she refused to resign. The EEOC general counsel, who sets the tone for the number and types of cases the Commission pursues, had been relatively modest in her enforcement efforts during the Trump administration. That should be changing. One area that will likely be a red flag issue with the Biden-era EEOC is LGBTQ+ rights.


Continue Reading Employers need to pay attention to sexual orientation and gender identity protection policies

Americans and the rest of the world are hoping that in 2021 every-day life will begin normalizing. With the rolling-out of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, many feel they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, even though the vaccine has reinstated hope in many, it still raises additional questions. Many have wondered whether employers can make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for their employees. The answer appears to be yes.

A guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated that employers can require employee vaccination to go to work. However, this does not necessarily mean that an employee would be automatically terminated. For example, the employee may be entitled to work remotely. Employers also may have to make exceptions for employees with religious objections and disabilities.

Employers should proceed with caution

Although employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccination, the questions remains whether they will or whether they should. It will likely be challenging for employers to ensure their employees comply with the mandate. Employers requiring the vaccine may also receive some push-back.


Continue Reading Can Employers Require Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

In one of the most significant Supreme Court cases for Florida employers in many years, the U.S. Supreme Court held by a 6-3 margin that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (commonly known as “Title VII”) protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. In the anxiously anticipated decision, which is a consolidation of three cases, the Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination because of an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. While the decision only addresses traditional claims of discrimination (plaintiffs were all fired from their jobs), employers should expect that the ruling will extend to claims of harassment as well. If you are a Florida employer, this decision likely means that you need to update, review, and discuss your employment policies with your employees.

New Protections

Until recently, the lower courts that had ruled on the issue routinely held that Title VII’s protections did not extend to discrimination against individuals who had adverse actions taken against them merely because they were gay or transgender. In fact, one of the consolidated cases came from the Eleventh Circuit, which had cited a long-standing lower court precedent in rejecting the claim of a gay male who was fired from his job in Georgia solely because his employer learned that he was gay. Florida is part of the Eleventh Circuit, and so gays were not protected under Title VII’s coverage in Florida until today.


Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds that Civil Rights Law Covers LGBT Employees

Henderson Franklin’s Employment Law and Workers’ Compensation teams invite business owners, HR professionals, in-house counsel and those wanting to stay up-to-date on issues impacting the workplace to attend the 28th Annual HR Law & Solutions Seminar on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa in Fort Myers, Florida. For more details, please click here to view or download the seminar brochure.

The day will kick-off with registration and a continental breakfast at 7:15 a.m. sponsored by Sanibel Captiva Community Bank. After the morning session, attendees will enjoy a plated lunch, sponsored by BKS-Partners, and conclude around 3:00 pm after an incredible inspiring session delivered by former US Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot, Elizabeth McCormick, sponsored by Contemporary Business Resources. Topics and speakers include:

A Day in the Life: Practical Tips for Today’s Employers


Continue Reading Registration for Henderson Franklin’s 28th Annual HR Law & Solutions Seminar is Open

In 1966, the EEOC began requiring companies with 100 or more employees to compile employment data by race/ethnicity, gender, and job category. Dubbed EEO-1 Reports, these surveys were meant to provide a snapshot of how many racial and ethnic minorities and women were working in a company.

EEO-1 Reports Expanded

During President Obama’s tenure, the EEO-1 Report was broadened into two components. Component 1 would include the same information always collected, while Component 2 would include W-2 wage information for employees by race, ethnicity, and sex. Although designed to target pay discrimination, Component 2 was viewed as overly burdensome. Data compilation would take countless hours, while the human error rate was sure to increase on account of the significantly expanded form.


Continue Reading Federal Judge Rules that EEOC Must Collect Expanded Data on EEO-1 Forms – Current Deadline September 30, 2019

Henderson Franklin’s Employment Law and Workers’ Compensation attorneys will host the 27th Annual HR Law & Solutions on Friday, March 29, 2019 at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa. Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Expert Robert Shearman will moderate this annual seminar designed to update and educate business owners, managers, human resource professionals and in-house counsel on legal issues impacting the workplace.

Continue Reading Final Week to Register for 27th Annual HR Law & Solutions

The First Amendment is commonly understood as protecting the right to free speech. But the First Amendment does not impact the ability of private citizens and organizations to punish or limit speech. This is why it’s permissible for a private employer to fire an employee for engaging in speech the employer disapproves of – private employers have the right to manage their employees as they see fit.

The situation grows more complicated when the government is the employer. Like any other employer, the government has a legitimate interest in maintaining efficient offices and agencies, which often requires managing and disciplining employee speech. At the same time, however, public sector employees have a protected right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The law attempts to balance these two interests noted above by differentiating between private and official speech. The First Amendment only protects government employees when they are speaking as a private citizen about matters of public concern. If the government employee’s speech is instead part of their official job duties, they can be disciplined or fired for what they say.

Private v. Official Speech Test


Continue Reading Airing of the Grievances: 11th Circuit Declines to Extend First Amendment Protection to Employee’s Work Complaint