Employment Law Updates

Effective today, July 1, 2021, Virginia has some new laws concerning cannabis products that employers should note. Adults aged 21 and older may possess and use up to one ounce of cannabis in private residences. Adults may also grow up to four cannabis plants. These home-grown plants should be kept out of public view, away from people under 21, and labeled with ID tags. It will still be illegal to do any of the following:

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for the health care industry, with nonbinding guidance for other employers. According to OSHA, the standard aims to "protect health care and health care support service workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 in settings where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present." Covered health care employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace, and must also implement certain other measures to reduce workplace transmission of COVID-19, such as patient screening, increased cleaning and ensuring the use of personal protective equipment.

We have received numerous inquiries about the effect of Governor Northam’s May 14 Order which eases many Covid restrictions. There is much confusion about this issue. The Governor’s May 14 EO 79, which takes effect at midnight on May 28, focuses primarily on relaxing the mask requirements. In addition, however, the order, states:

In January, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule attempting to clarify the standard for classifying a worker as an independent contractor rather than employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act. That rule was promulgated under the previous presidential administration and was scheduled to go into effect in March. The rule focused on an “economic reality” test to determine whether the worker is economically dependent upon the employer for work or is actually in business for him/herself. The effect of the rule was to make it easier to classify a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee.

Under the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), starting April 1, 2021 the federal government will pay 100 percent of COBRA insurance premiums for eligible employees who lost their jobs and for their covered relatives through September 2021, allowing them to stay on their company-sponsored health plan. Employers will obtain the subsidy through a payroll tax credit against employers' quarterly taxes and will be responsible for paying health insurance carriers for the premiums. Both fully insured and self-insured group health plans subject to federal COBRA are eligible for the credit against their Medicare FICA payroll taxes and must provide the COBRA premium subsidy to assistance eligible individuals (AEIs) who have elected COBRA coverage.

The 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly produced an additional flurry of employment-related laws. The following are some of the more significant laws for many employers:

Effective May 1, the minimum wage in Virginia increases to $9.50 per hour. Although the federal proposal to raise the national minimum wage to $15.00 did not survive the recent Congressional deliberations, last year’s Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation raising the minimum wage in Virginia gradually over several years to $15.00 per hour. The first step is the increase to $9.50 per hour as of May 1, with the second step to $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022.

The new federal stimulus law known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has now been passed by Congress, and President Biden is expected to sign it tomorrow, March 12. The Act contains several provisions relating to employment which are worth noting.

Most employers have policies in their employee handbooks prohibiting the use or possession of alcohol or illegal drugs in the workplace. These policies also typically permit drug testing of employees in certain circumstances, and provide for discipline if an employee tests positive for banned substances. In view of recent legislative developments in Virginia and nationally concerning marijuana, employers should revisit those handbook policies and determine whether any revision is appropriate.

Employers should note two recent developments concerning Covid-19 in the workplace. First, Virginia’s permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules took effect on January 27 after Governor Northam approved the standards adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board the previous week. The standards mandate appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. The new standards are similar to the previous Temporary Standards, with slight modifications. One notable difference is a new requirement to notify the Virginia Department of Health if 2 or more employees test positive within 14 days. The new standards are found at the link:

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a final rule clarifying the standard for classifying a worker as an independent contractor rather than employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The effective date of the final rule is March 8, 2021.

Office Hours

Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 5 pm
Sat Closed
Sun Closed

Contact Us

925 Main St., Suite 300 
Lynchburg, VA 24504 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
pldr law firm facebook icon