Employment Law Updates

Yesterday, March 23, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 53 requiring the closing of certain businesses. The order can be found online at

This is the first in a series of our blogs about coronavirus issues.

We have received several inquiries about whether employers may take employees’ temperatures to determine if they have the coronavirus. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from making medical inquiries of employees or requiring medical examinations unless they are job related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC has now issued guidance on this subject.

Classifying a worker as an “independent contractor” rather than an employee is attractive to employers for several reasons. Whereas employees have taxes withheld from their paychecks and have legal protections such as the minimum wage law, unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation insurance, independent contractors are considered to be self-employed. As such, independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes and benefits such as health insurance expenses and for setting their own work schedules. The availability of workers compensation benefits and unemployment insurance is also limited when a worker is classified as an independent contractor. Virginia lawmakers have passed legislation in an attempt to stop employer misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

Workplace harassment is not a new phenomenon. However, its place in the spotlight over the last several years and in the wake of the #metoo movement has led employers to re-examine their harassment policies and training efforts. An EEOC task force concluded in a 2016 report that in most cases, anti-harassment training isn’t working. Why? Most harassment training focuses on technical compliance with the law, claim prevention and defense tactics, using outlandish or extreme examples that are not relatable and can be abstract, boring and irrelevant to employees. Current research indicates that employers’ focus is better placed on prevention and creating a culture of mutual respect and tolerance that is conducive to disclosure of inappropriate behaviors.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) imposes limits on requesting medical information from a job applicant. Before extending a job offer, it is unlawful for an employer to (1) ask an applicant medical questions, or whether he/she is disabled, or about the nature or severity of a disability; or (2) to require the applicant to take a medical exam before making a job offer. You can ask the applicant questions about ability to perform job-related functions, as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability.

Effective January 1, 2020, Virginia law will require employers to provide employees with a paystub or online accounting on each regular pay date. Current Virginia law requires employers to provide employees with “a written statement of the gross wages earned by the employee during any pay period and the amount and purpose of any deductions therefrom,” and only upon request of the employee. Under the new law, a written statement in the form of a paystub or online accounting must show the following:

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) today issued its long-awaited final rule adjusting the salary level for exempt employees. The new rule will go into effect January 1, 2020 and raises the "standard salary level" from the currently enforced level of $455 to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker).

For those employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (50 employees within a 75 mile radius), be on the lookout for changes to the 7 optional-use FMLA forms published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. On August 5, the DOL published a notice announcing a 60-day public comment period on the proposed revisions.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.  Employees who have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and have at least 1,250 hours of service in the previous 12 months are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for certain medical-related reasons.  Many employers, however, incorrectly assume that once an employee has been out of work for 12 weeks of FMLA-covered leave, that employee may then automatically be terminated for excessive absenteeism if he/she misses additional time from work for a medical condition.

We have received several inquiries recently concerning whether an employer covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act is required to designate leave as FMLA leave if the leave is for an FMLA-qualified reason. A recent opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) answers that question in the affirmative.

In the wake of the U.S. Department of Labor’s issuance of the revised proposed rule concerning the change to the salary level for exempt employees, employers should make preparations now for the anticipated change.  The proposed revised salary level of $35,308 gives some relief to employers who were facing the previous proposed increase to $47,476 annually.  Both levels are an increase from the current $23,660 ($455 per week).  For many employers, however, even the increase to $35,308 annually ($679 per week) might be a burden.

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