• Posts by Frank C. Morris, Jr.
    Member of the Firm

    Frank Morris leverages more than 45 years of experience as an ADA, public accommodations, and employment and labor attorney to advise clients on and litigate employment, labor, disabilities, non-compete, confidentiality ...

Blogs
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On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States issued three opinions. Of them, Groff v. DeJoy ("Groff”),in which the Court unanimously revised the standard for determining whether accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs would constitute an “undue hardship” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), will have the most immediate impact on employers. In Groff, the Court held that employers cannot deny a religious accommodation by demonstrating that it would result in only more than a de minimis cost, but rather must demonstrate that it would result in a substantial cost.

Blogs
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Since late October 2021, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched its Initiative on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Algorithmic Fairness, the agency has taken several steps to ensure AI and other emerging tools used in hiring and other employment decisions comply with federal civil rights laws that the agency enforces, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Among other things, the EEOC has hosted disability-focused listening and educational sessions, published technical assistance regarding the ADA and the use of AI and other technologies, and held a public hearing to examine the use of automated systems in employment decisions.

Blogs
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On August 16, 2022, in Williams v. Kincaid, the Fourth Circuit held that gender dysphoria can qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”).  This is the first federal appellate decision which extends the ADA’s protections to transgender people experiencing gender dysphoria and it will have a significant impact on all entities covered by the ADA, including employers (covered by Title I of the ADA), and public accommodations (covered by Title III of the ADA). Prior to this holding, several of the district courts have come down both ways on the issue.

Blogs
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On August 18, the US Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) announced that it had received a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request from the Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”), for all Type 2 Consolidated EEO-1 Reports filed by federal contractors from 2016-2020 (“Covered Contractors”) and that OFCCP has reason to believe that the information requested may be protected from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 4, which protects disclosure of confidential commercial or financial information and trade secrets. Accordingly, OFCCP has provided Covered Contractors with 30 days, i.e., until September 19, 2022, to submit written objections to the public release of their Type 2 EEO-1 Reports.

[UPDATE: As of September 15, 2022, the deadline to submit objections is extended to October 19, 2022.]

CIR’s FOIA request asks for a spreadsheet of all consolidated Type 2 EEO-1 reports for all federal contractors, including “first-tier subcontractors,” i.e., subcontractors that contracted directly with a prime federal contractor. Type 2 EEO-1 reports are one of several different types of reports that multi-establishment employers must file annually, which consist of a consolidated report of demographic data for all employees at headquarters as well as all establishments, categorized by race/ethnicity, sex, and job category.

Blogs
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UPDATE – On July 27, 2022, Mayor Bowser signed the Non-Compete Clarification Amendment Act of 2022.  The approved Act must now be sent to Congress for a period of 30 days before becoming effective as law.

Washington, D.C. employers will not need to scrap all their non-compete agreements after all.  On July 12, 2022, the D.C. Council (the “Council”) passed the Non-Compete Clarification Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0256) (the “Amendment”), which among other things, tempers the District’s near-universal ban on non-compete provisions to permit restrictions for highly compensated employees.  For further analysis on the original D.C. Ban on Non-Compete Act, please see our previous articles here and here.

The Council delayed the initial ban several times in response to feedback from employer groups.  However, barring an unlikely veto or Congressional action during the mandatory review period, the amended ban will take effect as of October 1, 2022.  We detail the key revisions to the ban below.

Blogs
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The United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”), in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has held that there is no constitutional right to abortion, overruling Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood.

Blogs
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Over the past several years, workplace artificial intelligence (“AI”) tools have matured from novel to mainstream.  Whether facilitating attracting, screening, hiring, and onboarding job applicants or charting the career path or promotability of current employees, workplace AI tools will likely become more prevalent.  Legislators and administrative agencies have taken note and are in various stages of examining and regulating these tools, with the primary goal of ensuring that they do not violate federal and state laws prohibiting workplace discrimination.

Blogs
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While the fate of two COVID-19 vaccination rules by federal agencies were decided in January by the Supreme Court of the United States, millions of employees working for the federal government, whether directly or as a contractor, have been waiting for clarity in the wake of court orders halting Presidential efforts to promote vaccination.  Here is a brief update on the status of litigation challenging the extent of the President’s authority to command the Executive Branch.

Blogs
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As explained in greater detail by our colleague Stuart M. Gerson, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two major, and quickly decided, rulings on January 13, 2022. After hearing oral arguments only six days earlier, the Court issued two unsigned decisions per curiam. A 5-4 decision in Biden v. Missouri dissolved a preliminary injunction against enforcement of an interim final rule (“Rule”) promulgated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), requiring recipients of federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to ensure that their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Blogs
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On Monday, December 20, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a “situational update,” declaring a state of emergency due to the “Winter 2022 Surge” in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta and Omicron variants. The District will combat the current rise in COVID-19 cases with a six-pronged approach outlined in an action plan (the “Plan”) published by the Mayor’s Office and implemented under Mayor’s Order 2021-147 (the “Order”).  The Plan includes expanding free testing programs, a new indoor mask mandate, and a vaccine mandate for city employees and contractors.

Expanded Testing

The District has been operating a program called “Test Yourself DC,” which provides free PCR testing kits for use at home. On December 20, 2021, nine new pick-up/drop-off sites were added to the program, making a total of 36 locations available. The Test Yourself locations are in addition to the eight public testing sites staffed by health professionals administering free PCR COVID-19 tests. Further, the program will be expanded to include “Test Yourself Express,” which will offer free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 testing kits at eight DC public libraries. District residents who provide proof of residency will be permitted to get two free rapid tests per day and must report their results via an online portal.

Blogs
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On December 14, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance entitled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” Technical Assistance Questions & Answers (the “Guidance”). The most significant change is the addition of a long-awaited discussion of “long COVID,” which other federal agencies had identified as a disability in joint guidance issued back in July.

The Guidance now contains a new Section N, which addresses when COVID-19 can be considered a disability under each of the three standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), i.e., “actual disability,” “record of disability,” or “regarded as an individual with a disability.”  Regardless of which definition may apply, the Guidance stresses the usual ADA rubric—that employers must conduct a fact intensive, case-by-case analysis to determine if an applicant or employee with COVID-19 or “long COVID” has a covered disability under the ADA.

Blogs
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As we previously reported, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042 (the Order), which mandated that employees of contractors and subcontractors performing work on federal contracts be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022.  Challengers from seven states—Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia (the Plaintiff States)—and various state agencies, filed suit against President Biden and his Administration, seeking injunctive relief against enforcement of the Order.  On December 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted the motion and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the vaccine mandate.

The Court’s Decision

Blogs
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As we previously reported, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) interim final rule (“the Rule”) requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for staff and others at Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers (i.e., the “vaccine mandate”) has been challenged in the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Missouri (“the Missouri Court”) and the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division (“the Louisiana Court”).  As of the date of this writing, both Courts have granted preliminary injunctions placing the Rule on hold.

On November 29, 2021, the Missouri Court granted a preliminary injunction of the Rule, which applies to the coalition of ten states [1] that filed the challenge there. The following day, the Louisiana Court entered a similar injunction, which applies to the remaining forty states.

The Decisions

Blogs
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*UPDATE, Nov. 11, 2021: Deadline for Compliance Extended to January 18, 2022, and Federal Guidance Updated. Stay tuned!

On November 1, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) issued new FAQs for federal contractors and subcontractors (“covered contractors”) that are subject to Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors (the “Order”), and its “COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors” (“Guidance”).  The Guidance is intended to ensure that COVID-19 ...

Blogs
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On Monday, October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued updates to its online technical assistance for employers, providing guidance for managing workplace issues arising from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with the panoply of federal anti-discrimination laws that it enforces.

The updated guidance now includes a new section “L” entitled Vaccinations – Title VII and Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates. The new material includes links to federal regulations regarding religious discrimination as ...

Blogs
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Since President Biden issued Executive Order 14042 (the “Order”), and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (the “Task Force”) issued companion Guidance interpreting the Order (our summary of which can be found here), there have been additional developments providing further clarity on the implementation of the required COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractors.

On September 30, 2021, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) Council issued a Memorandum on Issuance of Agency Deviations to Implement Executive Order 14042.  Since that date, a number of ...

Blogs
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On September 24, 2021, in response to the Path Out of the Pandemic: COVID-19 Action Plan announced by President Biden on September 9, and Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors (the “Order”), signed by the President the same day, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) issued “COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors” (“Guidance”). The Guidance, which the Director of the Office of Management and Budget approved, is intended to ensure that COVID-19 ...

Blogs
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On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that his Administration is implementing a six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy to ensure that all available tools are being used to combat COVID-19.  The plan addresses: (1) vaccinating the unvaccinated; (2) further protecting the vaccinated; (3) keeping schools safely open; (4) increasing testing and requiring masking; (5) protecting the economic recovery; and (6) improving care for those with COVID-19.  The first strategy is germane to employers.

Vaccinating the Unvaccinated – To accomplish this, the U.S ...

Blogs
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We previously discussed the EEOC’s proposed new wellness program incentive rules under the ADA and GINA in our post, How Big Can the Carrot Be?  The proposed rules were to replace the EEOC’s previous “health-contingent” wellness program regulations, which had been struck down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia because they allegedly permitted large incentives that the court found were essentially coercive and thus in violation of the ADA and GINA proscriptions permitting only voluntary disclosures of disability or genetic-related information ...

Blogs
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Many employers have established wellness programs to promote employee health and, in doing so, help counter the ever increasing costs associated with employer-sponsored health benefit plans. Often employers want to establish programs that provide employees with incentives to achieve certain health outcomes, such as smoking cessation or weight loss. Employers must exercise caution in creating such health-contingent wellness programs, which necessarily require employees to disclose health information, because the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the ...

Blogs
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In our new Advisory, "Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: Update on Best Practices for Employers," we review significant developments since our January 30th Advisory.

Following is the "What Employers Should Do Now" section of the new Advisory:

  • Appoint a single individual or department as the point of contact within your organization for questions about Coronavirus and to ensure a coordinated and consistent response to all inquiries.
  • Provide updated information to employees about the symptoms of COVID-19 and affected areas.
  • Educate supervisors on the ...
Blogs
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Earlier this month, in the waning moments of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the “Access Board”) took the long-anticipated step of requiring websites of federal government agencies to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 Levels A and AA.  (The Access Board was established in 1973 to develop and maintain standards for accessible design in the built environment, transit vehicles and systems, telecommunications equipment and electronic and information technology.)

On ...

Blogs
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[caption id="attachment_1842" align="alignright" width="113"] Frank C. Morris, Jr.[/caption]

In recent years, employers have increasingly turned to web based recruiting technologies and online applications. For some potential job applicants, including individuals with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have low vision, online technologies for seeking positions can prove problematic. For example, some recruiting technologies and web-based job applications may not work for individuals with disabilities who use screen readers to access information on the ...

Blogs
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The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) requires larger employers (50 or more full time equivalents) to offer “affordable” “minimum value” health care to employees working thirty (30) or more hours per week or face the possibility of significant penalties in some cases.  Thus the cost of staffing with part time employees may be far less than paying for health insurance for workers working 30 or more hours.

At the same time, ERISA Section 510 (29 USC Section 1140) prohibits discrimination against an employee “for exercising any rights to which he is entitled under the provisions ...

Blogs
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In a case emphasizing the importance of acting in good faith in the interactive process and how an employer can do it right, on February 13, 2015, the First Circuit denied the EEOC’s petition for a rehearing en banc of the court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. by a diabetic former employee who claimed that her erratic working hours were exacerbating her condition.  EEOC v. Kohl’s Dep’t Stores, Inc., 774 F.3d 127 (1st Cir. 2014), reh’g en banc denied (Feb. 13, 2015).

Pamela Manning, a former sales associate at Kohl’s, had type I ...

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