Massachusetts News & Analysis

  • Another potential COVID-19 casualty: workplace collaboration

    The year 2020 has been a challenging one for our nation and the world. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has faced heightened racial tensions and a deep political divide culminating in a contested presidential election. Emotions have been running high, and fear seems to rule the day. Through it all, our workplaces unfortunately haven't been spared from the turmoil. Millions lost their jobs, and millions of others are working from home, often in physical isolation from their colleagues. If the health crisis doesn't end soon so we can get back together, I worry about the unavoidable loss of collaboration and trust that helped many employers and employees to weather the first round of the outbreak.

  • EEOC issues guidance for teleworking requests as reasonable accommodations

    By now, many employees have been working from home since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no signs of slowing and the rollout of a vaccine to the general public not likely to occur until well into 2021, teleworking looks like it's here to stay for the foreseeable future. Some employers, however, may be eager to see their offices bustling with productive employees, especially once the pandemic subsides. Confounding the issue is that some employees, having worked effectively from their homes, may seek telework as a disability accommodation. To assess the claim, you must determine whether teleworking would be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • Promoting workplace diversity: What's legal and what works

    Motivated by a summer of protests as well as a recognition of inequality in their ranks, a number of high-profile corporations recently committed to make their workforces—especially their leadership—more diverse. But those efforts raised red flags after President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) in September that questioned the legality of some of those commitments. Lawsuits aimed at quashing the order soon followed. Even if the order survives court challenges, there's little doubt that as president, Joe Biden will rescind it. But the order, which affected federal employers and private-sector employers that do business with the federal government, left many employers wondering how to best accomplish their diversity goals in a politicized environment.

  • As retaliation claims rise, employers need to be on guard

    A recent report from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) includes a startling statistic about how often employees say they experience retaliation after reporting instances of sexual harassment. The organization found that 72% of workers who experienced sexual harassment said they also faced retaliation. That should be a warning to employers to make sure managers know the seriousness of retaliation charges and how to avoid them.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    Research firm finds change fatigue taking a toll. HR research firm Gartner, Inc., announced at a virtual conference in October that the amount of change the average employee can absorb without becoming fatigued in 2020 has been cut in half compared to 2019. Amid worries about the economy, job security, their health, and the health of their loved ones, employees capacity to take on change in the workplace has plunged significantly. The amount of change employees can absorb without fatiguenegative reactions to change such as burnout, frustration, or apathyhas plummeted at a time when more change is precisely what organizations need in order to reset, Jessica Knight, vice president in the Gartner HR practice, said. Gartner says to help employees absorb change, organizations need to transform how they lead change. Rather than leading change from the top down, progressive organizations have adopted an approach to change management that actively engages employees in all facets of the process.

  • If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I Zoom interview?

    With many hiring managers working from home, COVID-19 has had a big impact on business recruiting. Before you forge ahead, however, and begin conducting remote job interviews over Zoom or one of the other cloud platforms, you must be careful to avoid resurrecting a potential discrimination pitfall from the 1970s.

  • COVID-19 and workers' comp: New VT law presumes compensability

    Vermont Governor Phil Scott recently signed into law a bill that recognizes COVID-19 as a workplace injury and creates a rebuttable presumption to that effect, with certain conditions. Employers need to be aware of the change in the law, particularly as we head into the fall and winter seasons and a potential coronavirus surge risk.

  • Now what?! COVID-19 collides with flu season

    While many workplaces are settling into a COVID-19 groove of social distancing, face masks, and hand sanitizer, we find ourselves on the cusp of flu season in the United States. Employers should start preparing now for what could be a difficult workplace winter.

  • Trump's order significantly affects fed contractors' workplace diversity training

    On September 22, President Donald Trump issued an unprecedented "Executive Order (EO) on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping" aimed at the federal workforce and federal contractors. The order purports "to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating" through a variety of measures, including significantly limiting the diversity training federal contractors may offer, requiring notification of applicable unions of their commitments under the EO and posting related notices in the workplace, and adding provisions to address the prohibited "race and sex stereotyping" in their subcontracts and purchase orders.

  • To wear, or not to wear: managers' compliance with face-covering mandates

    Most managers are committed to the success of their organizations, employees, customers, and communities. They work hard to provide safe and healthful workplaces. They give their best efforts to manage in good-faith compliance with the myriad of federal, state, and local laws applicable to their organizations. They are generally mission critical to protecting their organizations against liability exposure. Even so, some organizations have faced significant manager resistance to the use of COVID-19-related face-coverings in the workplace. Why is that, and what can be done about it?