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COVID-19 Update June 1, 2021

Hope everyone had a wonderful MDW! Our Delta companies celebrated in remembrance of our founder, Victor Lawrence, who was a WW2 veteran and received a purple heart for his injuries sustained in the pacific while storming the beaches.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance last Friday, May 28th that, under equal employment opportunity laws, employers may offer limited incentives to employees to be vaccinated, so long as the incentives are not coercive. But the agency cautioned that a “very large incentive” could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information. And it noted that other federal, state and local laws may come into play.

The CDC recently relaxed many of its COVID-19 safety recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated—which raises complicated questions for employers about whether to revise their mask requirements and social-distancing policies. For those wondering about the integration of vaccine status questions into your interview process, employers should note the legal limits to these interview questions accordingly.

Furthermore, employers that encourage or require workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus must carefully navigate legal requirements and government recommendations—but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently gave employers a break by saying they don’t have to record COVID-19 vaccine reactions. The federal workplace safety agency requires employers to record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log. OSHA initially said employers would have to record adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines if they require the shot—but not if they simply recommend that employees receive a vaccination.

The City of New Orleans has issued updated guidance regarding COVID-19 guidelines. Amongst the changes, there will no longer be a limit on how late alcohol can be sold or on second lines and parades, gyms will be allowed to open at 100% capacity, and restaurants and bars will no longer have to maintain 6-foot table spacing or table number restrictions. Large indoor and outdoor events will be able to occur under one of the following options:

  • 50% indoor capacity/75% outdoor capacity without masks and distancing, or
  • 100% capacity with masks required, or
  • 100% capacity without masks if individuals provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.

In other Louisiana news, earlier this week, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that upon the conclusion of the current academic semester, masks will no longer be required in school settings. Each school district will have the ability to set their own requirements.  Masks will still be required in health care facilities, public transportation, and prisons per federal mandates.

The IRS recently provided new guidance for employers on the federal government’s 100-percent premium subsidy to eligible COBRA health care enrollees, for coverage between April 1 and Sept. 30. IRS Notice 2021-31, released May 18, answers questions raised by employers, plan administrators and health insurers regarding the COBRA subsidy’s payroll tax credit. The subsidy was part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law in March.

During President Biden’s first 100 days in office and beyond, the Administration has taken a number of actions aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion and addressing disparities for LGBTQ+ Americans across the country. This article reviews the proposed changes to prepare for in case any of these come to fruition.

Lastly, student federal loan repayments—and interest on that debt—have been paused during the pandemic, thanks to federal COVID-19 relief legislation. As of October 2021, however, some 44 million borrowers who owe an estimated $1.7 trillion will have to start repaying debt that has grown exponentially over the past decade and a half. For a long time, employers have attempted to navigate ways in which to help with student loan debt. Moreover, there’s ample reason for them to consider ways they could help employees minimize this burden and emerging opportunities for employers to do just that.

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