In the post on Sunday 1/2/2022 we learned about 10 ways to increase remote employee engagement (and start the year off on the right foot). As employees may spend more time working from home, or additional employees may begin to work from home, it is important to know how to keep them (productive and) engaged. COVID-19 has expanded virtual options, but WFH has brought a host of things employers need to consider, such as employee mental health and other things noted in the post. There needs to be policies or plans for communications with remote employees. Some of the things employers can do include using available technology (video conferencing, cloud-sharing, and more as described in the post. Also, remote employees must be kept in the loop. They are still an integral part of the workforce team. How to ensure they are included? See the post. There are 5 additional steps employers should take for engagement; they are listed and described in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Working remotely used to be a once-in-a-while thing. Now it is an often, usual and perhaps permanent thing, so employers must know how to keep those employees engaged.
The post on Monday 1/3/2022 was a reminder: It’s time to pay your deferred Social Security taxes. You may have forgotten, but employers were permitted to defer their 6.2% of the Social Security tax (for at least part of 2021). The first half of the deferred amount was due January 3, 2022 (hopefully you made the payment) and the other half is due as noted in the post. If you miss making either payment, the arrangement letting you defer and split the payment is cancelled; and what that means, and its effect on your purse, is noted in the post. How to figure that make-up payment (the right way!) is also in the post. Also, your payments may not be equal if you didn’t take full advantage of the deferral option the whole time. That too is explained in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Consult your accountant or payroll expert to ensure you pay what you need to when you need to.
The post on Tuesday 1/4/2022 showed us HOA sued by homeowner for libel, slander after criticizing security. Yikes! So what happened? The owner claims that board members made inappropriate and inaccurate accusa-tions against him as part of a retaliation campaign. Huh? The post includes the entire 28-page suit, but let’s summarize. Samuel Loff purchased his condo in 2017. After security issues arose in the association, a committee was formed in March 2020. Loff, a former law enforcement officer, was on the committee. The committee was to do a security walk-through of the community. That happened and Loff send out a letter as to the issues he noted (and which are noted in the complaint as linked in the post). More emails followed over various security issues Loff noted. Loff alleges that the board accused him of making “unwanted advances” to a female security guard. The timing of when he allegedly did that is suspect as noted in the post (and his suit). And not only did the board members send an email to Loff, they also made a similar allegation in a mass email. How long, and the dates, of security issues are also spelled out in the complaint (linked I the post). In July 2020, the Board sent a letter to Loff and all owners alleging that Loff, who was not named, harassed a female security guard. The letter is an exhibit to the complaint (again, see the post). Loff alleges that there was no investigation prior to the letter being sent out and the allegations were not even discussed with him. Did it stop there? Of course not – see the post (and complaint). Board members who were involved in and signed prior letters also tied in those letters to other correspondence about the upcoming election in the association. Some of the things they said are in the post (and complaint). In addition to filing the suit (claiming libel, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence all of which are detailed in the post and complaint), additional damages were heaped on Loff. See the post (and complaint) for what that was.
TAKEAWAY: Yes, life in planned communities can be political – consult a community association lawyer to keep you on the right side of legal.
The post on Wednesday 1/5/2022 asked: What should employers do when a worker tests positive for COVID-19? The first (obvious) step is to remove the person from the workplace (if they are working in-person). And when can they return, according to OSHA’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) that is in litigation but currently effective? See the post. And then there is the CDC guidance. What was effective as of 12/8/2021 is in the post; what was current as of 1/3/2022 is that (a) asymptomatic employees may return to the workplace 5 days after a positive test (assuming no symptoms appear) and (b) symptomatic employees may return 5 days after a positive test as long as there has been no fever for at least 24 hours and there are no other new symptoms. There is a potential conflict between the ETS and CDC guidance as noted in the post, so employers must decide which is best for their workplace (with the CDC guidance being “stronger”). And what should an employer do if an employee tests positive, has COVID-19 symptoms, or was in close contact for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period with someone who has COVID-19? Take the steps outlined in the post, immediately (as tempered by CDC guidance current as of that time).
TAKEAWAY: Don’t play with COVID; it doesn’t discriminate but looks at all employees as virus hosts. Protect your workplace and employees to the extent you can – and reduce your legal liability in the process.
In the post on Thursday 1/6/2022 we saw that Kellogg Company strikers rejected contract proposal, will be permanently replaced. Why do you care? Because there is a lesson here for ALL employers, not just those with a unionized workforce. The strike began October 5th and focused on the 2-tiered compensation structure reached in 2015. Under that system, new employees earn lower wages and get less generous benefits. That system included up to 30% of the company’s workers. Employees rejected Kellogg’s latest offer, some details of which are in the post. Based on the rejection, the company said that negotiations were done. It also said what would happen to the 1400 striking workers – see the post. And Fall 2020 must have been strike season: a strike at John Deere, involving over 10,000 employees, ended in November 2021. (Some of) the terms of that deal are noted in the post. Further, in mid-November, Kaiser Permanente avoided a strike by more than 30,000 of its workers by a tentative agreement containing some of the terms noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Unions, and the power to strike, can be good for the workforce, but they can also end up hurting employees and resulting in lost jobs when no agreement is reached.
The post on Friday 1/7/2022 noted that sales/purchases and leasing can be governed by entirely different restrictions in condo or homeowners’ associations. The first place to look when there is a question relative to life in a planned community is the association’s Governing Documents (Declaration, Bylaws, and Rules & Regulations). And keep looking as the documents may be amended from time to time, so that what was allowed or restricted at the time of purchase may change during ownership. A good example is the ability to rent out units in an association. Even if allowed, there is often a cap on the number or percentage of units that can be rented (and related restrictions, some noted in the post). The association maintains authority to approve or disapprove rentals based on the guidelines they enact (examples of which are in the post). Failure to follow the restrictions (for rental units or otherwise) may lead to enforcement action by the association (one example of which is noted in the post as to a rental restriction violation).
TAKEAWAY: Know the rights and obligations of both owners and the association as set forth in the Governing Documents; contact a community association lawyer for legal assistance.
Finally, in the post yesterday 1/8/2022, we saw that DOJ and DOL signed a Memorandum of Understanding to protect the employment rights of servicemembers and veterans. The MOU was signed December 8, 2021, so it’s fairly recent. Its purpose is to protect the covered persons’ rights under USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994). The agencies intend to collaborate in the investigation, litigation and resolution of claims brought under USERRA. So what does the MOU – the first between the agencies since 2004 – do? See the post. DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) will play a big part in actions to be taken under and pursuant to the MOU. It is important for employers (and covered employees) to know the protections granted by USERRA – as detailed in the post. And there are more and more covered employees all the time. The post contains links to the MOU and other USERRA information on both the DOJ and DOL websites.
TAKEAWAY: Employers must know all laws that affect their workforce – as the number of servicemembers and veterans increases, the provisions of USERRA become more relevant. Consult an employment lawyer for assistance.