Labor & Employment

Image: The USA - Nationwide Labor & Employment rankings include a mixture of full-service firms with broad capabilities and boutique firms which focus solely on employment law advice

An unprecedented time for employers and employees:

COVID-19 has already had an unprecedented and seismic impact on the global economy, and its full effects are yet to be seen. Many businesses, particularly those in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, have been forced to close their doors and the US unemployment rate has seen a sudden and swift surge replacing the steady decline seen since 2009. Forecasts for upcoming months predict further upheaval, with up to 47 million job losses expected due to the pandemic.

Many law firms have been proactive in offering support to businesses combating the challenges posed by COVID-19, which has included providing real-time advice and digital resources designed to facilitate decision-making in an uncertain environment. Labor and employment attorneys in particular are finding themselves in high demand as companies across the country reassess their staffing needs and working practices whilst navigating the myriad of regulations and guidelines being introduced by lawmakers and government agencies specifically to protect employees during the pandemic.

A fast-changing legislative environment:

Among other provisions, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act introduced requirements for certain businesses to offer paid sick leave as well as expanding family and medical leave entitlements. Its successor, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act introduced an Employee Retention Credit designed to offer businesses an incentive to retain employees.

In addition to navigating this framework of new legislation addressing the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, law firms are being sought out to support companies in applying existing labor and employment regulations to a scenario which was previously unforeseen and is constantly evolving.

The transition to remote working which has been precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to protect employees from the risk of exposure to the virus has raised numerous legal questions. Chief among them will be the challenge of remaining compliant with state and federal wage and hour laws, which requires keeping track of employees’ timekeeping and overtime even while working remotely. Employers moving to a virtual workplace will also need to grapple with cybersecurity concerns and the need to protect sensitive information being accessed on employees’ personal devices.

How and where to seek helpful guidance:

In order to assist employers with navigating this crisis, the EEOC has recently issued guidance on how to remain compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act and other nondiscrimination laws while formulating responses to the pandemic, emphasizing their continued commitment to enforcing discrimination laws during this time.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is similarly continuing to roll out advice to employers on how to minimize employees’ exposure to COVID-19, which includes guidelines on hazard assessment and recording as well as PPE provision. Its recently released Interim Enforcement Response Plan outlines it approach to complaints and investigations pertaining to COVID-19 exposure, which will be prioritized by the agency.

Questions about liability in the case where an employee does contract coronavirus are at the forefront of employers’ minds and it is likely that we will see an uptick in litigation concerning workers’ compensation insurance over the next year or more.

Labor and employment laws can prove to be challenging and complex at the best of times but the unique backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic will prove to be an opportunity for lawyers in this area to showcase their importance to businesses as an invaluable source of expert advice in uncertain situations.

Other helpful resources:

Our Global Practice Guides provide expert commentary on legal issues from Chambers ranked lawyers around the world. For more information on how labor and employment laws apply across different states within the USA, you can access our USA Regional Employment Guide. For a broader global view on how you might be impacted by employment law across different countries and continents, you can access our Employment Global Practice Guide.

To browse related Chambers rankings, you can view our USA Nationwide Rankings, or alternatively, you can select the state or location relevant to you via our Chambers USA 2020 homepage.

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