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OSHA ‘Vaccine-or-Test’ Blocked by Supreme Court

In a 6-3 decision on January 13th, the Supreme Court voted to block the OSHA ETS that would have required businesses with 100 or more employees to implement systems by early February to either ensure the vaccination status of employees or require weekly testing for COVID-19 (vaccine status was to be determined starting January 10th, 2022).

The decision left many employers and employees alike wondering what comes next. There are still many state, local and industry level rules and recommendations employers must consider. Many private companies have already adopted internal policies regarding vaccinations and testing, some that align with the intended policies of the ETS. In addition, the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) was granted the ability to require COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers at providers and suppliers.

In the coming months, OSHA may consider a permanent vaccine-or-testing requirement, as the original ETS was only intended to be in place for 6 months as a temporary solution. The agency can expect similar efforts to overturn further initiatives, and was recently seeking comments and input on a more permanent proposal.

For now, though, the ruling means employers who previously made plans to ensure compliance with the “vaccine or test” mandate will not be tasked with requiring such measures.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Vaccine mandate

A ruling that requires workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing is back on.

On Friday evening, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay on the rule. It had been blocked on Nov. 6, a day after it was formally issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Next day, more than a dozen groups asked the Supreme court for a new halt of the ruling.

The DOL announced that OSHA would not issue citations for noncompliance with the testing requirement before Feb. 9, “so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance” with the rule. The rule requires company’s with 100+ employees to ensure each employee is either vaccinated or if unvaccinated that they are tested weekly for COVID-19. They must also enforce a mask mandate for unvaccinated workers (keeping in mind that some local and city ordinances currently require indoor masks regardless of vaccination status). These larger employers must begin compliance as of January 10, 2022.

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Colorado counties reinstate indoor mask mandate

Denver Public Health and Environment has mandated that masks be worn in all public spaces effective November 24th. The order follows:

The Jeffco Board of Health passed a public health order Monday evening that requires masks in public indoor spaces for those 3 years old and older. The Tri-County Health Department, which covers Arapahoe and Adams counties, passed a similar measure shortly after the Jeffco vote. That order applies to people 2 years and older. This order goes into effect on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, at 12:01AM MST and will remain in effect at least until 01/03/2022.

Each of these counties orders contains a “vax or mask” provision. In Denver, “Fully Vaccinated Facility,”  as  used in this  Order, means  any  indoor  facility or portion of  an  indoor  facility where  the  owner,  operator  or  manager  has  verified that  at  least  95%  of  the  persons  within the  facility (including employees, invitees, attendees, patrons, customers, and any other  person entering  the facility)  have been  fully  vaccinated.     To be  considered a  Fully Vaccinated Facility, the  owner, operator  or  manager  of  the  facility must  notify DDPHE  of the  name  of  the  facility, address  of  the  facility, type  of  facility (office  building, gym, etc), contact  information of  the  person at  the  facility responsible  for verifying the  vaccination  status  of  persons  within  the  facility, and the  date  the facility began collecting vaccination status. “Fully  vaccinated” means  two  weeks  after  a person’s  second  dose in  a two-dose series  and  two  weeks  after  a single-dose vaccine.  

These orders affect your businesses and your employees who are working in any public area in any of the noted counties. Boulder County has had an indoor mask mandate prior to these new issuances.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional information, as necessary.

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New Colorado tax withholding form

What is form DR 0004?

Form DR 0004 is the new Colorado withholding certificate that is optional for employees to complete starting in 2022. It is not meant to replace form W-4 for Colorado withholding, but is meant to help employees in a few specific situations who may want to fine-tune their Colorado withholding. If an employee asks about adjusting their withholding, the employer is required to provide form DR 0004 to them. 

How does form DR 0004 change the Colorado withholding calculation?

The Colorado Withholding Worksheet for Employers (DR 1098) prescribes the calculation employers are required to use. It has been updated with directions for entering the amounts from form DR 0004 into the existing calculation steps. 

  • If an employee completes form DR 0004, the employer is required to calculate their Colorado withholding using the amounts entered on that DR 0004, as prescribed in the DR 1098 worksheet.
  • If an employee does not complete form DR 0004, the employer is required to calculate their Colorado withholding using the amounts prescribed in the DR 1098 worksheet based on their IRS form W-4.

Reasons an employee may want to complete form DR 0004:

  • They earn most of their income from one job
  • They expect significant income from sources that will not have withholding
  • They expect to claim federal itemized deductions
  • They expect to claim the new Colorado child tax credit

Reasons an employee may want to complete a new Federal W-4 and/or Colorado DR 0004:

  • Withholding certificate was last updated 3 or more years ago
  • Wages or other income changes significantly
  • Number of jobs changes
  • Filing status changes (single, married filing joint, etc.)
  • Federal deductions change significantly
  • Colorado child tax credit qualifications change

This optional form will soon be available on the InTANDEM HR employee self-service portal.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

OSHA Vaccine mandate “blocked”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked OSHA from implementing and enforcing the vaccine mandate that affects employers with 100 or more employees.  

Several courts filed challenges to the rule. When something like this happens, a “lottery” system is utilized to consolidate all of the appeals before the circuit court is selected in the blind lottery, which will then hear the challenge to the rule.  That lottery is expected to take place on or about Monday, November 16th. 

If the Fifth Circuit is not selected in the lottery, then another appeals court will have an opportunity to issue the controlling decision. The Supreme Court will likely ultimately rule on whether or not the President Biden’s COVID vaccine-or-testing policy for businesses with at least 100 employees will stand. Covered employers should still prepare for the upcoming deadlines (January 4th for the mandate) while this issue is bouncing around the courts.  

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EEOC suit filed over pandemic Telework request denial

The EEOC alleged in its first disability accommodation lawsuit connected to the pandemic that a health and safety manager in Georgia was fired after her employer denied her request to continue working from home because her heart condition heightened her Covid-19 risk.

The complaint states that the facility management company with headquarters in San Antonio, denied Ronisha Moncrief’s accommodation request under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Covid-19 pandemic led to teleworking arrangements for many employees. Even prior to the pandemic the EEOC and disability advocates have looked to telework as a reasonable disability accommodation.

In this particular case, of employees were required to work remotely from March 2020 to June 2020. When the facility reopened, she asked to work remotely two days per week and take frequent breaks while working on-site because of her pulmonary condition, which causes her to have difficulty breathing, according to the EEOC’s complaint. The agency states that though other employees were allowed to continue to work from home, her request was denied and she was fired, the agency.

As this and more similar actions play out in court it will provide employers with more of a tangible framework for looking at ADA telework requests. The ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for employees to perform their essential job functions.

Any of our clients or employees who have questions regarding reasonable accommodations should contact us for assistance in navigating the law and each specific request.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Vaccine mandate may be headed your way…

President Biden to institute a mandate that all employers with 100 workers or more must require COVID-19 vaccinations or a weekly negative test result before coming to work. The new rule will be enforced by OSHA, which will issue an emergency temporary standard to implement this requirement. The ETS will impact more than 80 million workers in private sector businesses in the U.S. 

Businesses that do not comply with the agency’s rule can face fees up to $14,000. OSHA will require these employers to offer paid time off for vaccination.

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Mask Mandate returns to Boulder

The Boulder County Board of Health approved Public Health Order 2021-08 on 9/2/2021 which requires facial coverings for anyone 2+ in public indoor spaces during periods of substantial or high-transmission of COVID-10, regardless of vaccination status. The order takes effect September 3rd at 5pm. 

A link to the order can be found here. Mask signage will also be required at every business.

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PHE declared “over” by Governor Polis

On Friday, July 9th, Governor Polis ended the Health Emergency Executive Orders for COVID-19 and rescinded all previous Executive Orders issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also signed a Recovery Executive Order to focus only on those measures related to the State’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The HFWA still requires COVID related leave time due to the existence of the PHE at the federal level. Some employers may choose to optionally continue with the voluntary extension of the FFCRA, which is slated to expire 9/30/2021. Confused? Understandable. Reach out to InTANDEM HR and we will help you navigate the leave laws. Until then, we are hoping you all feel and are well!

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Employee retention in the year of “I quit”

Turnover is all around us. Restaurants are back to full capacity, but the staffing shorting in the service industry is not matching up with the mouths. Recreation centers and pools have opened back up, but the struggle to employ workers has left some to keep their hours reduced and capacities limited. What is causing, or caused, the “great resignation”? Many things. Some employees who worked from home for months were disinterested in a return to work full-time when the pandemic subsided. Some got that “life is too short” feeling during the nasty year which was 2020 and decided to take their dreams a different route. Some have started or are planning to start their own new business or work gig work, and others are doing a straight “more money” resignation. Still others have quit to go back to school, or stay home with their child(ren). The reality is that millenials and the new to the workforce Gen Z workers turnover more frequently than their Gen X and Baby Boomer co-workers.

So what’s an employer to do? Turnover happens, but when you find yourself the revolving door equivalent as an employer, it’s time to take a close look at the cause. Are you turning over employees more frequently than other similar employers in your industry? Is their a common theme to the talented candidates that are accepting other jobs or leaving employment for other options? Are you conducting stay interviews, exit interviews, and running salary surveys? What makes you stand out as an employer of choice amongst your competition? Ensuring competitive pay and time off benefits, insurance benefit offerings, and other enticements such as flexible workplace options and hours is a start.

It is a fascinating job market right now. It will change, we will learn, and we must grow along with the market to stay in touch with the top talent. The oft mentioned “company culture” deserves a solid analysis, and only our employees can give us that.