Now that 2020 is behind us, it’s the perfect time for employers to revisit their Employee Handbooks. 2020 was a difficult time for many employers, and employers should update their policies in light of the lessons they learned over the past year.
Due to COVID-19, remote work exploded in 2020. While many employers adopted temporary telework policies, there are differing opinions about whether telework will become the “new normal.” Employers should update their policies to make it clear to their employees whether telework will be an option in 2021, and if so, under what circumstances.
However, employers must avoid universal bans on telework all together. Some disabled employees who are unable to work at the offices may request telework as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and employers are obligated to consider these requests and work with their employees to reach a solution. Such requests may be rejected if the employee’s essential job functions require in-person work, but employers may not simply deny these requests out of a general distaste for telework.
In 2020, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required certain employers to provide paid leave for employees who took COVID-19 related leave. Although this mandatory paid leave expired on December 31, 2020, employers are still obligated to pay employees for COVID-19 leave taken in 2020. Because COVID-19 will continue to be a serious issue in 2021, employers should revisit their sick leave policies to make sure that clear rules and expectations are in place.
A number of laws were passed in 2020 that should be reflected in employers’ new handbooks. We have previously blogged on Montgomery County’s new harassment law, the CROWN Act, the Maryland Mini-WARN Act, the salary history ban, and the ban on facial recognition technology. Employers should consult an attorney to ensure that their handbooks are compliant with these new laws.