covid employment

Working From Home And Worker Bargaining Power

A good deal of the narrative and debate over working from home focuses on workers—what do they get, why do they want it, how they are choosing it. But to work from home, someone has to pay you. Does telework signal a change in the power relationship between employers and employees?

Economist Teresa Ghilarducci told us in a recent Forbes blog that there are 10 indicators of workers’ bargaining power, and only 4 of them are up—quit rates, reservation wages, the unemployment rate, and the number of jobs per unemployed worker. But productivity and profits are rising faster than wages, the labor share of the nation’s wealth has fallen, and real income for workers also is down—all trends that favor employers over workers.

We shouldn’t

The Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals Is Greed

We’re entering our third year of Covid, and America’s nurses — who we celebrated as heroes during the early days of lockdown — are now leaving the bedside. The pandemic arrived with many people having great hope for reform on many fronts, including the nursing industry, but much of that optimism seems to have faded.

In the Opinion Video above, nurses set the record straight about the root cause of the nursing crisis: chronic understaffing by profit-driven hospitals that predates the pandemic. “I could no longer work in critical care under the conditions I was being forced to work under with poor staffing,” explains one nurse, “and that’s when I left.” They also tear down the common misconception that there’s a shortage of nurses. In fact, there are more qualified nurses today in America than ever before.

To keep patients safe and protect our health care workers, lawmakers could regulate nurse-patient ratios, which California put in place in 2004, with positive results. Similar legislation was proposed and defeated in Massachusetts several years ago (with help from a $25 million “no” campaign funded by the hospital lobby), but it is currently on the table in Illinois and Pennsylvania. These laws could save patient lives and create a more just work environment for a vulnerable generation of nurses, the ones we pledged to honor and protect at the start of the pandemic.

Will Fired Unvaccinated Employees Get Their Jobs Back After SCOTUS Blocks Biden Mandate?

Employees who were terminated from their job because of their refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 aren’t guaranteed to get their jobs back just because the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s vaccine or testing mandate.

The mandate, which required millions of employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, sparked questions about the legality of terminating employees over their vaccination status. However, in the majority of the United States, businesses can terminate employees for not complying with company policies and that doesn’t necessarily change because of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Dorit Reiss, a University of California Hastings College of Law professor, told Newsweek that unless employees can claim religious discrimination or disability-based discrimination, employers are free to terminate employees for not being vaccinated. Employment in the United States is “at-will” so employers can implement whatever policies they want within the confines of the law and the default is that if employees don’t like the policy, they can find a new job.

Given that private employers can require employees to be vaccinated, Reiss said wrongful termination lawsuits are “unlikely to succeed.”

U.S. business fears never-ending liability from ‘take-home’ COVID-19 lawsuits

As COVID-19 cases surge in the United States, businesses say they fear a California court ruling has increased the likelihood that companies will be sued for infections, even by people who are not employees or customers.

The Dec. 21 ruling allowed a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed against See’s Candies Inc, owned by Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), by the family of Arturo Ek of Los Angeles who died in April 2020 at 72 from COVID-19.

See’s employed his wife, Matilde Ek, who said she was infected by the coronavirus while working inches apart from sick coworkers, and then her husband caught it from her at home.

The ruling is the first by an appeals court to allow a novel “take-home” COVID-19 lawsuit, which seek damages from a business over allegations of violating safety protocols and setting off a chain of infections beyond the company’s premises.

See’s, which did not respond to a request for comment, could appeal to California’s supreme court.

The See’s ruling is only binding in California, but it may offer guidance to judges in other states, legal experts said.

Business groups warned in court papers filed before the See’s decision that such a ruling could prompt lawsuits by an infected employee’s family and friends, and anyone infected by that circle of people.

The groups called it a “never-ending chain” of liability.

COVID-related labor laws have employers confused

As another COVID year comes to a close, there’s confusion among employers who are balancing vaccine requirements with labor shortages and trying to keep up with changes to national, state and local labor laws.

Some government mandates are facing challenges in court, but other COVID-related policies, like paid sick leave, will continue into 2022. Providing 80 hours of COVID sick pay to workers didn’t end when Gov. Jared Polis lifted the public health emergency order in July.

“A lot of people thought that as certain emergency orders end, that ends the 80-hour COVID leave. But what the legislature wrote in the paid sick laws was that if any form of disaster emergency related to COVID continues, the paid leave continues,” said Scott Moss, director of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics in the state labor department.

Moderna Covid-19 vaccine vials are seen during a vaccination clinic for residents of zip code 80010 and existing refugee patients at Ardas Family Medicine in The Mango House in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Eli Imadali, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Polis has continued to extend the state’s disaster emergency order. And the existing federal order runs through Jan. 15, unless extended again.

“The 80-hour COVID leave will end only when all disaster emergency orders, state or federal, end — and that hasn’t happened yet,” Moss said.

Some employers said that requiring workers to get vaccinated is challenging when it’s already difficult to hire enough workers

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