After three years of preparation, the District of Columbia’s Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 goes live this Wednesday, July 1. The law enables eligible employees who work in D.C. to take paid leave for certain family and medical purposes. Earlier this year, the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which will administer the program, suggested that the leave benefits portion of the statute might be delayed due to COVID-19. However, this possibility did not come to pass, and benefits will be available to eligible employees starting this Wednesday as planned.

Funded by D.C.’s “Universal Paid Leave Fund,” which began receiving employer contributions on July 1, 2019, the Act enables covered employees to take:

  • Eight weeks of paid time off when they become new parents;
  • Six weeks to take care of a family member who has been diagnosed with a serious health condition; and
  • Two weeks for the employee’s own serious health condition.

The law also requires that the Paid Family Leave Employee Notice be posted in all covered D.C. workplaces. Additional details on this law can be found here: Paid Family Leave Law Approved by D.C. Council in Veto-Proof Vote and here: District of Columbia Marks Start of July with Paid Family Leave Taxes.

All D.C. employers should revisit their leave policies to ensure coordination between their existing leave policies and these new benefits. Employers who voluntarily offer paid leave benefits should be particularly careful to spell out how that leave synchronizes with these new requirements. In addition, the requirements of the PFL law should be included in management training, and employers should ensure that their HR and payroll staff are familiar with these new rules. If you have questions or concerns about this or other workplace developments, please contact the Jackson Lewis attorneys with whom you work.

The Minnesota Supreme Court (5-2) has upheld the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, ruling state law does not preempt the Ordinance, and it can apply to employers who are located outside of the City. Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. City of Minneapolis, No. A18-0771 (Minn. June 10, 2020). Read more here.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, employers with employees who perform any work in Minneapolis should review their recordkeeping and other policies to ensure compliance with the Ordinance.

 

The Seattle City Council has enacted the Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance, which temporarily provides paid sick and safe time (PSST) to “gig workers” for online-based food delivery network companies and drivers of transportation network companies with 250 or more gig workers worldwide. The ordinance takes effect July 13, 2020, and ends 180 days after either (1) the termination of the Mayor’s civil emergency, or (2) the termination of any concurrent civil emergency applicable to Seattle that is proclaimed by a public official in response to COVID-19, whichever is later. However, the law’s other legal requirements, such as recordkeeping, will stay in effect for three years. Read more.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has issued a new Proclamation that extends until 11:59 p.m. on August 1, 2020, the job protections in place for “high-risk” Washington employees. The job protections were to expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 12, 2020, under the previous Proclamation.

High-risk employees are (1) any individual 65 years or older, (2) anyone living in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and (3) those with “certain chronic underlying health conditions.”

For details of the protections, see our article, Washington: Proclamation Extending Job Protections to High-Risk Employees during COVID-19 Crisis.

If you have questions or need assistance, please reach out to the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work, or any member of our COVID-19 team.

California is known for having a multitude of leaves available to employees from sick leave to organ donation leave. Despite this, California has not mandated employers provide bereavement leave for employees. Many businesses do include unpaid leave for employees to attend funerals and other related services, but such leave is not required under state law.

This may change by the end of the year if Assembly Bill 2999, the Bereavement Leave Act of 2020 (the Act), becomes law. The Act would require an employee to be provided up to 10 business days of unpaid leave upon the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner. Moreover, employers would be prohibited from interfering or restraining an employee from exercising their rights under the Act. The Act would also provide job protections for those using the leave.

Employees would not have to take the 10 days consecutively but would be required to take the leave within three months of the family member’s passing. The Act as currently drafted states, “[t]he bereavement leave shall be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy. If there is no existing bereavement leave policy, the bereavement leave is to be unpaid, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.”

Under the bill, employers could request that employees, within 30 days of the first day of bereavement leave, provide documentation of the death, including an obituary, written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home or crematorium, religious institution, or governmental agency.

The bereavement leave would apply to all employees of any size employer, except those covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that expressly provides bereavement leave. There is also no length of service requirement indicated in the Assembly Bill before the employee can take the leave.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor this bill and other employment-related legislation. To discuss leave law requirements in more depth, contact a Jackson Lewis attorney.

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave’s (DFML) proposed amendments to existing regulations for the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) include significant changes relating to the private or self-funded plan exemption. Employers offering approved private plans may be exempt from making PFMLA contributions. The start date for benefit availability under the PFMLA is January 1, 2021.

For more information, our full article is linked here.

The Puerto Rico Senate has approved unanimously Senate Bill No. 1577 (SB 1577), which seeks to amend Section 9 of Puerto Rico Act No. 44 of July 2, 1985, known as the “Law Prohibiting Discrimination Against Disabled Persons,” to expand its protection and confer certain types of employees the right to a reasonable accommodation in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Representatives is considering the bill.

SB 1577 would give employees the right to request a reasonable accommodation if the employee has a disease or health condition identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Department of Health as one that increases the individual’s risk of becoming seriously ill or dying if they contract COVID-19.

For more information please see our full report.

On April 19, 2020, Judge James V. Selna of the United States District Court, Central District of California, granted a motion to declare pro se plaintiff Peter Strojnik, Sr. a vexatious litigant, requiring him to obtain the permission of the Court before filing any future accessibility lawsuits with the District Court. Federal courts by statute have the discretion to enjoin vexatious litigants. See All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. §1651(a). Defense attorneys and hotel owners and operators, especially in California, are very familiar with Mr. Strojnik as he has filed hundreds of nearly identical lawsuits and claims against hotels in the last few years as a pro se plaintiff after his license to practice law was suspended for unethical conduct.

On August 13, 2019, Strojnik filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Strojnik v. SCG America Construction Inc., U.S.D.C., C.D. Cal., Case No. 8:19-cv-01560-JVS-JDE. Strojnik alleged violations against the hotel under the ADA and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, §§51, 52, the California Disabled Persons Act, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 54-54.3, and negligence. The complaint was unremarkable in its allegations from the nearly 150 lawsuits Strojnik has filed in the last few years. The complaint followed the same pattern – Strojnik alleges that he is disabled and regularly travels to and in California. He alleges that he is deterred from visiting the hotel because it is not accessible under federal and state law based on his own visit to the hotel and/or because the hotel’s website lacks a sufficient description of accessible features. What made this case remarkable was that the defendant did not settle, but rather filed a motion to dismiss the case and to declare Strojnik a vexatious litigant throughout the federal courts in California.

Judge Selna granted the hotel’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, agreeing that Strojnik had not established standing because the operative complaint contained barebones allegations including attaching blurry pictures of alleged violations that did not adequately identify how any actual barriers to access related to any particular disability. The Court also held that it did not have jurisdiction over the state law claims. The Court went one step further and declared Strojnik a vexatious litigant although the Court limited the ruling to the Central District of California. The Court noted that declaring a litigant vexatious is an extraordinary remedy that should rarely be used. Nonetheless, the Court found that Strojnik is a vexatious litigant based mostly on his well-documented history of filing many frivolous lawsuits, creating an unnecessary burden on litigants and the courts and repeatedly ignoring court orders. See Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007) (providing factors courts weigh to declare a plaintiff a vexatious litigant).

The Court further noted that although Strojnik is a pro se litigant, he is a former attorney, and should have been aware of appropriate conduct.  As a result of being declared a vexatious litigant in the Central District of California, Strojnik will need to obtain permission from the Court before filing another ADA case in that district. Strojnik is challenging the ruling, and on April 22, 2020, Strojnik filed a request for the Court to supplement its order to provide further details as to why he was declared a vexatious litigant. On May 5, 2020, the Court denied Strojnik’s request for the Court to supplement its order declaring Strojnik a vexatious litigant.

This decision should help hotel owners and operators in particular by dampening and deterring future accessibility lawsuits Strojnik may have filed in this District Court. Our guess is that Strojnik will claim a loophole in the decision to permit him to file accessibility lawsuits unabated by the Court’s requirement to seek the Court’s permission before filing future accessibility lawsuit in this District Court.

Please contact Jackson Lewis with your questions about accessibility compliance and litigation.

Despite significant legal obstacles, on May 4, 2020, a group of plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging the Queens Adult Care Center (QACC) violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title III) and its precursor, Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), by failing to provide a level of care to safeguard their health and safety at its assisted living facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plaintiffs seek to certify a class under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23(b)(2) or (b)(3) of all current or future residents of QACC during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic who have disabilities that require assistance with activities of daily living.

The proposed class action lawsuit, Schoengood, et al. v. Hofgur LLC d/b/a Queens Adult Care Center and Gefen Senior Group, No. 1:20-cv-02022 (E.D. N.Y.), is the first of its kind seeking to hold a place of public accommodation liable under Title III or Section 504 for not taking adequate measures, in the plaintiffs’ estimation, to prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This case has potentially far-reaching implications for all places of public accommodation. To read our full article, please click here.