Employment Law Update June 2021
A few interesting employment law developments occurred across the U.S. and locally in June 2021. Here is a quick update:
- Federal judge dismisses hospital workers’ lawsuit challenging mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. A Texas federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by 117 unvaccinated employees who were given the choice to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. Notably, the employees argued the hospital’s vaccine requirement violated public policy, as the COVID-19 vaccines were distributed under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency use authorization rather than the FDA’s usual processes. The court roundly summarily the plaintiff’s argument, observing that the lead plaintiff was “refusing to accept inoculation that, in the hospital’s judgment, will make it safer for their workers and the patients in [the hospital’s] care.”
- Amazon among the first large national employers to stop screening most employees for marijuana use. Amazon announced this month that it would stop screening non-transportation employees for marijuana use. The online giant simultaneously announced that it would support legislation for federal decriminalization of marijuana as well. Amazon’s new policy may represent a sea-change among large national employers’ drug screening policies in light of changing attitudes and relaxation of state laws on marijuana use.
- Pennsylvania insurance company seeks to claw back “advance” bonuses to former Vice Presidents. In a notable local employment agreement dispute, USI Insurance Services has initiated breach of contract actions against former executives who have allegedly failed to repay performance bonuses paid out at the time they were hired in January, 2020. Their bonuses were not to be fully earned until the company had made $500,000 in net commissions and fees off of new business the executives brought in. However, the executives allegedly quit in May, 2021, before they hit that target. The cases are USI Insurance Services v. DeRiggi, case number GD-21-007087, and USI Insurance Services v. Troiano, case number GD-21-007088, in the Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Given the timeline, it will be interesting to see whether the executives attempt to mount a defense relating to the economic downturn associated with the pandemic.
Jeff Burke is an attorney at MacElree Harvey, Ltd., working in the firm’s Employment and Litigation practice groups. Jeff counsels businesses and individuals on employment practices and policies, employee hiring and separation issues, non-competition and other restrictive covenants, wage and hour disputes, and other employment-related matters. Jeff also represents businesses and individuals in employment litigation such as employment contract disputes, workforce classification audits, and discrimination claims based upon age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment.