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July 01, 2022

A New Normal: Littler Mendelson Surveys Local and National Employers

by Lisa Kathumbi, Esq., & Emily Levy, Esq., Littler Mendelson P.C.

Since the start of the pandemic, workplace regulations and employee expectations have evolved rapidly. In May 2022, Littler Mendelson published its Annual Employer Survey Report analyzing information collected from 1,275 in-house attorneys, C-suite executives and human resources workers on a range of complex employment law issues – from vaccine mandates and return-to-work policies to employee retention, workplace diversity and artificial intelligence.

Employers are split on mandating vaccinations. 41% of employers surveyed reported having implemented a mandatory vaccination or regular testing requirement, many in response to legal requirements. With the U.S. Supreme Court stay on implementation of OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard, mandatory policies have slowed. 56% of survey participants reported they do not plan to have mandatory policies unless required by law.

With paid sick and family leave reported as one of the top regulatory issues expected to continue to impact workplaces, over two-thirds of survey respondents reported making changes to leave policies. The majority reported that these changes respond to state-specific requirements, while other employers – including Columbus employers, where there is not a paid leave law for private employers – have made changes to stay competitive, retain diverse talent or reduce risks of employees coming to work sick.

While laws regarding vaccine mandates and paid sick leave continue to develop, employees have been returning to the workplace in varying stages. 54% of survey respondents reported having return-to-office policies. However, to attract and retain talent, nearly all respondents (97%) reported offering schedule flexibility and remote work options. Despite a broader acceptance of flexibility, maintaining company culture and employee engagement is an ongoing concern, as noted by 86% of respondents.

Recognizing the pandemic’s impact on women and diverse employees, and in the wake of 2020’s powerful movement for social justice and racial equity, employers are also giving diversity, equity and inclusion goals laser focus. 57% of respondents reported revising recruiting, hiring, and retention practices to improve DEI efforts and nearly one-third of respondents have developed more clearly defined benchmarks or metrics. In Columbus, an employer-led initiative to achieve pay equality for women in the workforce has received a commitment from nearly 300 employers. In a tight job market with an increased focus on DEI, employers are also leveraging AI to broaden candidate pools, reduce biases and improve the hiring and retention process.

Littler’s report shows that employers are entering a pivotal phase in workforce management, filled with new challenges but also great opportunities. From March 12, 2020 – March 2022, Littler also tracked COVID-related employment litigation. In that time frame, there have been 5,666 lawsuits (including 990 class actions) filed against employers due to alleged COVID-related labor and employment violations (with Ohio among the top five states for litigation), underscoring the importance of tracking legal and workplace developments. Ultimately, organizations that adapt their policies for the “new normal” will mitigate risks and grow stronger.

Littler’s report shows that employers are entering a pivotal phase in workforce management, filled with new challenges but also great opportunities.