Recent Blog Posts

  • So Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLA Leave Have Expired?  Should We Extend?

    Authored by: on Monday, January 4th, 2021

    The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, commonly called the stimulus bill and signed into law on December 27, 2020, let the leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expire.  No longer are employers obligated by law to grant employees 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons (emergency paid sick leave or EPSL) and up to 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave (emergency Family and Medical Leave Act or EFMLA) to care for a child whose place of care or school is closed for COVID-19 related reasons. The requirement expired on December 31. Look at this blog post. In response to that news, I have received a number of questions about voluntarily extending these benefits. This blog post addresses some of those questions.  Read more »

  • FFCRA Not Extended; Expires December 31, 2020

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

    The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in March as the federal government’s first response to the COVID-19 crisis, is a law with many parts. The Emergency Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act are the two most familiar to public employers. The stimulus bill that passed late last night (December 21, just before midnight) extended portions of the FFCRA. It did not extend the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Those laws and the benefits they provided to employees expire at midnight, December 31, 2020. Read more »

  • 2018 Survey Results Are In

    Authored by: on Monday, December 21st, 2020

    Are North Carolina cities and counties making more use of conditional zoning?

    Are the approval rates for variances and special use permits going up or down in North Carolina?

    Are form-based codes and standards only something we read about, or are they actually being implemented in our state?

    Are cities abandoning use of extraterritorial planning and development regulation?

    These are great questions. Many of us who work in this field think we know the answers. But reality sometimes shows our assumptions and perceptions are less than entirely accurate.

    To learn what is really happening on the ground, the School of Government periodically surveys all North Carolina cities and counties about their planning and development regulation practices. We conducted our sixth such survey in 2017-18. Prior surveys were conducted in 2002-03, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2008-09, and 2011-12. After a few delays occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the enactment of Chapter 160D, we now have a report on the survey results. The full survey report is online here. A few of the answers to the questions above are a bit surprising.

    Read more »

  • May a Public Employer Require Vaccination Against COVID-19?

    Authored by: on Sunday, December 20th, 2020

    UPDATED MARCH 25, 2021

    Every year many employers choose to require employees to undergo vaccination against seasonal influenza (flu). This year, however, a different decision will confront employers: whether to require employees to undergo vaccination against COVID-19.

    The flu vaccine has been around for a long time and its side effects and efficacy are well understood. The COVID-19 vaccines—two already in use, others on the way—are new. Several of them use new methods. Government employers and employees want to know: may a public employer require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

    For the most part, the answer is “yes.” Read more »

  • You Can’t Wear That: Drafting and Enforcing Nondiscriminatory Workplace Appearance Policies

    Authored by: on Friday, December 11th, 2020

    Once we make it through the pandemic, many employees will be returning to work for the first time in a very long while. To prepare for this return, organizations may want to review and update their dress codes and/or grooming policies to ensure that they promote an inclusive and nondiscriminatory work environment. Employers commonly adopt dress codes and grooming guidelines (“appearance policies”) to establish a professional atmosphere in the workplace. Appearance policies may require employees to wear business attire, conceal tattoos, remove facial piercings, keep hair neat, not wear fragrances, limit facial hair, and, in general, maintain a neat appearance. These requirements are generally enforceable provided they are adopted for legitimate business purposes and are applied in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner.

    Read more »

  • COVID-19 Updates and News Roundup

    Authored by: on Friday, December 11th, 2020

    This week brought a lot of news about the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Roy Cooper issued a modified stay-at-home order, which takes effect at 5:00 p.m. today. The FDA took the first step toward authorizing use of a COVID-19 vaccine. My colleagues at SOG have been writing and advising about multiple issues associated with the pandemic, including the temporary halt to evictions, the effect on the criminal justice system, and the many employment law issues COVID-19 continues to raise. This post summarizes a couple of the latest developments and provides resources for keeping track of COVID-19 as this extraordinary year draws to a close. Read more »

  • Taking Local Action to Control COVID-19: What Can a North Carolina Local Health Department Do?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

    North Carolina is experiencing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations at a particularly challenging time: right as families are preparing to celebrate winter holidays, college students are returning home, and the weather is cooling and making outdoor gatherings less appealing. Recent news about the promise of new vaccines is a powerful light at the end of this tunnel, but we are not out of the tunnel yet and the next few weeks may be especially fraught.

    In recent days, public health officials have redoubled their efforts to encourage North Carolinians to observe the three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands frequently—and the Governor has issued new executive orders expanding the mandatory use of face coverings and reducing the sizes of groups that may gather indoors. State officials have also encouraged local governments to consider what actions they may be able to take to decrease the spread of the virus within their jurisdictions. Earlier this week, my colleague Trey Allen addressed the question of whether local governments may impose civil penalties for violations of state orders. Today, I will address the question, what can a local health department do?
    Read more »