Beyond watching California, given its status as a harbinger of similar legislative efforts nationwide, panelists discussed other thorny matters ahead. These include the legality of mandatory vaccinations.
“While intuitively we say, ‘It’s hard to force somebody to do something,’ I’ve yet to come up with a good reason [for accommodating a non-vaccination], short of a state mandate that says we can’t require it as a condition of employment,” Peppe said.
Yet panelists also advised caution in following legislators, specifically in terms of diversity and inclusion efforts – another paramount discussion this year, alongside the pandemic.
[For more insights from legal experts on handling Covid-19 in the workplace, read the recap from day one of our virtual In-House Forum, “Leading Corporate Legal Departments in Times of Crisis.”]
While the current administration has banned diversity and inclusion training it deems “divisive,” companies cannot forget the “S” in their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reports, Hass stated.
Businesses walk a fine line. “Every time we have a change of party in control, we adapt, and we find a way to work within what the law says,” Peppe said.
Still, some discomfort is unavoidable, experts said. “We’re going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Richburg said, adding diversity discussions “make [the] organization better.”
As the pandemic enters a new year, companies will have to seek balance as best they can. “We have to be flexible,” Peppe said, yet “consistency is how you avoid litigation.”
[Learn more about the unique privacy concerns raised by the Covid-19 response through our on-demand webinar “Privacy Law, Coronavirus, and Post-Pandemic Best Practices.”]