TML Coronavirus Update

Dec 22

[ARCHIVED] December 22, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #160

The original item was published from December 22, 2020 1:00 PM to December 28, 2020 11:14 AM

Urgent Updates


How did cities do under the new federal COVID-19 relief bill that passed Congress?


Cities did not receive substantial new relief funding as was hoped. Perhaps the most useful element of the bill for cities is a one-year (until December 31, 2021) extension for states and localities to spend CARES Act funds (it does not, however, expand the possible usage categories for those funds). See the attached for a summary of what appears to be in the bill (the actual bill is thousands of pages long; we’ll update if we find something new or different from what has been reported).


Are there newly filed state bills related to Coronavirus?


Yes, the following bill for the 2021 legislative session has been filed since we last reported.


S.B. 239 (Powell) – Disaster Educational Materials: would: (1) require the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to develop and implement a disease prevention information system for dissemination of immunization information during a declared state of disaster or local state of disaster; and (2) provide that during a declared state of disaster or local state of disaster, DSHS shall ensure that educational materials regarding immunizations are available to local health authorities in this state for distribution to certain organizations.


If there is a direct threat that cannot be reduced to an acceptable level, the employer can exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace, but this does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities. For example, if an employer excludes an employee based on an inability to accommodate a request to be exempt from a vaccination requirement, the employee may be entitled to accommodations such as performing the current position remotely. This is the same step that employers take when physically excluding employees from a worksite due to a current COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms; some workers may be entitled to telework or, if not, may be eligible to take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, under the FMLA, or under the employer’s policies. See also Section J, EEO rights relating to pregnancy.


Managers and supervisors responsible for communicating with employees about compliance with the employer’s vaccination requirement should know how to recognize an accommodation request from an employee with a disability and know to whom the request should be referred for consideration.  Employers and employees should engage in a flexible, interactive process to identify workplace accommodation options that do not constitute an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). This process should include determining whether it is necessary to obtain supporting documentation about the employee’s disability and considering the possible options for accommodation given the nature of the workforce and the employee’s position. The prevalence in the workplace of employees who already have received a COVID-19 vaccination and the amount of contact with others, whose vaccination status could be unknown, may impact the undue hardship consideration. In discussing accommodation requests, employers and employees also may find it helpful to consult the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website as a resource for different types of accommodations, JAN’s materials specific to COVID-19 are at


Employers may rely on CDC recommendations when deciding whether an effective accommodation that would not pose an undue hardship is available, but as explained further in Question K.7., there may be situations where an accommodation is not possible. When an employer makes this decision, the facts about particular job duties and workplaces may be relevant. Employers also should consult applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and guidance. Employers can find OSHA COVID-specific resources at:


Managers and supervisors are reminded that it is unlawful to disclose that an employee is receiving a reasonable accommodation or retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation.


Further Updates


Can we expect another Update on Christmas Eve?


No. We are giving you a break from city-related COVID-19 news on Thursday. We're grateful to you for your work and dedication to Texas cities during this especially challenging year, and wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday. Look for the next Coronavirus Update on Tuesday, December 29.


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.