In The News

Take a look at Amy’s recent TV appearances where she discusses relevant legal topics for a wide audience!

VA Mandates COVID Vaccines for Medical Employees, Staff. FOX29 News, 7/26/21

TRANSCRIPT

VA Mandates COVID-19 Vaccine for Medical Employees, Staff

DRAYTON

Tonight it’s the first in the country impacting frontline workers here.  Doctors and nurses who are some of the first eligible for the COVID vaccine and now thousands will no longer have a choice.  Great to have you with us here. I’m Thomas Drayton.

TIMMENEY

And I’m Dawn Timmeney.  Today a federal agency announced: work in a VA medical center?  Get the vaccine.  And Chris, some of the people you spoke to didn’t even know yet.

O’CONNELL

Yes, Dawn, and it could signal a sign of things to come for all of us.  Frontline medical workers here at the VA medical center are being told if they don’t have the vaccine, they may not have a job.  Doctors, nurses, and staff that run the nation’s veterans medical centers will now have to be vaccinated or they could be fired.  Dr. Shaan Sadiq is one of them.

SADIQ

It’s smart from a business standpoint, and it’s also, more importantly in my mind, smart from a global and public health perspective.  You know, we have people at risk and those people are directly affected by our decision to get vaccinated or not.

O’CONNELL

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it’s requiring 115,000 patient-facing medical employees to be fully vaccinated by mid-September.  In a statement, the Secretary of the VA says whenever a Veteran or teammate sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know we have done everything in our power to keep them safe.  Most we talked with say requiring vaccines, especially in a healthcare setting makes sense.

VULLECK

Not only here, I’ve worked in other places.  We’ve had to have the flu vaccine for years now to stay employed.  This is just another vaccine.

O’CONNELL

Now a government agency is requiring vaccines to work, some think private companies won’t be far behind.

FELDMAN

Either he gets vaccinated or I stop coming to the office because you can’t protect my young children.

O’CONNELL

It’s an issue attorney Amy E. Feldman says employers will soon have to grapple with.

FELDMAN

When the federal government has made this decision, I’ll bet you’ll see a lot of private employers who have wondered, “can I, can’t I?” and now with all the discussion they will decide they can and they will.

O’CONNELL

And right now there are no federal laws preventing employers from requiring vaccines, but there are exceptions for medical and religious reasons, Thomas.

 

Thanks to FOX29 Philadelphia for letting me discuss the new Veterans Affairs vaccine mandates!  For more, visit their website.

Changes are Coming to Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania. Fox29 News, 7/16/21

TRANSCRIPT

Changes are Coming to Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania

HUMPHRIES

In “Your Money” news tonight, 26 states, including Pennsylvania will soon require recipients of unemployment benefits to prove they are actively looking for work.  That change happens Sunday, so attorney Amy Feldman is here to help break all this down for us.  Hello, and thank you for joining us, Amy.

FELDMAN

It’s a pleasure.  Thank you so much for having me.

HUMPHRIES

Well, we’re happy to have you.  So, explain specifically what happens Sunday for those who are unemployed.

FELDMAN

Right, so, it used to be, pre-pandemic, that people had to prove if they were going to stay on unemployment, that they were actually actively searching for work.  And that was put on pause during the pandemic, but those requirements of an active job search are now back effective Sunday, July 18th.  Now, to collect unemployment in Pennsylvania, you are going to have to show that not only did you apply for two jobs, but that you engaged in a “work search activity” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

HUMPHRIES

Okay, so tell us what that is, “work search activity,” what exactly does that mean?

FELDMAN

Right, so, it means that you can’t just sit around and send an electronic resume to the cyberspace, you actually have to do something active about it.  For example, and they listed – the Department of Labor and Industry lists the the things that you could do to prove that it’s an active search.  Go to a job fair, or you could post your resume on the Pennsylvania career link website, or you could take – avail yourself of the programs they have there.  You could also network.  You could call an employment agency and register there.  But it’s not enough just to send out a resume, you actually have to be active about your job search now.

HUMPHRIES

And continue it regularly.

FELDMAN

Exactly.

HUMPHRIES

Okay, so, how about that extra Federal Unemployment Payment, a lot of people have been talking about it, it’s being blamed for a lot of people not going to work.  So, was that still in effect and what’s the future of that?

FELDMAN

Right, so actually, about 25 states have done away with it.  It is scheduled to phase out in early September in any event.  But some states have made the decision that it’s preventing people from going to work, and so they’ve stopped it.  For the viewers here, Pennsylvania – New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are not among the states that have so far ended it, although there’s a bill right now in the Pennsylvania House that could possibly end it and it would be coupled instead with a “get back to work” bonus, but so far that’s stuck in debate and may not even in fact really come to a vote until it’s going to end either way September 4th.

HUMPRHIES

Sure, and that is coming up fast, so it might be safe to assume it could be coming to an end.  Amy, thanks so much for your time today

FELDMAN

Thank you.

Thank you to FOX29 Philadelphia for having me on to explain how some COVID-related unemployment benefits are ending.  You can see more on the FOX29 website!

Is it Legal for an Employer to Ask if You are Vaccinated? FOX29 News, 5/14/21

TRANSCRIPT

Is it Legal for an Employer to Ask if You are Vaccinated?

ANNOUNCER

For months we’ve talked about getting vaccinated, and while we wait for most people to get their shot in the arm, we’ve been asked a lot if companies and employers could force you to get a shot, and if asking about your vaccination status is against any HIPAA laws, so we brought in legal expert Amy Feldman to answer some of these questions that so many people have been asking.  How are you, Amy?

FELDMAN

I’m doing terrific, thank you.

ANNOUNCER

Great to have you with us this evening.  So many questions, and so let’s start with this one: is a company violating the law if they make you show proof of vaccination?

FELDMAN

They are not.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that it’s not a violation for an employer to require that you are vaccinated and to prove it.

ANNOUNCER

Wow, okay.  Let’s back up a little bit.  Can you explain what HIPAA is?

FELDMAN

Right, so everybody talks about a HIPAA violation, but they’re, for the most part, using that wrong, because HIPAA, the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act actually only covers institutions that hold your medical records, like your doctor, your dentist or your insurance company.  Your employer doesn’t hold your medical records, it has to ask you for your medical records.  So, what people, I think, mean when they say “isn’t this a violation of HIPAA?” is “doesn’t this violate my right to medical privacy?”

ANNOUNCER

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

FELDMAN

And so – yeah, right.  So, the answer to that question is simply asking whether someone’s been vaccinated does not violate your right to medical privacy.

ANNOUNCER

Okay.  Let’s take it a step further then.  What about employers?  Can they ask you to get the shot?

FELDMAN

Yes.

ANNOUNCER

Wow.

FELDMAN

So that’s another thing that – I know, it’s surprising, right?  Um, because, we know that school districts have required kids to get vaccinated, but until now only certain types of employers have required vaccinations. For example, people who work in hospital settings have, for a long time, been required to get vaccinated.  Now other employers have the right to ask that because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.  That said, there are exceptions to that where an employer may not require that you get vaccinated.

ANNOUNCER

Okay, let’s hear it.

FELDMAN

Okay, so, if you have a medical reason why you cannot be vaccinated, and your employer says to you – can ask the question “have you been vaccinated?”, if you say “I can’t be vaccinated because of a medical condition”, in that case, the employer may be in danger if they ask follow-up questions of finding out medical information that they don’t have the right to learn, and/or if you can’t be vaccinated and they fire you for it, but the reason you can’t is because of a medical reason, there may be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act if there would be other reasonable accommodations that they could make so that you and your coworkers would remain safe even if you aren’t vaccinated. 

ANNOUNCER

There’s this widely believed notion that employers don’t have this much power, but they do.

FELDMAN

In this case they do.

ANNOUNCER

They do.

FELDMAN

It’s not always the case, right? Because there are special rules here because the CDC and the government and the World Health Organization have all said that we’re still in the midst of this pandemic.  Even though we’re very fortunate here that in most areas of the country our numbers are really going down, but, for now, the government has said that employers can ask in an effort to keep people safe.

ANNOUNCER

Yeah.  Okay, Amy, thank you so much for your expertise and have a great weekend. Thanks for joining us.

AMY

Thank you

Thank you to FOX29 News for having me on to discuss whether or not your employer can require you to get a COVID shot!  For more, you can visit the FOX29 website.