The US Department of Labor on Sept. 15 announced an annual update to the minimum wage for workers performing work on or in connection with covered contracts per Executive Order 13658.

Executive Order 13658, signed by President Obama in 2014, established a minimum wage rate for certain federal contractors that is adjusted annually based on inflation. Pursuant to the order, the minimum wage rate will increase to $11.25 from $10.95 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2022. The new rate must generally be paid to workers performing work on or in connection with existing covered contracts.

Also, beginning Jan. 1, 2022, employers must pay tipped employees performing work on or in connection with covered contracts a minimum cash wage of $7.90 per hour.

New or renewed contracts. Covered contracts that are entered into on or after Jan. 30, 2022 — or that are renewed or extended on or after Jan. 30, 2022 — will be generally subject to a higher minimum wage rate of $15 per hour established by Executive Order 14026, “Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors,” signed by President Biden in April.

Biden issues vaccination mandate

President Joe Biden announced Sept. 9 that all employers with 100 or more employees must either ensure their workforces are vaccinated against Covid-19 or that employees show a negative Covid test at least weekly. Firms will be required to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated.

Businesses of that size account for about 100 million workers, or two-thirds of the US workforce.

“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said. “We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

He noted that several companies already require this, such as United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and Fox News.

Biden also announced that vaccinations will be required for those who work in hospitals, home healthcare or other medical facilities — which account for a total of 17 million healthcare workers. And he issued executive orders requiring all executive branch federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated.

Crain’s Detroit Business reported companies could face fines of nearly $14,000 per violation.

Concerns. Meanwhile, businesses have questions about the mandate rules and how they will be applied under the plan where employees would have to be vaccinated or receive weekly tests. Ian Schaefer, chair of Loeb and Loeb’s employment and labor practice in New York, told Politico testing can cost “millions of dollars a year to any size company … it’s … time consuming and may not even guarantee health and safety in the way that mandating vaccines would.”

Massachusetts closes in on AB 5-style law

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office certified a ballot initiative that would ask voters if independent contractor drivers for ridesharing and delivery companies should be allowed to remain classified as independent contractors. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are among its backers.

Proponents would still need to gather more than 80,000 signatures to qualify it for the November 2022 ballot, according to The Boston Globe. If the state Legislature doesn’t take action, backers will need another 13,000 signatures in the spring.

Massachusetts’ proposal is similar to Prop 22 in California, which allowed drivers to remain independent contractors and received voter approval in November 2020. However, a judge in California ruled in August that the law violated California’s Constitution.

In addition to keeping drivers as independent contractors, the proposed Massachusetts law would require minimum compensation and provide other benefits. It would require the app-based firms to guarantee minimum compensation of at least 120% of the Massachusetts minimum wage for time spent completing requests for transportation or delivery, plus an inflation- adjusted per mile amount (starting at 26 cents) for each mile driven in a privately owned vehicle while completing a request. Drivers would also receive sick time and some drivers would receive healthcare stipends.