Top 5 Labor & Employment Issues That Will Keep Retailers Busy in 2021

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Attorney Harrison Oldham

Since the Inauguration, the Biden administration has quickly got to work. With that said, it is a great time for retailers to pay attention to the labor and employment issues that will most likely take prominence in 2021. In no order, this article will discuss the 5 issues that will most likely keep retail employers busy in 2021.





  1. Changes to Federal Labor and Employment Policy

Now that the Democrats are in control of the White House, U.S House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate, federal labor and employment policies are going to change in many respects. Some changes that may affect retailers may be:

  • Labor policy, which includes the nominations for members of the National Labor Relations Board;
  • Immigration policy; and
  • Wage and hour policy, which includes upcoming changes to the federal minimum wage, exempt salary requirements, and definitions of independent contractor and joint employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


  1. COVID-19 Compliance

2021 is almost certain to bring changes to multiple federal, state, and local statutes, ordinances, and executive orders relating to COVID-19. These changes will address issues such as:

  • Closures, capacity limits, social distancing requirements, masks, etc.
  • Employee and customer screening, as well as protective measure requirements;
  • Employee and customer positive test reporting;
  • Work-from-home and remote work rules, policies, and procedures; and
  • Hazard pay requirements.

The task of keeping up with these constant changes will be time consuming, especially for employers that operate in multiple states or across the country.


  1. Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion (“D&I”) will be at the top of retailer’s minds in the wake of the current pertinent social movements that really accelerated in 2020. Many retailers stepped up their game in 2020 by implementing and managing comprehensive D&I programs and training incentives for their employees. The trend is expected to continue for retailers in 2021. President Biden has also made it a requirement for federal contractors to implement D&I or implicit bias training and programs. Retailers may want to consider D&I and equity in their company culture by:

  • Curating training and development programs that accept equity and D&I concepts; and
  • Making sure that company policies have inclusive language.


  1. Customer Face-Covering Issues

According to some, members of the public wearing face mask coverings could go well into 2022. Retailers will inevitably encounter customers who refuse to wear them. Retailers who resort to adopting a strict “no mask, no service” policy could find themselves in legal challenges. Customers could raise thorny disability and religious accommodations issues, which can lead to litigation. Luckily, retailers have had success in defending themselves in these lawsuits in court.

Customer challenges may look different once a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated. Customers may not want to wear masks because they have been vaccinated. Retailers may want to keep up with the latest health guidance on this issue.


  1. Medical Marijuana Usage

During the pandemic, five states: Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized recreational and/or the medical use of marijuana. This legalization raises difficult workplace questions relating to drug testing, disability accommodation, workplace safety, employment termination, and hiring. Retailers are advised to stay up to date with state laws pertaining to marijuana as more states enact measures to legalize the use of marijuana.


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About Harrison Oldham

Harrison grew up in Mansfield, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for his bachelor’s degree, where he met his wonderful wife, Kelsey. After graduating magna cum laude from Texas A&M, he attended SMU Dedman School of Law, graduating with honors in 2012. Today, Harrison and his wife live in Dallas, Texas with their son, Teddy.

Since graduating from SMU Law, Harrison has worked exclusively in the field of business law. He has spent time in private practice and in-house, working with clients of every size; from single person startups to Fortune 250 companies. Today his practice focuses on serving the diverse needs of businesses and individuals throughout Texas. You can learn more about Harrison by visiting his website, at: http://lonestarbusinesslaw.com/.

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