According to the Department of Labor, roughly 1.3 million people nationwide filed for unemployment last week. Within each state, the fluctuation in weekly claims has varied, as analysts try to monitor the effects of increased COV-ID 19 cases on unemployment. While there has been evidence that there is a positive correlation between the two, inconsistencies in state unemployment numbers have made the job difficult. Moreover, the number of claims only tells part of the story. Many economists have noted that the pandemic and its resulting disruption of business has permanently eliminated jobs. 

Without congressional intervention, on July 31, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC) will expire. Yet, discontinuing the program, which provides an additional $600 in unemployment benefits, will have a disproportionate impact on women and minority workers, Politico reports. Both historical wage inequality and the pandemic’s effect on sectors that have high numbers of women and minority workers (such as child care) have left these communities in economic despair and in need of the assistance that the additional unemployment benefits could provide. Continuing the aid, therefore, is not just a “policy choice . . . [but] also a racial justice policy choice.”

Over the past few months, many federal employees have been working from home in an effort to limit the spread of COV-ID 19. Yet, as states begin to reopen, Congress has begun to debate the appropriate pace at which those who have been teleworking should return to the workplace. While the current policy allows for agency discretion in determining both return dates and safety measures, some members of Congress believe that these efforts to reopen to “full working capacity” are premature. Moreover, teleworking federal employees have expressed safety concerns regarding their return to the office.  

After demanding that the Walt Disney Company implement regular COV-ID 19 testing for its returning Disney World performers in Florida, the Actors’ Equity Union is facing backlash. Despite initial plans, the Company has now excluded Union members from the recent recall of furloughed performers, a change in course that the Union says is retaliation for speaking out. In response, the Union filed a grievance against Disney, noting that the recent surge in Florida virus cases (114,000 since June 25) makes testing even more crucial. Meanwhile, Disney has responded that because the Union “rejected . . . [their] safety protocols and have not made themselves available to continue negotiations . . . [they] are exercising [their] right to open without Equity performers.”

A new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pilot program has expanded the scope of EEOC-led mediation of discrimination claims. According to the EEOC, its mediation process provides an opportunity for employees and employers to “reconcile their differences” in “a neutral and confidential setting.” Under the new policy, resolution through mediation is now an option for charges that once could only be resolved through investigation and litigation. The decision has drawn sharp criticism from Democratic Commissioner Charlotte Burrows, who has described the Commission Chair Janet Dhillon as “lack[ing] authority” to make this change and the pilot as a “grave injustice and a violation of EEOC’s responsibility to enforce the law.”