CDC Issues “Streamlined” COVID Guidelines

On Aug. 11, the CDC announced that it was “streamlining” its COVID guidance. A few changes to note: First, the CDC’s previous guidance made a distinction between “quarantine” and “isolation.” Quarantine was for people who had been exposed; isolation was for people with symptoms or a positive test. The new guidance has jettisoned “quarantine”—“isolation” is now all by itself…which is fitting. However, the new guidance still makes the same distinction as the previous version: simple exposure vs. symptoms/positive test. For exposure, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask for 10 days and to be tested on day five, instead of quarantining. For those who test positive, stay home and isolate for at least five days and wear a mask after that until at least day 11. Like the previous guidance, the CDC recommends longer isolation for more severe illnesses, and, for those with a weakened immune system, consulting with a doctor before ending isolation. The CDC no longer recommends screening testing of asymptomatic people. The CDC said the new guidance was warranted because “we’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools” to protect ourselves and a better understanding of the virus. You can read the press release here.

Employees Can Cause Serious Trade-Secret Headaches

A recent decision by the Utah Court of Appeals tells a familiar story, with a tricky twist for employers. In General Water v. Van Zweden, a salesman and a technician left their employer General Water and went to competitor Med Water. When General Water found out that one of its biggest clients had switched to Med Water, General Water sued the two former employees as well as Med Water for trade secret misappropriation. The jury decided that the former employees had misappropriated General Water’s trade secrets but that competitor company Med Water had not. Given the jury’s verdict, the court enjoined the former employees from using the trade secrets. On appeal, Med Water asked the Court of Appeals to clarify that it was excluded from the injunction—i.e., that it wasn’t enjoined in any way. Afterall, the jury had found that Med Water hadn’t misappropriated General Water’s trade secrets. The Court of Appeals rejected Med Water’s argument, citing the common-law rule that “a person who knowingly assists a defendant in violating an injunction subjects himself to civil as well as criminal proceedings for contempt.” Otherwise, an enjoined party could easily avoid an injunction by “carrying out prohibited acts through aiders and abettors.” So even though Med Water and its new employees received opposite verdicts from the jury, they found themselves in the same boat: both were enjoined from using General Water’s trade secrets. The moral of the story: your new employee’s baggage can weigh down your entire company—even when you’re careful. You can read the full opinion (which includes a lot more trade-secret insights) here.

Data Can Help Address Pay Disparity

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently published a study suggesting that collecting pay data from employers can help the EEOC root out sex discrimination. Pay disparity based on sex or gender is barred by the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1960, women earned 60 cents on the dollar, compared to men. By 2020, that number had risen to 82—a marked improvement, but not a complete victory. According to experts, gender-based pay disparity is due (in part) to the fact that men and women tend to work in different industries, with male-dominated industries paying better than those dominated by women—a trend referred to as “occupational segregation.” In 2017, the EEOC began requiring employers to submit information about employees’ pay, but it halted this collection in 2019 following employer complaints that the process was overly burdensome. Given the NASEM’s study, the EEOC might decide to resume the data collection, although it hasn’t committed to doing so yet. You can read more here.

Old (HR) Dog, New (HR) Tips

Former employment attorney and author Jathan Janove recently interviewed our own Mike O’Brien about his 36 years (spanning five decades) of being an employment attorney. Mike discussed the veritable explosion in the number of laws and regulations on the federal, state and local level that employers have to deal with now—as opposed to the simpler times when Mike started practicing back in 1986. (Although back then, he had to walk up the stairs to his office, both ways…in the snow.) He also offers his top tips for employers. Here’s to another five decades of Mike contributing his insights and wisdom to our legal and HR community. You can read the full interview here

Paul R. Smith is a member of Parsons' employment and IP litigation teams. He focuses his practice on helping companies manage two of their most valuable resources: their workforce and their intellectual property (IP). To reach Paul, call (801) 532.1234 or send an email to