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Exploring Employment Law in the Age of COVID-19 (Pt. 2)

August 18, 2021

Thanks to ongoing vaccination efforts, the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over in the United States. That means people are going back to working in person in offices — but that doesn’t mean everything is back to business as usual.

On this episode of Deal Us In, employee benefits and labor attorneys Carolyn Trenda and Dawn Cutlan Stetter continue our two-part conversation about the impacts of the pandemic on the workplace, particularly for women.

One thing that has definitely changed: People don’t want to go back to working in the office in the same way they used to.

“Very few employers are saying they’re going to make people come back to the office five days a week,” Dawn says. “If you’d told me that in January 2020, I would have laughed at you.”

This shift in attitudes means new considerations for businesses. “What are the challenges moving forward in having at least a partially remote workforce? What does that look like? How do you accommodate employees who want a little bit more flexibility?” Dawn says.

These questions are top of mind for Carolyn and Dawn, who advise employers on best practices when it comes to employee benefits and labor issues.

In this episode, they also discuss how traditional benefits packages are changing, and what women can do to continue striving for success in a workforce that is still male-dominated.

💡 Featured Guests 💡

Name: Carolyn Trenda

Title: Partner at McGuireWoods

Specialty: Carolyn focuses her practice on advising public, private, and non-profit employers on a range of employee benefit topics.

Where to find her: LinkedIn

Name: Dawn Cutlan Stetter

Title: Counsel at McGuireWoods

Specialty: Dawn is an attorney at McGuireWoods who represents and advises management in all aspects of labor and employment law.

Where to find her: LinkedIn

🗝️ Key Points 🗝️

Top takeaways from this episode

The impacts of the pandemic are here to stay — A lot about the way we work has changed in the past year and a half, for better or worse. When it comes to things like flexible, remote work schedules and a focus on the importance of childcare, COVID-19 brought a cultural shift that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The future of employee benefits packages is in flux — More and more companies — especially bigger ones with more employees — are looking at increasingly progressive benefits packages that incorporate things like mental healthcare, and include medical coverage for transgender people.

Women still face hurdles when it comes to leadership — One thing holding women back in the workforce has become more obvious during the pandemic: It’s very difficult to be the sole person responsible for childcare and also hold a full-time leadership role. But there are other cultural factors that are keeping women from achieving their potential, and confidence is key to changing that landscape.

Episode Highlights

[2:18] The future of work is flexible: Dawn says that since a lot of jobs went virtual due to the pandemic, many people now expect to be able to work remotely, or on a more flexible schedule. This switch won’t necessarily require legislative change, but it is definitely going to be something businesses are thinking about going forward.

[5:30] Paid family leave: Even before COVID-19, the idea of paid family leave was getting a lot of political attention. Now that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a social safety net for childcare — and a new political administration is in office — Carolyn says we might see a seachange in this area.

[14:40] Women and benefits packages: Carolyn says that employee benefits packages have become more progressive as the workforce and leadership teams diversify. For example, as more women enter the workforce, health plans have started to reflect a more diverse range of health needs. Having representational leadership in human resources can lead to expanded benefits that address a range of needs.

[17:55] Barriers to female leadership: Even though women have seen huge strides in the business world, there are things we can do better. Carolyn and Dawn both talk about their experiences overcoming hardships in male-dominated fields.

[22:55] Know your best assets: Carolyn and Dawn say that confidence is vital when it comes to women achieving success in business. Trust your instincts!

About Deal Us In

✔️ Thank you for joining us at the table for this episode of Deal Us In. We invite you to join the conversation by using our #Dealusinpodcast on Twitter or LinkedIn.

✔️ If you have questions about today’s conversation, please feel free to reach out to Ariail Barker at

✔️ Don’t miss another episode! Subscribe in your preferred podcast app.

✔️ If you have a recommendation for an inspiring interviewee, a question you’d like us to ask, or a topic you would like to hear covered, or if you’d like to tell us about women-focused initiatives in the field, please go to our website. We look forward to hearing from you.

This podcast was recorded and is being made available by McGuireWoods for informational purposes only. By accessing this podcast, you acknowledge that McGuireWoods makes no warranty, guarantee or representation as to the accuracy or sufficiency of the information featured in the podcast. The views, information or opinions expressed during this podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily reflect those of McGuireWoods. This podcast should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state and should not be construed as an offer to make or consider any investment or course of action.


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