Germany COVID-19 Update: Eased ‘Emergency Brake’ Regulations in the Workplace

Germany’s nationwide “emergency brake” system—the public health framework of rules and restrictions first implemented by the German government in April 2021 to help contain the spread of COVID-19—expired on June 30, 2021, and, slowly but surely, some semblance of normality has begun returning to German citizens’ private and working lives. Due to a sharp drop in COVID-19 infection rates in Germany and because of the progress of Germany’s vaccination campaign, the federal government recently determined that the time was right to relax restrictive measures.

City of Pasadena Imposes Indoor Mask Requirement on Even Fully-Vaccinated Individuals

On July 21, 2021, the City of Pasadena health officer issued an order titled, “Order for Wearing of Face Masks in Public Settings.” As did the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s (LACDPH) health order of the previous week, the City of Pasadena’s health order requires all individuals “regardless of vaccination status” to wear face coverings in “all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and businesses.”

Mexico’s COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System: News for July 19–August 1, 2021

During the pandemic, Mexico’s federal government has used a four-tiered biweekly traffic light monitoring system to alert residents to the epidemiological risks of COVID-19 and provide guidance on restrictions on certain activities in each of the country’s states. The federal government is currently evaluating the factors for measuring the epidemiological traffic light system, first implemented in June 2020, and, accordingly, the government has not issued the federal-level report for the period of July 19, 2021, through August 1, 2021.

Resolving Workplace Vaccination and Mask Conflicts: 5 FAQS as Workplaces Reopen

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new phase in the United States and employees return to the workplace, some employers may need to face controversial issues regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. Below are some considerations for employers as they take steps to prevent or resolve workplace disagreements regarding vaccines and other workplace safety measures to help employees focus on work.

Burned-Out Workers and Time-Off—Do Employment Laws Allow Flexibility?

As the United States gradually emerges from the pandemic, employers (and especially those in the tech sector whose workforces can easily work remotely) are looking for ways to help frazzled and burned-out employees. In addition, many employees are seeking opportunities to preserve the flexibility they gained during pandemic remote-work arrangements. Time off, company holidays, and workday flexibility are among the top remedies for these concerns. But outmoded state and federal labor laws may impede a new era of worker freedom.

Texas Supreme Court Rules Request for Disability Accommodation Does Not Support Retaliation Claim Under State Law

Texas courts generally look to federal courts’ interpretation of federal anti-discrimination laws to assist in interpreting the anti-discrimination provisions of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA). However, the provisions of the TCHRA do not always exactly mirror the language of parallel federal anti-discrimination laws. The Texas Supreme Court recently examined such differences in interpreting the scope of the anti-retaliation provisions of the TCHRA.

Los Angeles County Imposes Indoor Mask Requirement on Fully Vaccinated

On Friday, July 16, 2021, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) issued a health order requiring all individuals regardless of vaccination status to wear face coverings in “[a]ll indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and businesses.”  The order’s list of locations in which all individuals must wear face coverings includes “offices, retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, and state and local government offices serving the public.”

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Beginning 1 July 2021: What UK Employers Need to Know

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the “furlough scheme”) has been in operation since April 2020, as part of the United Kingdom government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme has enabled employers across the UK to retain their employees and protect jobs preventing unemployment and mass redundancies or reductions in force.

SCOTUS and Social Media: What Employers Can Learn from the Court’s Recent Ruling about a Student’s Posts

On June 23, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., No. 20-255 (2021), holding that a student’s off-campus social media posts critical of her school constituted free expression protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

EEOC Roundup, Part III: 7 EEOC Policy Topics for Employers to Keep on the Radar in 2021 and Beyond

Our previous articles in this spotlight series on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) highlighted the agency’s enforcement and litigation metrics and political composition of the Commission—matters that underscore how the Commission has and will address current pressing policy issues, such as employer-provided COVID-19 vaccination incentives. In particular, the unique “upside down” nature of the Commission (i.e., two Democrats who control the agenda but are outnumbered by three Republicans) will impact the substantive issues that the Commission will address in the coming months. In this third part of our series, we highlight some of the potential substantive policy developments that employers may want to track as the EEOC navigates through 2021 and beyond.

Canada to Ease Travel Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

The Government of Canada has announced the first phase of its plan to ease border restrictions for travelers entering Canada. Under the new policy, travelers whose vaccination status meets the criteria of “fully vaccinated” will be exempt from quarantine restrictions, mandatory hotel stays pending test results, and day-eight testing, provided all conditions are met.

Is It Payback Time? Audits of Government-Funded COVID-19 Relief in South Africa

In June 2020, governments around the world were centrally concerned with two issues: (1) what precautions to take to stem the ever-rising tide of COVID-19 cases and (2) how to keep national economies from falling apart due to the economic effects of the pandemic. A primary question for many countries became whether they could effectuate COVID-19 containment protocols without hurting their economies.

Juneteenth Is a Federal Holiday: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tips for Proactive Employers

In the wake of an increased focus on racial justice in the summer of 2020, many employers began to recognize and observe Juneteenth as a way to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. On June 17, 2021—25 years after the first bill to recognize Juneteenth was introduced—President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, designating Juneteenth as the 11th federally recognized public holiday.

Expiration of Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave Law

On June 15, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration certified the results of the May 2021 municipal primary election, and thereby formalized the approval of an amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania giving lawmakers the broad new power to extend or end disaster emergency declarations. Because the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law was set to “expire upon the expiration of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of the Governor of Pennsylvania related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” and the legislature voted on June 10, 2021, to end the disaster emergency declaration, it is now safe to say that the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law is no longer in effect.

New Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Regulations Take Effect IMMEDIATELY

On June 17, 2021, at the end of yet another chaotic day in administrative rulemaking, California’s new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) finally became effective. The ETS bring substantial changes to the COVID-19 regulatory requirements with which employers have struggled since California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) initial ETS took effect almost 7 months ago, on November 30, 2020.

New York Governor Lifts COVID-19 Guidance and Signs Legislation Amending the HERO Act

On May 5, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates workplace health and safety protections from any airborne infectious disease that the commissioner of health has designated as “a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.” On June 11, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to amend the NY HERO Act. The amendments extend the effective date of section 1 of the act, pertaining to the creation and adoption of airborne infectious disease plans. Pursuant to the amendment, section 1 will take effect on July 5, 2021. Section 2, which pertains to the establishment of workplace safety committees, will take effect on November 1, 2021.

Mandatory Vaccination Policy Lawsuit Update: Nurses Take a Shot Against Hospital, But Judge Jabs Back

Many workplace leaders have been wondering, “Can we require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment?” According to a recent Ogletree Deakins benchmarking survey, most employers are not ready to implement mandatory vaccination policies, and 87.9 percent of employers reported that they currently do not plan to require workers to get the vaccine. On the other end of the spectrum, 7.6 percent of respondents have implemented (or are planning to implement) a vaccination mandate. The rest have been undecided, but a recent court opinion on the legality of such mandatory policies may shift some employers’ feelings about which direction they should go and when.

Cal/OSHA Publishes Revised Proposed COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions for June 17 Standards Board Vote

On June 11, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) published proposed revisions to the current Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On June 17, 2021, the Standards Board will meet again to vote on adopting proposed revisions. This is the third updated revision that the Standards Board has considered in the last month. Until the new ETS takes effect, employers must comply with the November 30, 2020, ETS, which remains in place.

OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance for All Industries Not Covered by Its ETS for Healthcare

On June 10, 2021, simultaneous with the issuance of its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 focusing on healthcare employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its new COVID-19 guidance for all industries not covered by the ETS.

OSHA Finally Issues Its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, Confines It to Healthcare

On the morning of June 9, 2021, the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced it completed its review of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19. At a hearing later that day before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told legislators that OSHA expected to release the ETS by June 10, 2021, and that it would be confined to the healthcare industry. All other industries would receive updated “strong guidance” on safely protecting unvaccinated workers.

California OSH Board Votes to Withdraw Latest Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and Vote on a New Revision on June 17, 2021

On June 9, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted to withdraw the previously submitted Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) changes and instead consider further revisions at its June 17, 2021, meeting.