Fifth Circuit Relied on ‘Next to No Evidence’ of Animus in Discrimination Suit

On May 13, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employer, finding that a fired employee had failed to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to pretext. In Owens v. Circassia Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the court affirmed summary judgment despite its recognition that the former employee had presented “substantial evidence” that could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that the employer’s stated reason for termination—her poor job performance—was false.

Minnesota Enacts Legislation Funding Unemployment Coffers, Authorizing Pay to Frontline Workers, and Requiring Notice

On April 29, 2022, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed Senate File (S.F.) No. 2677 into law, replenishing the state unemployment coffers and authorizing payments to various frontline workers. This new law requires Minnesota employers to provide notice to eligible frontline workers regarding potential additional benefits available to them.

DOJ Emphasizes Need for Individualized Assessments in Finding Indiana Nursing Board Violated ADA

On March 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found the Indiana State Board of Nursing violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to allow a nurse taking medicine prescribed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) from participating in the Indiana State Nursing Assistance Program (ISNAP).

Minnesota Legislative Update: Employment-Related Bills to Watch

The Minnesota Legislature, currently in regular session until mid- to late May 2022, has drafted various bills that may impact Minnesota employers and employees. Notably, some of the major bills under consideration (or already enacted) include a hair antidiscrimination bill, a measure extending the COVID-19 presumption of workers’ compensation eligibility for certain healthcare workers, and a proposal to restrict noncompete agreements.

Federal Court Enjoins Enforcement of Montana Law That Conflicts With CMS Vaccine Rule

On March 18, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana issued a preliminary injunction in Montana Medical Association v. Knudsen, enjoining enforcement of part of Montana’s vaccination law against “all Montana health care facilities and individual practitioners and clinics” subject to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

OSHA Announces Intent to Focus Inspections in Healthcare Facilities With Attention on COVID-19 Healthcare ETS

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) remains focused on the pandemic in certain workplaces as indicated by its announcement of a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) related to COVID-19. Interestingly, the focus of the NEP includes checking to confirm that certain elements of the COVID-19 healthcare emergency temporary standard (ETS) are in place.

California Unmasks—California Department of Public Health Revises Guidance for Use of Face Masks in Indoor Settings

On February 28, 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance, further loosening the rules for wearing COVID-19–related masks in the state. Effective March 1, 2022, unvaccinated individuals are no longer required to mask in indoor public settings, although the CDPH included “a strong recommendation” that all individuals, “regardless of vaccine status, continue indoor masking.”

No Surprises Act: Federal Court Invalidates Parts of the Independent Dispute Resolution Process

On February 23, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas struck down the part of the interagency interim final rule implementing the “independent dispute resolution” (IDR) procedures created by the No Surprises Act, which took effect for calendar-year plans on January 1, 2022 (Texas Medical Association v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Though the bulk of the rule remains in effect, the changes will impact health plans and the employers that sponsor them.

New York City Will Lift Mask and ‘Key to NYC’ Requirements

On February 27, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that if COVID-19 indicators continue to display low risk levels, the “Key to NYC” will be lifted, effective March 7, 2022. Individuals will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination to enter certain covered establishments, such as indoor dining, entertainment, and fitness establishments. Former New York City mayor Bill De Blasio implemented the Key to NYC through Emergency Executive Order 225 on August 17, 2021.

CMS Vaccine Mandate Update: Last, but Not Least, Texas Joins the Rest of the Country

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion staying preliminary injunctions issued in cases filed in Missouri and Louisiana challenging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare providers. The ruling stayed preliminary injunctions applicable to twenty-four states. Twenty-five states were already subject to enforcement under the CMS rule. This left Texas standing alone and in limbo.

SCOTUS Narrowly Allows CMS Vaccine Mandate to Survive; Preemption Battles to Ensue

On January 13, 2022, in a 5-4 split decision, the Court issued an opinion staying the injunctions against the healthcare interim final rule, which allows the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to now enforce its vaccine mandate nationwide (with the key compliance dates now being January 27, 2022, and February 28, 2022).

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard and CMS Vaccine Rule

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) COVID-19 vaccination mandate for certain healthcare providers.

Breaking News on the CMS Vaccination Rule: Less Than 24 Hours After Being Shelved in 10 States, the Rule Is Sidelined Nationwide

In a November 30, 2021, order, a federal judge sitting in Louisiana entered a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) interim final rule entitled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination.” The effect of the order is that CMS must immediately “cease all implementation or enforcement of the [CMS] Rule” in the remaining 40 states not covered by an earlier November 29, 2021, order from a federal judge sitting in Missouri that prevented implementation and enforcement of the CMS rule in only 10 states.

Federal Judge Shelves President Biden’s CMS Vaccine Mandate … But in Only 10 States

In a 32-page order issued on November 29, 2021, United States District Judge Matthew T. Schelp entered a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) interim final rule entitled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination.”

CMS Gives a Boost and Takes a Shot at Full Vaccination for Millions of U.S. Healthcare Workers

Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations started mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for some or all of their workers over the last six months. Now all of the specified Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types that are regulated under the Medicare health and safety standards must get all of their workers fully-vaccinated by January 4, 2022, pursuant to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination interim final rule.

Finding Religious Accommodations in Rhode Island’s COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare and healthcare-related employers have not just been at the heart of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, they have also recently been on the battleground in the fight over mandatory vaccination. Multiple states and locales have enacted some form of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Many of these vaccination mandates are directed at healthcare workers and state employees. These mandates vary by locality as to where the mandates apply, to whom the mandates apply and in what contexts, and when exemptions apply. And, of course, the federal mandates announced in September 2021 loom in the background.

Biden Administration Will Require Nursing Homes to Vaccinate Employees as a Condition for Receipt of Federal Funding

On August 18, 2021, President Joe Biden announced from the White House that his administration would require nursing homes to vaccinate their staffs against COVID-19 or risk losing Medicaid and Medicare funding. He said that this step was designed to keep people safe amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. He stated: “With this announcement, I’m using the power of the federal government, as a payer of healthcare costs, to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors.”