Significant new requirements for physician noncompete agreements in Indiana took effect on July 1, 2020, including mandatory language allowing a physician to purchase “a complete and final release” from a noncompete agreement “at a reasonable price.” The law also includes several provisions related to notices that employers must provide to patients and doctors when a physician’s employment has terminated or contract expires.
In 2015, long before COVID-19 emerged, a hospital disciplined and discharged a recruiter in its HR department who refused to obtain a hospital-required influenza vaccination or to don a mask at work as an alternative. In a case we started to track three years ago, a federal judge entered summary judgment for the employer this week.
Parts of the country have begun the process of returning to work, in places where COVID-19 infection rates have flattened or shown a decline. But the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 remains, and some employers may be faced with parts of their workforces refusing to return to work or to perform certain assignments, citing the health risk. What are employers’ options with respect to such employees? There are both legal and practical considerations.
On May 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a one-page guidance sheet titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers.” The guidance lists several tips that employers in the nursing home and long-term care facility industry may take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Employees—particularly healthcare employees—are increasingly refusing to work because of safety concerns and the need for accommodations related to COVID-19. In certain circumstances, these refusals may trigger protections afforded by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), among others.
On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy update in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that provides H-1B physicians holding J-1 foreign medical graduate waivers some limited flexibility in readjusting their hours and placement sites.
On March 5, 2020, Colorado reported its first cases of coronavirus, which would multiply exponentially over the following weeks. Since then, the state and various municipalities, including Denver, have actively responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing a series of orders affecting businesses and their requirements with respect to their employees.
On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance titled Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages. As maintaining appropriate staffing levels is essential to providing both a safe working environment and proper patient care, the guidance offers a series of recommendations on contingency plans that healthcare providers experiencing staffing shortages may wish to consider.
On May 5, 2020, a bipartisan group of senators, including Senator David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (Senate Bill 3599). The goal of the proposed legislation is to temporarily address the country’s shortage of doctors and nurses, strengthen the healthcare workforce, and improve healthcare access during the COVID-19 crisis.
While hospitals are working hard to provide necessary care for COVID-19 patients, other medical practices and physician groups are diligently working to maintain their workforces and keep physicians busy during this time.
With employers planning for employees to return to work following COVID-19–related closures, there are sure to be questions about sharing employee medical information as it relates to COVID-19 (symptoms, test results, status) within the workplace and with public authorities. Now may be a good time to review what has changed about federal privacy rules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—and what hasn’t.
On April 24, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum titled “Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of Filtering Facepiece Respirators in Healthcare During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The guidance submits a list of approved and nonapproved decontamination methods for cleaning filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), which are better known as N95 “dust mask” respirators.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have been engaged in varying levels of contact tracing within the workplace. Contact tracing involves identifying individuals who may have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus while that person was likely infectious. As part of employers’ pandemic response practices, many are implementing policies and procedures that attempt to ascertain the identities of employees who may have been in “close contact” with employees diagnosed with COVID-19, or those suspected of having contracted the virus.
Compared to the first three weeks of April in 2019, April 1, 2020, through April 21, 2020, had a 720 percent increase in healthcare facility inspections in the “Fatality/Catastrophe” category. A stunning increase from 5 inspections in 2019 to 36 in 2020 during the same three weeks. Those inspections include hospitals and other medical facilities. The inspection information does not include any information about COVID-19, however, the massive increase in the category of inspections has no other explanation than the present pandemic and workers who have fallen ill or succumbed after contracting the virus.
Alaska has joined a growing number of states addressing the thorny issue of the size and density of religious gatherings during the COVID-19 health crisis. Like other states, Alaska has attempted to balance the constitutional rights of free exercise of religion and peaceable assembly with legitimate public health concerns warranting the practice of social distancing.
On April 13, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which provides a blueprint for the agency’s Area Directors and inspectors to follow when considering opening and conducting a COVID-19-related inspection. The plan gives employers a glimpse into what to expect from OSHA during the pandemic.
As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state plans like California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (more commonly known as Cal/OSHA) are seeing a significant increase in complaints, inspections, and investigations of workplace illnesses and fatalities. Anecdotally, the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, acute care services, and senior living facilities, appear to be facing a huge wave of regulatory inspections at a never-before-seen pace.
After relaxing enforcement on the use of expired N95 respirators and on their extended use and reuse, late on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Enforcement Guidance for Use of Respiratory Protection Equipment Certified under Standards of Other Countries or Jurisdictions During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The new guidance supplements, but does not replace, previous guidance.
Following up on its recent temporary enforcement guidance permitting suspension of N95 annual fit-testing for healthcare employers, on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an interim Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.
Healthcare entities are facing a growing number of challenges related to the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease caused by that virus, COVID-19. Among the primary concerns is whether a specific healthcare entity is covered by the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and if so, how to avoid violating that rule when sharing names or other identifying information of individuals infected with or exposed to the virus.
Now that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) acknowledges that employers may implement temperature screening measures in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many employers want to conduct them, and want to know how to conduct them. In some locations, employers may even feel compelled to conduct them based on location-specific or general community mitigation guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Employers across the globe, faced with the need to reduce the risk of workplace transmission of COVID-19, may be contemplating imposing standard temperature screenings on their employees. In many jurisdictions, an employer may need or want to consult with employee representatives (such as Works Councils in Europe or unions where applicable) or limit temperature checks to only those employees who consent. Even if temperature checks comply with local and national laws, instituting such measures may still present risks for employers, such as claims that the employer screened employees in a discriminatory fashion and mishandled the data from a privacy perspective. Temperature screenings may also pose employee and public relations considerations.
On March 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued temporary enforcement guidance addressing the fit-testing requirements in the agency’s respiratory protection standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910.134). The guidance applies to healthcare workers using N95 respirators to protect them from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
In an effort to increase social distancing in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on March 15, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom held a news conference in which he issued an executive order calling for the home isolation of all individuals who are 65 and older, as well as individuals with chronic health conditions.
Despite multiple challenges, many portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are still in effect and employers are taking steps to remain in compliance with the law. This fact sheet is intended as a quick checkup as businesses prepare for reporting on coverage offered under their employer-sponsored healthcare plans in 2019 and develop their compliance strategies for 2020.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revisited the treatment of prescription drug manufacturer coupons in a proposed rule, published on February 6, 2020, that could be welcome news for employers that have been struggling to interpret conflicting guidance concerning these coupons.
As the world responds to the accelerating 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak originating in Wuhan, China—a situation now declared by the World Health Organization to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern—multinational employers, particularly those with employees based in or traveling to China, are assessing their role in managing workforce impact. In addition to taking precautions to prevent the spread of illness, employers are contending with government-imposed travel shutdowns and advisories, quarantines, border screenings, and extended holidays that may affect local operations and global mobility.
Coronavirus strain 2019-nCoV has reached the United States.
Employers with employees traveling to and from China may want to take note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on January 21, 2020, that the United States had confirmed its first case of a new strain of the coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan, China, last month. The virus has already sickened hundreds of people and is reported to have killed six, according to Chinese authorities.