Oregon, Colorado Declare Public Health Emergencies Triggering Leave Requirements

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza cases are surging across the United States while COVID-19 continues to spread. Faced with hospital beds filling up and experts warning that this could be one of the most severe respiratory illness seasons in recent years, two states—Oregon and Colorado—have declared public health emergencies that will impact state sick and family leave requirements as workers struggle with the illnesses or to care for sick children.

New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Dealt a Fatal Blow

On October 25, 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Richmond County, upheld a challenge to New York City’s vaccine mandate for public-sector employees, ordered the immediate reinstatement of and back pay to former New York City Department of Sanitation employees who had challenged the mandate, and declared the vaccine mandate for private-sector employees to be arbitrary and capricious.

Cal/OSHA Proposes Final Language for COVID-19 Regulation to Be Voted on November 17, 2022, at Standards Board Meeting

Following on the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) issuance on October 14, 2022, of a State Public Health Officer (SPHO) order that clarified the definition of “close contact” and “infectious period” to provide entities with strategies for working together, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board issued a fifteen-day notice with requests for written comments on proposed updated COVID-19 regulations to Title 8 of the General Industry Safety Orders.

CDPH Order Updates Definitions of ‘Close Contact’ and ‘Infectious Period,’ Clarifies What Is and Is Not Mandatory

On October 14, 2022, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Tomás J. Aragόn issued a State Public Health Officer Order further clarifying the definitions of “close contact” and “infectious period” to provide entities and individuals with strategies for working together in a post-COVID-19 workplace.

Governor Newsom Signs COVID-19 Sick Pay, Small Business Relief Bill

California is extending COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) through the end of 2022 under a bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 29, 2022. Assembly Bill (AB) 152 will also set up a program to provide grants of up to $50,000 to qualified small businesses to cover costs incurred for COVID-19 SPSL.

NYC Private-Sector Vaccine Mandate Becomes Optional Beginning November 1, 2022

On September 20, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that New York City’s private-sector vaccine mandate would become optional for businesses, beginning on November 1, 2022. The first-in-the-nation COVID-19 vaccination mandate for private-sector workers enacted by former mayor Bill de Blasio took effect on December 27, 2021.

German Parliament Approves Familiar Health and Safety Measures to Address Another COVID-19 Season

The German government’s plans and actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months are becoming more concrete. On September 8, 2022, the German parliament passed new measures aimed at fighting the spread of COVID-19 this fall and winter. This legislative initiative included rewriting the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, which is scheduled to be in effect from October 1, 2022, through April 7, 2023.

Pennsylvania Federal Judge Tosses Challenge to Employer Jab or Swab Mandate

On August 26, 2022, Chief U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed a putative class action representing approximately 100 healthcare company employees brought against their employer, Geisinger Clinic. In the suit, the employees challenged their employer’s policy requiring employees to either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or agree to regular testing and quarantining. In dismissing the complaint, the court rejected the employees’ religious discrimination, constitutional, and state law claims, calling the employees’ evidence “a collection of distorted statements and anti-vaccine hocus-pocus.”

Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate: Eleventh Circuit Partially Vacates Preliminary Injunction

On August 26, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit narrowed the scope of a nationwide injunction that had barred enforcement of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 federal contractor vaccine mandate. In December 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia had issued a nationwide injunction, finding that President Biden had likely exceeded his authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act when he issued Executive Order 14042.

Workplace Safety in Arizona: OSHA Delays Decision on Proposal to Revoke State Plan

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is holding off on deciding whether to revoke final approval of Arizona’s occupational safety and health (OSH) plan. On August 10, 2022, OSHA said it is extending the comment period on a proposed rule to revoke the state’s approval for another 60 days and postponed a public hearing tentatively scheduled for August 16, 2022.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board’s COVID-19 ETS Proposal Provisions

On September 15, 2022, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will continue the long and arduous journey to establish COVID-19 safety measures in the workplace. Since the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) initial ETS took effect in November 2020, the Standards Board has addressed the evolving workplace safety challenges with a series of updates.

Workplace Safety in Arizona: Update on OSHA’s Proposal to Revoke State Plan

On April 21, 2022, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a a proposed rule to revoke Arizona’s occupational safety and health (OSH) plan’s final approval under Section 18(e) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. In its notice, OSHA proposed revoking its affirmative determination granting final approval to Arizona’s state OSH plan, which, if implemented, would return Arizona’s plan to “initial approval” status resulting in discretionary concurrent enforcement jurisdiction between OSHA and the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH).

Business Necessity of COVID-19 Screening Testing No Longer Presumed Under EEOC Guidance

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took the position that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard for conducting medical examinations (job-related and consistent with business necessity) was always met for COVID-19 viral screening testing. On July 12, 2022, the EEOC updated its position in light of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board’s Draft COVID-19 Prevention Regulation Scheduled to Take Effect January 1, 2023

On May 6, 2022, the State of California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) adopted the third revision of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 emergency temporary standards (ETS), which is effective through December 31, 2022. On June 16, 2022, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board released its COVID-19 draft regulation, which is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2023.

COVID-19–Driven Layoffs Are Not a ‘Natural Disaster’ Under WARN Act, Fifth Circuit Rules

In the first ruling from a federal appellate court examining COVID-19–related layoffs and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Easom v. US Well Services, Inc., No. 21-20202 (June 15, 2022), that a mass layoff resulting in part from the economic impact of COVID-19 did not qualify for the “natural disaster” exemption to the WARN Act’s sixty-day notice requirement for mass layoffs. The court also held that for an employer to rely on the exemption, the mass layoff (or plant closing) must be the “direct result” of the natural disaster. This is an important ruling for employers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

California Department of Public Health Issues COVID-19 Guidance on Expanded Definition of ‘Close Contact’

On June 20, 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued COVID-19 guidance, titled “Isolation and Quarantine Q&A,” that offers insight into the recent change to the definition of “close contact.” On June 8, 2022, the CDPH issued a revised order with new definitions of “close contact” and “infectious period.” Because the June 8 order was an “order of the CDPH,” these revised definitions were immediately incorporated into the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) requirements for exclusion of close contacts, which in turn impacted employers’ obligations under the ETS.

CDPH Issues Updated Order Drastically Changing Employers’ Obligations Under Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS

Currently, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) requires employers to review and use current California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance for persons who had close contact to an individual with COVID-19, including any guidance regarding quarantine or other measures after a close contact to reduce COVID-19 transmission. On June 8, 2022, the CDPH issued a revised order with new definitions. These revised definitions are therefore immediately incorporated in to the Cal/OSHA ETS requirements for exclusion of close contacts, which in turn impact employers’ obligations under the ETS.

Canadian Government Suspends Vaccination Mandate for Domestic Travel and Federal Workers

On June 14, 2022, the Government of Canada announced that it would suspend vaccination requirements for domestic travelers, certain federally regulated workers, and federal public service employees, effective June 20, 2022. In support of this measure, the government has cited the successful vaccination campaign and low COVID-19 case counts.

Ontario Appellate Court Ruling Leaves Employers Waiting for Determination on Interpretation of COVID-19 Leave Provisions

Employers in Ontario have been waiting for clarification on the interpretation of COVID-19 leave provisions throughout much of the pandemic. Employers had hoped that the Court of Appeal’s decision in Taylor v Hanley Hospitality Inc. would provide clarity on the implications of Employment Standards Act, 2000 infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL) on an employee’s employment status.