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.

Missouri Governor Immunizes Citizens From Vaccine Passport Requirements by Cities and Counties

On June 15, 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 271 prohibiting any county, city, town, or village government receiving public funds from requiring COVID-19 vaccination documents (commonly known as “vaccine passports”) from citizens. In addition, according to the new law, Missouri citizen must be allowed access to any building, transportation system, or service without showing proof they have received the vaccine.

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.

Surprise Flip-Flop at Cal/OSHA Standards Board: Motion to Adopt Sweeping Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Passes

On June 3, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was initially unable to pass the proposed changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)  after a daylong online hearing with more than 500 individuals logged on to the meeting and 5 hours of public comment. The Standards Board had previously decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 ETS at their May 20, 2021, meeting and requested an updated revision for the June 3, 2021, vote. After a break in the proceedings, the Board agreed to have another vote and passed the proposed regulation in a stunning turn of events.

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave: What Employers Need to Know

On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.” The act requires eligible Massachusetts employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who meet certain criteria, with reimbursement by the Commonwealth.

EEOC Updates COVID-19 Guidance Regarding Vaccination Incentives, Reasonable Accommodation, and Other Issues

On May 28, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated the vaccination section (section K) of its “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” The update clarifies a number of vaccination issues with which employers have grappled without any official guidance to advise them.

German Employers’ Mandatory COVID-19 Testing and Telecommuting Requirements

The dynamic development of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a number of new regulations. On April 20, 2021, the second amendment to the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung) went into effect, requiring employers nationwide to offer employees who do not work exclusively from home offices COVID-19 tests at least once per week. The regulation also requires employers to offer employees with an increased risk of infection an opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week.

Mexico’s COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System: News for May 24, 2021–June 6, 2021

Mexico’s federal government is continuing to reopen more of the country as the pandemic appears to be waning, with half of the 32 states designated in green traffic light status—the status under which all business and social activity restrictions are lifted, according to the nation’s four-tiered COVID-19 monitoring system.

OSHA Revokes Guidance on Recordability of COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions

On May 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revoked recent enforcement guidance issued to clarify the recordability of situations where employees suffered adverse side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination. The original guidance, in a nutshell, states that if an employer requires its employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, the adverse reaction is recordable, if it meets the definition of a “new case” under 29 C.F.R. 1904.6 and otherwise meets the general recording criteria set out in 29 C.F.R. 1904.7.

Michigan’s COVID-19 Emergency Rules: Major Changes to Take Effect Soon

On May 24, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced important changes to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) emergency COVID-19 rules, “Emergency Rules for Coronavirus Disease 2019.” Governor Whitmer also announced that the draft permanent MIOSHA COVID-19 rules have been rescinded in their entirety, and the public hearing to discuss those rules scheduled

The New York HERO Act’s Proposed Amendments: What Employers Need to Know

On May 5, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections for all airborne infectious diseases. This action was quickly followed by the New York State Assembly’s May 10, 2021, and the New York State Senate’s May 14, 2021, introduction of identical bills to amend certain provisions of the NY HERO Act.

The New IRS COBRA Subsidy Guidance: Key Takeaways for Employers

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) implemented a 100 percent COBRA subsidy for certain qualified beneficiaries beginning on April 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2021. On May 18, 2021, more than a month into the subsidy period, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2021-31. This guidance, provided in the form of questions and answers (Q&As)—86 Q&As!—addresses issues of interest to employers, including issues related to reporting the Medicare tax credit and receiving advance payment of payroll tax credits that exceed Medicare taxes owed and withheld. Here are the key takeaways for employers.

Unemployment Insurance System Update, Part III: Additional States Opting Out of Federal Unemployment Benefits

Twenty-two of 27 Republican-led states have announced that they will end enhanced federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits early. Of those, four (Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma) will offer additional monetary incentives for individuals to return to work. To date, no state with a Democratic governor has chosen to opt out of the COVID-19–related enhanced federal unemployment programs.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board Reschedules Vote on COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions

On May 20, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Instead, the Standards Board requested that Cal/OSHA draft a new proposed regulation for the Standard Board’s consideration during a special June 3, 2021, meeting.

Cal/OSHA Requests Standards Board to Skip Vote at May 20, 2021, Meeting

On May 19, 2021, on the eve of a vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt proposed substantial changes to the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Deputy Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (commonly known as “Cal/OSHA”) Eric Berg asked that the Standards Board not vote the next day, on May 20, 2021, to adopt Cal/OSHA’s proposed ETS revisions.

Santa Clara County’s New COVID-19 Rules: Employers Must Obtain Vaccination Status, Report Positive Test Results, and Enforce Mask Use

On May 18, 2021, Santa Clara County, California, issued a health order that both relieves employers of some earlier COVID-19–related requirements and imposes new obligations on employers, particularly with respect to employees’ vaccination status. Santa Clara County also issued the “Mandatory Directive on Use of Face Coverings” and the “Mandatory Directive For Unvaccinated Personnel.”

100 Days of the Biden Administration, Part I: Key Labor and Employment Policy Developments

April 30, 2021, marked President Joe Biden’s 100th day in office, and his administration has wasted little time advancing its policy priorities. At this moment, the administration is focusing most of its attention on repealing much of the policy accomplishments of the previous administration but can be expected to advance its own proposals in short time. Additionally, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are looking for ways around the U.S. Senate’s legislative filibuster in order to advance their ambitious legislative agenda. Below is a very brief outline of the major labor and employment legislative actions of President Biden’s first 100 days.

WARNing—Burdensome New Jersey WARN Act Amendments May Soon Become Effective

There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for New Jersey employers, as the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to decline and Governor Philip Murphy continues to ease restrictions on businesses. But this good news comes with a dose of serious bad news for New Jersey employers too. The state previously adopted amendments to the New Jersey Act (officially known as the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act), which require employers to provide 90 days’ notice before the first employee is discharged as part of a mass layoff, termination of operations, or transfer of operations.

Unemployment Insurance System Update, Part II: States Opting Out of Federal Unemployment Benefits

Since the beginning of May 2021, multiple states have announced their intent to opt out of enhanced federal unemployment benefits. To cease participation in enhanced federal unemployment benefit programs, a state must provide at least 30 days’ written notice to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). A state may cease participation in one or all of the six programs that allow for enhanced federally funded benefits.