On May 3, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated public health recommendations advising that fully vaccinated non-healthcare workers can refrain from quarantining after a known workplace exposure to COVID-19, but only if they are asymptomatic.
As expected, on April 28, 2021, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) into law. The act, which provides protection from “coronavirus claims” to a broad class of covered entities and covered individuals, went into effect immediately and “appl[ies] to all civil and administrative causes of action that arise between March 13, 2020, and June 30, 2021, or  days after the final state of emergency is lifted for COVID-19 in [South Carolina], whichever is later, and that are based upon facts occurring during this time period.”
On April 30, 2021, the Biden administration issued a proclamation that implements restrictions for travelers from India, due to concerns regarding COVID-19. Pursuant to the proclamation, noncitizens who have been physically present in India within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred entry, unless eligible for an exception. The restrictions are scheduled to take effect on May 4, 2021, at 12:01 am eastern daylight time.
On April 21, 2021, in a further push to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for those individuals who have been hesitant, the White House issued a fact sheet titled, “President Biden to Call on All Employers to Provide Paid Time Off for Employees to Get Vaccinated After Meeting Goal of 200 Million Shots in the First 100 Days.” This announcement further signals the administration’s dedication to vaccinating the U.S. population and its willingness to offer incentives to employers that support their employees in becoming vaccinated. Employers that have remained neutral on this issue could be persuaded to “take up arms” and join the fight against COVID-19.
After weeks of improving pandemic conditions in Mexico—since March 2021, none of Mexico’s 32 states has been classified in red status, the strictest tier of the federal government’s four-tiered COVID-19 traffic light monitoring system—there has been a slight regression in the epidemiological trend.
On April 29, 2021, the Government of Ontario stated that it plans to introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. When passed, this legislation “would require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave because of certain reasons related to COVID-19.” According to a government press release, the act would apply retroactively to April 19, 2021, and would expire on September 25, 2021.
On April 19, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced plans to roll back COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses—although certain mask requirements may remain in effect. The governor intends to lift the restrictions in stages commencing May 1, 2021, through May 19, 2021.
As more Canadians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, provinces across Canada are implementing paid COVID-19 vaccination leave policies to incentivize workers to become vaccinated as soon as possible. These leave policies are being put into place as COVID-19 cases across Canada soar and the country races to vaccinate faster than infections can spread.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the activities in which a “fully vaccinated” individual can engage. These new guidelines apply in non-healthcare settings.
On April 27, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated policy guidance “instructing officers to give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts unless there was a material error, material change, or new material facts.” This USCIS policy update reverts back to a long-standing policy originally established in 2004.
The new 100 percent premium subsidy applies to individuals eligible for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage due to either a reduction in hours or an involuntary termination of employment, and it applies for the period from April 1, 2021, to September 30, 2021. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has already produced model notice forms and initial guidance consisting of a summary sheet and frequently asked questions (FAQs). Employers are still awaiting formal regulations and guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) is expected to reach Governor Henry McMaster’s desk early this week for his signature. Senate sponsors initially introduced the act on December 9, 2020, and it received final approval in the House of Representatives on April 23, 2021. Similar to its previously introduced predecessors, House Bill 5527 and Senate Bill 1259, the act provides liability protections against coronavirus-based claims for a limited time period for businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.
On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted an update on its blog regarding its new Essential Workers, Essential Protections initiative, which is designed to “ensure that workers know about the wage and hour laws that protect them – and how to contact [the DOL] to get help if they need it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted a number of previously in-person positions to remote work and telecommuting. In the meantime, many employees have moved out of state from their usual office locations for personal or financial reasons. As a result, many employers are left wondering what their legal obligations are for remote employees working out of state. The biggest concerns are local employment laws, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance obligations. Employers may also be subject to out-of-state payroll tax obligations.
Millions of Canadian employees have been forced to work from home as a result of measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of these employees continue to perform the same jobs they had before the pandemic started, just from different locations. However, the location where an employee preforms work often factors into which provincial employment standards legislation applies to the employment relationship.
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are happy to be more focused on vaccine issues than on issues relating to furloughs and layoffs.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has answered a question that has been troubling employers since the pace of vaccinations started to accelerate: when must an employer record an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine on its OSHA 300 Logs?
On April 16, 2021, the government of Ontario announced its strictest COVID-19 response measures to date, responding to a continued increase in daily case counts despite a province-wide lockdown. The stay-at-home order, effective April 8, 2021, will be extended for an additional two weeks, for a total of six weeks. The Ontario government has also added new restrictions and increased workplace inspections to ensure employers are complying with all COVID-19–related health and safety measures.
On April 16, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 93 into law. This new statute creates California Labor Code Section 2810.8 and requires that employers in certain industries make written job offers to employees whom they laid off because of COVID-19. Employees have five business days to respond and, if more than
Hospitality and event center workers received additional job rights protection under a new ordinance passed by the Minneapolis City Council. The new ordinance requires employers to recall those workers, if and when they are needed in reverse order of seniority. Ordinance No.2021-12, entitled “Hospitality Worker Right to Recall,” seeks to minimize the impact on affected employees in an industry particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and to stabilize the workforce.
The degree of pandemic risk in Mexico has been steadily improving nationwide, and since March 1, 2021, none of the 32 states has been required to halt all nonessential activities under the strictest tier—called the “red traffic light”—of the federal government’s four-tiered COVID-19 traffic light monitoring system.
On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, while touring a vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, President Joe Biden imposed a deadline on every state to open up vaccination eligibility to all adults by April 19, 2021 (moving up the previous target date of May 1, 2021). The White House COVID-19 coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, told governors also on April 6, 2021, that more than 28 million doses of vaccines will be delivered to all of the states the week of April 4-12, 2021. The president’s directive matches Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate in November 2020 that the earliest a vaccine would be available for most nonprioritized Americans would be April 2021.
On April 12, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) would extend the sunset date for the state’s COVID-19 emergency rules, which were set to expire on April 14, 2021, for six more months.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 7, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) delayed the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection. On March 29, 2021, the EEOC announced that the 2019 and 2020 Component 1 data collection would open on Monday, April 26, 2021.
On April 1, 2021, the government of Ontario activated its pandemic “emergency brake,” sending the entire province out of the five-tiered colour-coded framework and into the “shutdown” zone. The province implemented these shutdown zone measures on April 3, 2021, and they will remain effective “for at least four weeks.”
On April 5, 2021, Director of Ohio’s Department of Health (ODH), Stephanie McCloud, issued two new orders, including a consolidated Director’s Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating and a Director’s Order Rescinding Various Orders. The orders went into effect on April 5, 2021, and the Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating will remain in force until the ODH modifies or rescinds it.
On April 2, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated guidance on domestic and international travel. The guidance includes new recommendations for those fully vaccinated (defined as two weeks after the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine) with a vaccine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized.
On March 10, 2021, nearly one year into the pandemic in the United States, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued its first comprehensive guidance addressing COVID-19 protections for mine sites.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous presidential proclamations restricting travel and entry into the United States. Likewise, since the pandemic began, the criteria for “national interest exceptions” (NIEs) has also evolved. On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued updated criteria for NIEs relating to certain travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland. Given the frequency of the changes, it can be difficult to track the current state of these matters. The following information is a summary of the latest updates with regard to U.S. travel restrictions.
On March 18, 2021, the Biden administration extended ongoing travel restrictions along the United States-Canada and United States-Mexico land ports of entry through April 21, 2021. The restrictions, which were previously set to expire on March 21, 2021, prohibit all “non-essential” travel from entering the United States to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions have been in effect since March 21, 2020.