On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the standards-setting agency of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), adopted an emergency standard regarding COVID-19 workplace prevention. The Standards Board submitted the new final rule to the Office of Administrative Law, which may approve the rule within as few as 10 days. This means employers may have to comply with the emergency standard as soon as Monday, November 30, 2020.
On November 13, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health Lance Himes issued a new director’s order enhancing face covering requirements for Ohio retailers, adding mandatory oversight obligations for employers, and providing greater enforcement power for local health departments and law enforcement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a press conference on 31 October 2020, that new national lockdown restrictions would apply in England from 12:01 a.m. on 5 November 2020, until at least 2 December 2020.
In an effort to combat the recent rising COVID-19 numbers in the New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) No. 192 on October 28, 2020, mandating health and safety protocols for employers with employees, customers, or other visitors on-site. While many of these protocols have been required in certain industries under prior executive orders, all employers must now adhere to the protocols effective Thursday, November 5, 2020.
On September 16, 2020, in Peeples v. Clinical Support Options, Inc., No. 3:20-cv-30144, a federal district court in Massachusetts took the unusual step of precluding an employer from discharging an employee who claimed an inability to work in the office due to a disability, and ordered the employer to allow the employee to telework for at least 60 days.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed into law four bills that encourage employers to resume business in compliance with all COVID-19 safeguards required under the various federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders. The new laws provide a significant reward for an employer’s compliance: insulation from COVID-19–related liability—including tort claims and claims under the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1974 (MIOSHA)—as long as the employer was implementing all safeguards legally required at the time of the incident giving rise to the claim.
On 9 October 2020, the UK government announced an extension to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) for businesses that are legally required to close on account of coronavirus restrictions. This measure will sit alongside the original JSS and the Job Retention Bonus, replacing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will end on 31 October 2020.
As part of its Plan for Jobs 2020, the UK Government announced in July 2020 that it would pay a bonus to employers that brought furloughed employees back to work and kept such employees continuously employed until 31 January 2021. Further guidance has now been published, in addition to a Treasury Direction, which states that the Job Retention Bonus is intended to “enhance and consolidate” the purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which is to preserve the jobs of furloughed employees.
In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the state’s COVID-19-related executive orders, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued new orders, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has ramped up enforcement of COVID-19-related protocols, and local counties are issuing their own orders as well.
The UK Government has enacted The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, which came into force in England on 28 September 2020. Failure to comply with these regulations is a criminal offence, the penalty for which includes a fine of £1,000 for a first offence, with fines increasing up to £10,000 for subsequent breaches.
On September 25, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s entry into Phase 3 of its coronavirus pandemic reopening plan and issued Executive Order 20-244.
On 24 September 2020, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced new measures to support businesses and workers affected by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The announcement came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared a tightening of coronavirus restrictions in England on 22 September 2020.
We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.
On September 17, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted unanimously to pursue the drafting and adoption of a California COVID-19 safety regulation. The emergency regulation would cover all workers in California regardless of industry segment.
On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685 into law, enacting California Labor Code Section 6409.6 and amending other state statutes. As explained further below, Section 6409.6 obligates employers to notify employees, the employees’ exclusive representative (such as a union), and subcontractors, within one business day of an employer’s receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 workplace exposure from a “qualifying individual.”
On September 14, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill (H.B.) 606 into law, providing employers with legal protections when it comes to their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 and making Ohio one of a growing number of states granting similar civil immunity. According to Governor DeWine, the new law accomplishes the dual goals of keeping people safe and rebuilding the state’s economy.
On September 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill (SB) 2380 into law. SB 2380 creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19 cases contracted by “essential employees” during a public health emergency declared by an executive order of the governor. The law is effective immediately and retroactive to March 9, 2020.
Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part 11 of this series addresses the laws relevant to navigating inquiries into and disclosures of information related to COVID-19 in the workplace.
As we previously reported, since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued instructions, statements, and guidance to help employers navigate COVID-19’s workplace impact. On September 8, 2020, the EEOC updated its “Technical Assistance Questions and Answers,” which include updates relating to COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other equal employment opportunity laws previously published in the agency’s “Technical Assistance Guidance on Disability Accommodation.”
Ohio employers will likely soon enjoy greater legal protections when it comes to their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. Acknowledging the legal uncertainties faced by essential workers and businesses in the wake of reopening, the Ohio Senate on September 2, 2020, passed House Bill (H.B.) 606, a measure which, if signed into law (and it is expected that Governor Mike DeWine will sign the bill very quickly), would grant state-law immunity from civil lawsuits for “injury, death, or loss” related to “the transmission or contraction” of the novel coronavirus.
On August 10, 2020, the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS)) published the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Safety and Health Regulation (SARS-CoV-2 Arbeitsschutzregel). For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, this regulation, which became effective on August 20, 2020, specifies the requirements for occupational safety to reduce the risk of infection at the workplace. In doing so, BMAS is applying the presumed period of the national epidemic situation according to Section 5 of the Protection Against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz (IfSG)).
Parents, employers, and communities across the country are managing uncertainty around returning to school this fall. Many schools have opened, or soon will open, using some element of virtual learning. As we discussed earlier this summer, parents and employers have had to show flexibility and grace during this back to school season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a transformation of the workplace and an explosion of remote work, including for employees previously not covered under employers’ telecommuting policies. Despite the reopening of most state economies, many employers are continuing to allow their workforces to work remotely. Remote work by nonexempt employees can pose a challenge with regard to ensuring employees are paid for all time worked, as the traditional workday may be blurred in a remote environment. On August 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division issued Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) No. 2020-5 regarding employers’ obligations to use reasonable diligence in tracking remote employees’ hours. The guidance affirms the value of a clear system for reporting time and a requirement that employees promptly and accurately report their time—especially in a remote work environment.
On August 21, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its COVID-19 travel guidelines, removing the blanket 14-day quarantine recommendation for travelers returning from all international destinations.
On August 17, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA), the state plan responsible for overseeing workplace safety and health in the state of Oregon, released a draft COVID-19 temporary standard. Following Virginia’s lead, Oregon will become the second state in the nation to adopt a specific standard intended to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure.
On August 7, 2020, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) published guidance regarding the City of San Francisco’s “Temporary Right to Reemployment Following Layoff Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Ordinance.” Also known as the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance, the ordinance took effect on July 3, 2020, requiring San Francisco employers with 100 or more employees to offer reemployment to eligible employees laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic when the employers rehire for the same or similar job classifications.
How can employers assist working parents during the fall school year? This is one of the top questions on the minds of management and employees as the fall school year begins. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor, it is estimated that 41 percent of workers between the ages of 20 and 54 have a child at home. It is also estimated that single parents make up approximately 30 percent of the workforce.
Since March 2020, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, and the county’s acting director of the Department of Public Health (DPH), Dr. Emily Doucette, have issued more than 20 orders and “safe operating guidelines” regarding COVID-19. On July 29, 2020, with an effective date of July 31, 2020, the DPH issued its third amended public health order setting forth its current “Business and Individual Guidelines for Social Distancing and Re-Opening.” In some respects, this third amended order is a significant step backwards toward stricter requirements compared with the county’s original reopening guidelines.
In March 2020, everyone thought we just need to occupy our children at home for a few weeks, maybe through spring break, and we would be fine. Then it was “just make it to summer.” Now summer is winding down and many kids are not going back to school full-time (at least not in person) any time soon. This creates tremendous challenges for families as well as employers.
On July 30, 2020, Wisconsin joined 31 other states—including Alabama, California, and Pennsylvania—with a statewide face covering order. Governor Tony Evers issued Emergency Order #1, requiring all individuals in Wisconsin over the age of five and medically able to do so to don cloth face coverings (not including face shields or mesh coverings) any time they are “indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence,” and in the presence of others outside their households.