On March 2, 2021, the City Council of San Diego, California, extended the “COVID-19 Worker Recall and Retention Ordinance” (O-21231/O-2021-20). The ordinance provides certain rights and preferences to hotel and janitorial workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance originally took effect on September 8, 2020, and was set to expire on March 8, 2021. However, given the extraordinary loss of jobs in San Diego in the building services, leisure, and hospitality industries, the city council opted to extend the ordinance’s sunset provision until March 8, 2022, by way of an emergency ordinance (O-21296/O-2021-97).
Within days, California employers may have to provide employees with even more COVID-19–related paid leave. On March 18, 2021, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 95, which creates new Labor Code Section 248.2 and Labor Code Section 248.3. These new Labor Code sections provide covered employees and in-home supportive service providers with up to 80 new hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. As explained below, the bill is far more expansive than the California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave statute that expired on December 31, 2020. The new legislation covers more employers and requires paid sick leave for many more reasons. If Governor Newsom signs SB 95, the law will take effect 10 days later and expire on September 30, 2021, unless extended.
On March 12, 2021, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz dialed back Minnesota’s COVID-19–related restrictions by issuing Emergency Executive Order (EO) 21-11, “Adjusting Limitations on Certain Activities and Taking Steps Forward.” Most provisions of the executive order went into effect on March 15, 2021, and relate to activities outside of the home, including relaxing restrictions on specific businesses (e.g., restaurants, bars, indoor gyms, and entertainment venues).
March 2021 marks one year since the beginning of state-mandated stay-at-home orders and workplace shutdowns due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to workplaces in generations, and not just in terms of barking dogs, homeschooling, gate-crashers at virtual meetings, and sweat pants. The pandemic forced employers and employees to quickly pivot and change. Many of these changes will undoubtedly impact the workplace for years to come. The following is a roundup of 10 ways in which the pandemic may have a lasting influence on how we work.
Upon taking office, President Joe Biden, through an executive order, instructed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to review prior guidance on the availability of an individual to receive unemployment benefits if the individual has refused to return to work or take new work due to a fear of contracting COVID-19. On February 25, 2021, the DOL issued new guidance related to a return to work under a scenario in which an individual feels unsafe.
On March 2, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order No. 34 (GA-34), rescinding most of his earlier executive orders related to COVID-19, including the statewide mask mandate and business occupancy restrictions. GA-34 becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 10, 2021.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
COVID-19 continues to cause significant restrictions in many areas around the world, including workplaces: Employees are working in remote settings, they no longer share tools and supplies, partitions separate workspaces, employees may not gather in common areas, and in-person meetings are reduced to a minimum. With distribution of the first vaccines impending, employers may expect a return to pre-pandemic practices. There is wide variation internationally on the approach to vaccinations. Below are answers to employers’ frequently asked questions about vaccinating global and multinational workforces.
On January 8, 2021, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued an updated version of its frequently asked questions (FAQs) guidance, “COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions,” about COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards. The FAQs address many issues about which employers had questions, including paid time off and exclusion pay.
Canada is experiencing an increased number of daily COVID-19 infections in what appears to be a “second wave.” In response to higher positivity rates and increased hospitalisations, some provinces have passed strict public health orders to limit the spread of COVID-19. This article discusses the workplace impacts of measures implemented in Ontario, Québec, and British Columbia.
On November 6, 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 its final COVID-19 temporary rule. The temporary rule is effective November 16, 2020, through May 4, 2021, unless revised or repealed before that date.
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.”