Cal/OSHA Proposes Sweeping Changes to Its COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards

On November 30, 2020, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, more commonly known as Cal/OSHA, adopted COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for California. Among other topics, the ETS required that employers develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program and provided guidance on how employers should address COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the workplace. Since Cal/OSHA issued its ETS, the California workplace landscape has changed dramatically, with large-scale vaccinations for all ages and employees returning to work across the state.

South Carolina Governor Signs Liability Shield Legislation Into Law

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 [180] 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.”

California Court Affirms PAGA Claims Based on Cal/OSHA Violations: Are Further PAGA-Cal/OSHA Actions to Come?

In Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, the California Court of Appeal highlighted an important distinction between Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims asserted against a public entity employer based on statutes that themselves provide for civil penalties and PAGA claims that are based on PAGA’s default civil penalties provisions under California Labor Code § 2699(f).

South Carolina Expected to Implement Liability Shield Law to Protect Businesses From Certain COVID-19–Related Claims

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.

President Biden to Nominate Cal/OSHA Chief to Be DOL’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA

On April 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Douglas L. Parker to be assistant secretary of labor for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Parker currently serves as chief of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

Minnesota Governor Walz Gradually Eases COVID-19 Business Restrictions

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).

California’s AB 1175: Advance Notice of Cal/OSHA Inspection of Worksites?

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) inspections have required greater coordination of personal protective equipment (PPE), remote witness interviews, social distancing at facilities, and visitor screenings. Wouldn’t it be more efficient if Cal/OSHA could call and arrange a worksite visit and witness interviews in a coordinated manner—saving money and resources while managing safe entry into a facility?

A Year Into the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Have We Learned About Workplaces and What Does the Future Hold?

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.

OSHA’s COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and Enforcement Response Plan: 10 Q&As for Employers Who May Need to Comply

In what is likely the final predicate for issuing a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), on March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) “targeting specific high-hazard industries or activities” in which there is a “hazard of contracting SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the cause of COVID-19.” The NEP also “includes an added focus to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation.” The NEP is effective immediately and will remain in force no longer than a year from March 12, 2021.

American Rescue Plan Act Signed: Details on the Latest COVID-19 Relief Package

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021—a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. While the legislation marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden and the administration, it is the sixth federal legislative relief package aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The legislation continues some programs established in these previous efforts, but it also adds some important components. Set forth below are some of the major provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act.

San Francisco Judge Denies Injunctive Relief Allowing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards to Remain in Place

On February 25, 2021, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman denied applications for preliminary injunctions in their entirety requested by two plaintiffs, thus leaving in place the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The ETS took effect on November 30, 2020.

Wisconsin Joins States Providing Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 Exposure

On February 25, 2021, Wisconsin joined Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming in enacting a COVID-19 litigation shield law. Governor Tony Evers signed a bill providing entities broad immunity from “civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or [for] damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure, directly or indirectly, to … COVID-19.”

Cal/OSHA COVID-19–Related Citations May Provide Leverage to Labor Unions and Their Members

A February 2021 California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) press release trumpeted the agency’s enforcement efforts and its recently issued citations for COVID-19–related violations. Cal/OSHA continues to aggressively issue “serious” classification citations to California employers. For example, Cal/OSHA issued “serious” and “willful-serious” citations with hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties against a sister agency, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dba San Quentin State Prison, for COVID-19–related violations.

California Department of Justice Establishes Worker Rights and Fair Labor Section

California Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra recently announced that he has created the Worker Rights and Fair Labor Section, which will fall under the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Division of Public Rights. This new section will be tasked with protecting workers against workplace issues such as wage theft, health and safety violations, and employee misclassification.

5 Key Employee Handbook Updates to Consider in 2021

With the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020, many employers were busy dealing with staffing issues, safety concerns, and COVID-19–related legislation. There may have been little to no time to address handbook policies. With many changes on the horizon in 2021 under President Biden’s administration and the adaptations in the working environment due to COVID-19, it may be a good time for employers to turn to the company handbook to ensure it is up to date. This article will highlight five areas to which employers may want to give special attention in 2021.

The Top 10 Labor and Employment Issues Keeping Retailers Up at Night in 2021

Now that the inauguration has passed and the Biden administration has begun its work, it is a good time for retailers to take stock of the labor and employment issues that are likely to assume prominence in 2021, and to consider preparing to meet the challenges each of these issues pose. In no particular order, below are the top 10 issues that are likely to keep retail employers up at night in 2021.

Cal/OSHA Updates Online Resources for California Employers

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) guidance, “COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions”. The FAQs clarified some areas of the regulation and provided additional guidance for California employers, particularly construction companies. Under the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) adopted on November 30, 2020, California construction companies face specific standards related to transportation and workplace exposures that create unique questions and challenges.