On May 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 as part of his three-phase plan to reopen the economy in Texas. The three-phase plan is outlined in a report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Executive Order GA-23 is Phase II of the plan and follows Executive Order GA-18 (issued April 27, 2020) and Executive Order GA-21 (issued May 5, 2020). Executive Order GA-23 “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC.”
Only one day before Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order was set to expire, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-33. Governor Ducey announced the modified extension of the stay-at-home order at a press conference on the afternoon of April 29, 2020. Consistent with the previous order, Arizonans must continue limiting their time away from their homes, except for participating in “Essential Activities,” employment in “Essential Functions,” and utilizing services or products of “Essential Businesses.”
Following the UK government’s recent announcement of a COVID-19 recovery strategy, the government has published guidelines for working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that are designed to help UK businesses get back on their feet while maintaining safe work environments.
Although California was one of the first states to legalize medical cannabis, and later recreational cannabis, voters and the courts have long resisted extending protections against discrimination in employment to cannabis users. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, such as the treatment of anorexia, arthritis, chronic pain, and migraines.
On May 19, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, providing additional information on what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. Previous guidance, which OSHA issued on April 10, 2020, eliminated most employers’ (all industries except healthcare, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions) obligation to analyze whether a COVID-19 case is work-related if certain conditions are met.
On May 14, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health, in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, created new emergency COVID-19-related safety rules that farms must implement if they provide temporary farmworker housing.
On May 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a one-page guidance sheet titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers.” The guidance lists several tips that employers in the nursing home and long-term care facility industry may take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The State of California, through the Department of Public Health, Department of Social Services, and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), has released COVID-19 guidance and checklists for 20 different industries as employers prepare to reopen and employees head back to work.
Employees—particularly healthcare employees—are increasingly refusing to work because of safety concerns and the need for accommodations related to COVID-19. In certain circumstances, these refusals may trigger protections afforded by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), among others.
The UK government has released its roadmap, “Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy,” as it looks to ease the lockdown over the coming months.
The Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what’s happening in Washington, D.C. could impact your business.
For the last several months, employers have been forced to learn how COVID-19 spreads, how to maintain or resume safe work environments, and how to navigate a complex web of new and existing laws and regulations implicated by the pandemic. Employers have also had to contend with a growing wave of COVID-19–related employment litigation.
While numerous states are acting to expand the scope of their respective workers’ compensation systems to embrace COVID-19-related workplace exposure claims, a persistent drip of tort claims threatens to breach the exclusive remedy bar. Will courts open the floodgates?
On May 7, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Logistics and Warehousing Facilities, which provides detailed guidance to logistics and warehouse facilities on how to support a safe and clean work environment for workers in order to avoid the outbreak and transmittal of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The California Department of Public Health and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently released industry guidance for logistics and warehousing facilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a May 6, 2020, press briefing, Governor Newsom announced his latest executive order addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Executive Order N-62-20 creates a workers’ compensation rebuttable presumption that employees diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted the virus at work. This order will apply retroactively to employees who test positive for COVID-19 and have worked outside the home from March 19, 2020, until July 5, 2020 and is broadly worded to include “[a]ny COVID-19 related illness.”
An unintended workplace health threat resulting from the fight against COVID-19 could be lurking in an employer’s water system—Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. As state and local governments begin lifting safe-at-home orders, employers and building owners will be restarting operations and reopening buildings (or parts of buildings) that may have been unoccupied for weeks. Many such operations include water supply systems that have also been shut down during the business closings. These dormant water systems and devices can lead to an increased exposure to Legionella for several reasons, including a lack of water circulation and a temporary cessation of water treatment and water quality monitoring programs. In anticipation of the large number of workplaces and other buildings that will be reopening in the near future, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance for reducing Legionella risks in building water systems.
On April 21, 2020, Mexico’s Ministry of Health extended through May 30, 2020, an emergency decree suspending all nonessential activities in the country in order to prevent the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from continuing to spread.
The debate has raged for years. Is there a six-foot rule triggering fall protection requirements when an employee is within six feet of an unprotected edge? A construction fall protection standard adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not expressly state there is such a six-foot rule, but many employers, industry safety experts, and even some OSHA inspectors have followed one as a rule of thumb.
On April 24, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum titled “Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of Filtering Facepiece Respirators in Healthcare During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The guidance submits a list of approved and nonapproved decontamination methods for cleaning filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), which are better known as N95 “dust mask” respirators.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have been engaged in varying levels of contact tracing within the workplace. Contact tracing involves identifying individuals who may have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus while that person was likely infectious. As part of employers’ pandemic response practices, many are implementing policies and procedures that attempt to ascertain the identities of employees who may have been in “close contact” with employees diagnosed with COVID-19, or those suspected of having contracted the virus.
On April 26, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance on COVID-19 for “Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers” that is intended to supplement general guidance previously provided by OSHA and the CDC. The guidance was issued following news accounts of COVID-19 at multiple meat and poultry facilities as well as a lawsuit seeking to close a pork processing facility in Missouri.
Almost every state has issued closure orders designating certain businesses as “essential” and allowing them to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have recently issued orders expressly or implicitly regulating the safety and health of workers at those essential businesses. Are some or all of the provisions in these orders preempted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act)? It depends.
Compared to the first three weeks of April in 2019, April 1, 2020, through April 21, 2020, had a 720 percent increase in healthcare facility inspections in the “Fatality/Catastrophe” category. A stunning increase from 5 inspections in 2019 to 36 in 2020 during the same three weeks. Those inspections include hospitals and other medical facilities. The inspection information does not include any information about COVID-19, however, the massive increase in the category of inspections has no other explanation than the present pandemic and workers who have fallen ill or succumbed after contracting the virus.
Retail employers are facing challenges unique to their workforces due to the spread of COVID-19. Retailers must keep abreast of federal laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, in addition to guidance from federal agencies on these new laws. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions perplexing retailers confronting issues such as health and safety, unions and employee relations, and employee benefits.
On April 13, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which provides a blueprint for the agency’s Area Directors and inspectors to follow when considering opening and conducting a COVID-19-related inspection. The plan gives employers a glimpse into what to expect from OSHA during the pandemic.
On April 17, 2020, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released interim enforcement guidance for assessing an employer’s compliance efforts with OSHA standards and regulations during the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The guidance is specifically aimed at standards and regulations that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, or assessments.
As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state plans like California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (more commonly known as Cal/OSHA) are seeing a significant increase in complaints, inspections, and investigations of workplace illnesses and fatalities. Anecdotally, the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, acute care services, and senior living facilities, appear to be facing a huge wave of regulatory inspections at a never-before-seen pace.
On April 10, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim enforcement guidance for recording cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, affecting what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. The guidance clarifies which cases of COVID-19 are considered “work-related” under 29 C.F.R. § 1904, which means it also affects employer obligations for cases that must be reported to OSHA (e.g., in-patient hospitalizations).
On April 8, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an enforcement memorandum titled Expanded Temporary Enforcement Guidance on Respiratory Protection Fit-Testing for N95 Filtering Facepieces in All Industries During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.