A contentious issue during the recent presidential campaign was the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter where one fell along the spectrum of supporters and critics, there was no denying the wide gulf of positions on the topic.
With daily COVID-19 case counts approaching 4,000 in Ontario, the Ontario provincial government announced on January 12, 2021, a state of emergency and a return to stricter lockdown measures that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on January 14, 2021.
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.
On January 4, 2021, the City of Toronto announced that employers and workplaces operating in Toronto’s public health unit will be subject to new reporting requirements regarding positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, Toronto Public Health announced that it will begin reporting data on workplace outbreaks effective January 7, 2021.
On December 9, 2020, Alberta’s Bill 47, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, received Royal Assent. The legislation replaces Alberta’s current Occupational Health and Safety Act in its entirety, and makes significant amendments to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act.
The news that several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed—and one approved for widespread use in the United Kingdom (Pfizer-BioNTech)—has come as a relief to many. Such news has prompted consideration of the legitimacy of compulsory vaccination in the United Kingdom, particularly in an employment context.
Alberta is the most recent Canadian province to enact enhanced public health measures in response to rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers. These new restrictions are aimed at limiting social gatherings, which are the greatest source of virus transmission in the province.
Less than one month after the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted and approved an emergency COVID-19 regulation, Governor Newsom made changes to the regulation adding clarity and suspending the prescribed quarantine period of 14 days to the extent that the 14 days is longer than the quarantine period recommended by the California Department of Public Health.
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 voted and approved an emergency COVID-19 regulation governing employers and workplaces. That regulation is scheduled for adoption and implementation on November 30, 2020. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that employers have expressed about the new emergency regulation.
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 18, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz dialed back Minnesota’s phased reopening and ongoing loosening of COVID-19–related restrictions by issuing Emergency Executive Order (EO) 20-99, “Implementing a Four Week Dial Back on Certain Activities to Slow the Spread of COVID-19.”
Michigan’s rate of COVID-19 infection seems to be increasing each day, as does the volume of orders, rules, and guidance documents applicable to Michigan businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
For several months, health officials have cautioned the public that the rate of positive cases of COVID-19 would spike as temperatures turned colder. In recent days, it has become clear that cases in Maryland have risen exponentially. Maryland’s government has responded to the rising caseload by issuing two recent directives designed to combat and slow the resurgence of the virus.
On November 1, 2020, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Palmer et al. v. Amazon.com Inc. et al., No. 20-cv-2468, 2020 WL 6388599, dismissed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging failures to comply with New York law and “New York Forward” minimum requirements for businesses.
On November 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced proposed temporary COVID-19 regulations for review and a vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
On November 3, 2020, Arizona voters decisively approved Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, to legalize recreational marijuana. As a result of the election, both medical and recreational marijuana are officially legal in Arizona.
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.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has issued emergency health and safety rules aimed at controlling, preventing, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The emergency rules, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved, represent a further effort to fill the void left by a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision invalidating many of the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.
On October 9, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced additional restrictions on and closures of public gatherings, specific businesses, and indoor food and drink service, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are currently applicable within the “hotspots” of the “Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions.”
On September 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a new series of answers to its “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) guidance relating to an employer’s obligation to report work-related hospitalizations and fatalities that occur as a result of COVID-19. The new FAQs clarify that the work-related “incident,” which triggers an employer’s reporting obligation, is an employee’s exposure to the coronavirus in the workplace.
The Ontario government recently amended Ontario Regulation 364/20, Rules for Areas in Stage 3, to include mandatory COVID-19 symptom screening in almost all Ontario workplaces.
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 21, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) unanimously vacated a machine-guarding citation on the ground that the injured operator had deliberately bypassed the guard that the employer had installed.
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.