On May 10, 2021, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit filed by the wife of a construction worker against his employer after he allegedly contracted COVID-19 at his workplace and transmitted it to her.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found “significant weaknesses” in the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) overall management of the process of issuing, terminating, modifying, and abating violations, according to a recent OIG audit.
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.
Echoing his mantra of building back better, on May 5, 2021, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 3, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated public health recommendations advising that fully vaccinated non-healthcare workers can refrain from quarantining after a known workplace exposure to COVID-19, but only if they are asymptomatic.
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  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.”
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).
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.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has answered a question that has been troubling employers since the pace of vaccinations started to accelerate: when must an employer record an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine on its OSHA 300 Logs?
On April 12, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) would extend the sunset date for the state’s COVID-19 emergency rules, which were set to expire on April 14, 2021, for six more months.
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).
On March 10, 2021, nearly one year into the pandemic in the United States, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued its first comprehensive guidance addressing COVID-19 protections for mine sites.
In a 2–1 decision on January 21, 2021, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) shed additional light on what is and is not a flagrant violation of the Mine Act.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
At the beginning of 2021, extensive changes in German employment law came into effect, including some of particular significance to employers. In addition, on January 19, 2021, the German Federal Government implemented restrictions on public life in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic that affect employers.
Employers have been on the lookout for a temporary emergency standard for COVID-19 from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but what they have thus far received is a proposed rule to update the agency’s Hazard Communication Standard.
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 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.
On February 8, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced the upcoming end to its state of emergency, as regions will begin reopening according to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction framework. The Government of Ontario also announced amendments to this framework.
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.
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.
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.
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.