Germany’s nationwide “emergency brake” system—the public health framework of rules and restrictions first implemented by the German government in April 2021 to help contain the spread of COVID-19—expired on June 30, 2021, and, slowly but surely, some semblance of normality has begun returning to German citizens’ private and working lives. Due to a sharp drop in COVID-19 infection rates in Germany and because of the progress of Germany’s vaccination campaign, the federal government recently determined that the time was right to relax restrictive measures.
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new phase in the United States and employees return to the workplace, some employers may need to face controversial issues regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. Below are some considerations for employers as they take steps to prevent or resolve workplace disagreements regarding vaccines and other workplace safety measures to help employees focus on work.
On July 8, 2021, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) adopted temporary rules to bolster worker protections from the hazards of high and extreme heat, including requirements to provide shade, drinking water, cool-down breaks, an effective emergency medical plan, and training to all employees. Oregon OSHA adopted the Temporary Rules to Address Employee Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures on an emergency basis in response to direction from Oregon Governor Kate Brown, following a record-breaking heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest in late June.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (A5820/S3866) and Executive Order (EO) No. 244 on June 4, 2021, ending the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (but not the overall state of emergency) first declared on March 9, 2020, in EO 103.
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.”
Effective June 30, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) lifted most statewide mask and physical distancing restrictions related to COVID-19, with limited exceptions. Mask requirements remain in place in some specialized settings, including healthcare, emergency medical services, public transit, transportation hubs, and correctional facilities. In addition, businesses may continue to require individuals to wear masks, face coverings, or face shields, and physically distance regardless of vaccination status. Individuals may continue to wear masks, face coverings, or face shields, even when not required, if they choose to do so.
On June 22, 2021, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) announced important changes to its emergency COVID-19 rules, “Emergency Rules Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
On June 15, 2021, Governor Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 483, which amends the Oregon Safe Employment Act to increase whistleblower protections for workplace safety complaints.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently took a fresh look at the test for discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), issuing a decision that could signal a major shift in the way Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) discrimination cases are litigated.
On June 15, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration certified the results of the May 2021 municipal primary election, and thereby formalized the approval of an amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania giving lawmakers the broad new power to extend or end disaster emergency declarations. Because the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law was set to “expire upon the expiration of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of the Governor of Pennsylvania related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” and the legislature voted on June 10, 2021, to end the disaster emergency declaration, it is now safe to say that the Philadelphia Public Health Emergency Leave law is no longer in effect.
On June 17, 2021, at the end of yet another chaotic day in administrative rulemaking, California’s new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) finally became effective. The ETS bring substantial changes to the COVID-19 regulatory requirements with which employers have struggled since California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) initial ETS took effect almost 7 months ago, on November 30, 2020.
On May 5, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates workplace health and safety protections from any airborne infectious disease that the commissioner of health has designated as “a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.” On June 11, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to amend the NY HERO Act. The amendments extend the effective date of section 1 of the act, pertaining to the creation and adoption of airborne infectious disease plans. Pursuant to the amendment, section 1 will take effect on July 5, 2021. Section 2, which pertains to the establishment of workplace safety committees, will take effect on November 1, 2021.
Many workplace leaders have been wondering, “Can we require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment?” According to a recent Ogletree Deakins benchmarking survey, most employers are not ready to implement mandatory vaccination policies, and 87.9 percent of employers reported that they currently do not plan to require workers to get the vaccine. On the other end of the spectrum, 7.6 percent of respondents have implemented (or are planning to implement) a vaccination mandate. The rest have been undecided, but a recent court opinion on the legality of such mandatory policies may shift some employers’ feelings about which direction they should go and when.
On June 11, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) published proposed revisions to the current Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On June 17, 2021, the Standards Board will meet again to vote on adopting proposed revisions. This is the third updated revision that the Standards Board has considered in the last month. Until the new ETS takes effect, employers must comply with the November 30, 2020, ETS, which remains in place.
On June 10, 2021, simultaneous with the issuance of its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 focusing on healthcare employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its new COVID-19 guidance for all industries not covered by the ETS.
On the morning of June 9, 2021, the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced it completed its review of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19. At a hearing later that day before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told legislators that OSHA expected to release the ETS by June 10, 2021, and that it would be confined to the healthcare industry. All other industries would receive updated “strong guidance” on safely protecting unvaccinated workers.
On June 9, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted to withdraw the previously submitted Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) changes and instead consider further revisions at its June 17, 2021, meeting.
On June 3, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was initially unable to pass the proposed changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) after a daylong online hearing with more than 500 individuals logged on to the meeting and 5 hours of public comment. The Standards Board had previously decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 ETS at their May 20, 2021, meeting and requested an updated revision for the June 3, 2021, vote. After a break in the proceedings, the Board agreed to have another vote and passed the proposed regulation in a stunning turn of events.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 (House Bill 1927) into law. Texas will join several other states that have enacted or plan to enact similar permitless, “constitutional carry” statutes in support of the individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
On April 14, 2021, Washington governor Jay Inslee signed into law Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1206, creating new requirements for staffing agencies and worksite employers utilizing temporary employees to provide training on workplace safety and health hazards. Under the new law, worksite employers must notify staffing agencies about the anticipated job hazards temporary employees will likely encounter, and provide specific training to temporary employees on those hazards.
The dynamic development of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a number of new regulations. On April 20, 2021, the second amendment to the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung) went into effect, requiring employers nationwide to offer employees who do not work exclusively from home offices COVID-19 tests at least once per week. The regulation also requires employers to offer employees with an increased risk of infection an opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week.
On May 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revoked recent enforcement guidance issued to clarify the recordability of situations where employees suffered adverse side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination. The original guidance, in a nutshell, states that if an employer requires its employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, the adverse reaction is recordable, if it meets the definition of a “new case” under 29 C.F.R. 1904.6 and otherwise meets the general recording criteria set out in 29 C.F.R. 1904.7.
On May 24, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced important changes to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) emergency COVID-19 rules, “Emergency Rules for Coronavirus Disease 2019.” Governor Whitmer also announced that the draft permanent MIOSHA COVID-19 rules have been rescinded in their entirety, and the public hearing to discuss those rules scheduled
On May 5, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections for all airborne infectious diseases. This action was quickly followed by the New York State Assembly’s May 10, 2021, and the New York State Senate’s May 14, 2021, introduction of identical bills to amend certain provisions of the NY HERO Act.
On May 18, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued a new guidance titled, “Interim Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals,” adjusting the applicability and enforcement of current state guidance for fully vaccinated individuals. Here are the key provisions of the new interim guidance.
On May 20, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Instead, the Standards Board requested that Cal/OSHA draft a new proposed regulation for the Standard Board’s consideration during a special June 3, 2021, meeting.
The first part of this two-part blog series focused on the Biden administration’s first 100 days and reviewed the administration’s legislative plans. The second part of the series addresses policy developments occurring at the executive branch agencies and independent agencies.
On May 19, 2021, on the eve of a vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt proposed substantial changes to the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Deputy Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (commonly known as “Cal/OSHA”) Eric Berg asked that the Standards Board not vote the next day, on May 20, 2021, to adopt Cal/OSHA’s proposed ETS revisions.
On May 18, 2021, Santa Clara County, California, issued a health order that both relieves employers of some earlier COVID-19–related requirements and imposes new obligations on employers, particularly with respect to employees’ vaccination status. Santa Clara County also issued the “Mandatory Directive on Use of Face Coverings” and the “Mandatory Directive For Unvaccinated Personnel.”
April 30, 2021, marked President Joe Biden’s 100th day in office, and his administration has wasted little time advancing its policy priorities. At this moment, the administration is focusing most of its attention on repealing much of the policy accomplishments of the previous administration but can be expected to advance its own proposals in short time. Additionally, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are looking for ways around the U.S. Senate’s legislative filibuster in order to advance their ambitious legislative agenda. Below is a very brief outline of the major labor and employment legislative actions of President Biden’s first 100 days.