Germany’s Bundestag Plans to Implement 3G Rule (Vaccinated, Recovered, or Tested) for Workplaces and Home Offices

On November 18, 2021, Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, approved a renewed amendment to the Infection Protection Act that has important implications for employers and employees. The following day, the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament, gave its approval to the legislation. The amendment and related measures will come into force on November 24, 2021.

Oregon OSHA Anticipates Delay in Adopting COVID-19 Vaccine or Test Standard

When the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) on November 4, 2021, Oregon OSHA had only 30 days to adopt its own standards, until December 4, 2021. However, in light of a federal court order staying the federal ETS, Oregon OSHA recently updated its website to state that it does not anticipate adopting a rule by December 4, 2021, although it is “continuing discussions with stakeholders.”

New California Law Targets Warehouses—and Perhaps All Employers That Use Performance Metrics

A new California law, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 701, provides new regulatory scrutiny of job performance quotas at warehouse distribution centers. The stated purpose of the law is to ensure that the use of production quotas do not penalize workers for taking meal and rest breaks, using the restroom, and complying with other health and safety standards.

Nominee Announced to Become Head of MSHA

On November 12, 2021, the White House announced the nomination of Christopher Williamson to become the assistant secretary of Mine Safety and Health. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Williamson will become the top leader of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), filling the position that has remained vacant since David Zatezalo resigned at the end of the Trump administration.

Court of Appeals Stays OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

On November 6, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a stay of the Emergency Temporary Standard issued this week by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The ETS would require employers with 100 or more employees to implement policies mandating that employees be vaccinated or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test at least every seven days.

CMS Gives a Boost and Takes a Shot at Full Vaccination for Millions of U.S. Healthcare Workers

Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations started mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for some or all of their workers over the last six months. Now all of the specified Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types that are regulated under the Medicare health and safety standards must get all of their workers fully-vaccinated by January 4, 2022, pursuant to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination interim final rule.

OSHA Issues COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard: Employers With 100+ Employees Must Ensure Workers Are Either Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

On November 4, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are either fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least once per week. The ETS will be published in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021, and goes into effect on December 5, 2021. The ETS will cover approximately 84 million employees.

Reasonable Expansion? New York Passes Additional Whistleblower Retaliation Law

On October 28, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Senate Bill S4394A, which amends section 740 of the New York Labor Law (NYLL) to enhance protections for private-sector employees who allege retaliation for reporting violations of and “law, rule or regulation.” While cases alleging whistleblowing and the reporting of unsafe working conditions have been on the rise since March 2020, Governor Hochul indicated a need to ensure employees’ ability to speak out, stating that “protecting workers must be part of our overall economic recovery efforts.”

Federal OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS: Will It Change the Next ETS for California?

On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was planning to update and adopt new language for the California COVID-19 ETS that would take effect in January 2022. However, California’s proposed language for the revised ETS does not match the language of OSHA’s ETS, leaving many wondering if California will now revise the proposed language to bring the California ETS into alignment with the federal standard and proceed with the “Horcher” adoption process to quickly adopt the federal OSHA requirements.

The Keeping Workers Safe Act Introduced: Will OSHA Violations Be Widely Disseminated?

On October 22, 2021, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Robert Menendez, and Senator Brian Schatz joined Representative Andy Levin of Michigan to introduce legislation to require the publication of alleged workplace safety violations. The Keeping Workers Safe Act would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to announce major violations by employers and distribute them to local media and related labor and trade organizations, a practice that they believe will enhance workplace safety.

New York HERO Act Alert: New York Department of Labor Updates Its Information Sheet

In accordance with the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), on July 6, 2021, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the New York State Department of Health, published the Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard and Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan. Although the NYS DOL initially published the standard and model plan only in English, the NYS DOL has since furnished the standard and the model plan in Spanish. In addition to the non-industry specific model plan, the NYS DOL has created 11 industry-specific templates, which are available only in English.

MSHA Unlikely to Issue Emergency Temporary Standard Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations or Testing

In a September 28, 2021 Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) stakeholder meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Jeannette J. Galanis stated that MSHA does not intend to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or testing of miners. Instead, MSHA will continue to rely on its COVID-19 guidance to mine operators and existing statutory and regulatory enforcement capabilities.

MSHA Unveils Proposed Powered Haulage Rule

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced its proposed powered haulage rule for surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. The proposed rule, which is open to public comment through November 8, 2021, will be set out at a new 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.23000–23004; §§ 57.23000–23004; and §§ 77.2100–2104 (surface coal). The proposed rule would require mine operators with six or more miners to develop and implement a written powered haulage safety program.

Governor Newsom Expected to Sign Bill Creating New Labor Code Violations, Expanding Cal/OSHA Subpoena Powers

The California Legislature will soon send Senate Bill (SB) No. 606 to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is likely to sign the bill into law. The bill would make substantial changes to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) citation structure by creating two new categories of violations: “enterprise-wide” and “egregious.” The bill would also provide Cal/OSHA with additional subpoena power during investigations.

OSHA to Require Employers With 100+ Employees to Ensure Workers Are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

On September 9, 2021, the Biden administration announced a new plan to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A critical component of that plan calls on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop and implement a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) to require employers with more than 100 employees to require that their employees are either fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least once per week.

New York HERO Act Alert: COVID-19 Designated as Highly Contagious Communicable Disease

On September 6, 2021, New York State Commissioner of Health Howard A. Zucker designated COVID-19 as “a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health in New York State.” As a result of the commissioner’s designation, employers are required to activate their airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans in accordance with the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act).

FDA’s Full Stamp of Vaccine Approval Delivers Progress, but Issues With Vaccine Passports and Policies Are Looming

On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna’s expedited application for full approval is still pending, and Johnson & Johnson plans to submit its application for full approval sometime later this year.

Biden Administration Will Require Nursing Homes to Vaccinate Employees as a Condition for Receipt of Federal Funding

On August 18, 2021, President Joe Biden announced from the White House that his administration would require nursing homes to vaccinate their staffs against COVID-19 or risk losing Medicaid and Medicare funding. He said that this step was designed to keep people safe amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. He stated: “With this announcement, I’m using the power of the federal government, as a payer of healthcare costs, to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors.”

Maryland to Mandate Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers in Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Effective September 1, 2021

As the number of new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to grow nationwide, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced, on August 18, 2021, measures to prioritize patient safety in nursing homes and hospitals. Effective August 18, 2021, Maryland is requiring employees in the state’s nursing homes and hospitals to provide proof of vaccination or to adhere to a regular COVID-19 screening and testing protocol. This protocol includes mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing on-site for individuals who fail to show proof of full vaccination status and the required wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the facility.

Encouraging Employees to Get COVID-19 Vaccinations: Are Healthcare Surcharges the Answer?

The number of U.S. workers choosing to be vaccinated plateaued earlier this summer. As a result, employers, many of which hoped to return employees to the workplace in early fall, were left to debate whether to require employees to get vaccinated or to merely “strongly encourage” vaccination. Although many mandatory vaccination policies may pass legal scrutiny, they may nonetheless raise cultural tensions and raise the risk of losing employees in an already tight labor market.

COVID-19 Variants and Key Government Actions Accelerate Employer Vaccination Policy Implementation

With transmission of the Delta variant on the rise, many employers are revisiting plans to implement COVID-19 vaccination policies. As we have previously explained, employers may encourage and mandate vaccination against COVID-19, subject to exceptions for covered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and sincerely held religious beliefs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Guidance that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued has been consistent with this position and federal courts have recently affirmed the same.