Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: OSHA Removes Recently Published FAQs on Reporting Hospitalizations and Fatalities Due to COVID-19

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn from its website—without public explanation—a controversial interpretation of its requirement to report in-patient hospitalizations of employees who contracted work-related cases of COVID-19.

California Releases ‘COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening’

On July 24, 2020, the State of California released its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening.” According to the playbook, its purpose is to help employers “plan and prepare for reopening their business[es] and to support a safe, clean environment for workers and customers.” The Employer Playbook’s table of contents lists four major areas that the playbook addresses: (1) steps employers can take to open safely; (2) what to do if a COVID-19 case occurs in the workplace; (3) enforcement and compliance; and (4) worker education. In addition, the playbook includes three appendixes consisting of employer and worker resources, enforcement and compliance contacts, and case studies illustrating the playbook’s principles.

Virginia Issues COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

On July 15, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board approved an Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 to be enforced by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH). Virginia is the first state to adopt a specific standard intended to protect workers and “to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of [COVID-19]” in the workplace.

OSHA Publishes New FAQs on Reporting Hospitalizations and Fatalities Due to COVID-19

On July 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a new interpretation of the hospitalization reporting requirement of 29 C.F.R. § 1904.39(b)(6), one that states that employers “must report the hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been hospitalized and that the reason for hospitalization was COVID-19.”

COVID-19 Detection Dogs in the Workplace: A Viable Option for Employers?

As employees return to work, some employers are asking if there could be another tool to detect COVID-19 in the workplace: detection dogs. Traditionally, the military has used detection dogs to find bombs, and law enforcement has used them to sniff out narcotics, guns, electronics, or other contraband. More recently, scientists and researchers have used detection dogs to identify medical conditions.

Judge Finds No Scientific Basis for NWS Heat Index Chart Used by OSHA in Heat Stress Cases

An administrative law judge of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission held this week that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had failed to show that a document the agency used to prosecute employers in heat stress cases—the National Weather Service’s heat index chart—has a scientific basis.

California COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Expired on July 5, 2020—Will It Be Revived?

On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued Executive Order (EO) N-62-20, creating a temporary rebuttable presumption that employees working outside of their homes who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, may receive workers’ compensation benefits. In doing so, the governor simplified the process for sick employees to seek certain wage replacement benefits, and therefore sought to encourage ill employees to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Missouri Limits Punitive Damages in Workplace Lawsuits

On July 1, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill (SB) 591, which modifies various provisions relating to civil actions. Notably, for Missouri employers, the bill modifies and restricts the way punitive damages are considered in lawsuits brought by current or former employees who allege intentional harm by an agent of the employer (e.g., a manager, supervisor, or HR professional).

Georgia Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Liability From COVID-19-Related Claims

On June 26, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill (SB) 359 to limit liability for COVID-19-related claims. The bill, which is titled “Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act,” has not yet been signed by Governor Brian Kemp. Several states have enacted similar legislation, including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

Colorado Governor Expected to Sign Bill Providing New Whistleblower Protections Related to Public Health Emergencies

The Colorado General Assembly recently passed legislation intended to protect employees and certain independent contractors from discrimination and/or retaliation if they raise health and safety concerns related to a public health emergency. House Bill (HB) 20-1415, which Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign, appears to be in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, although it will ultimately apply to health and safety concerns unrelated to COVID-19.

Florida Restricts Sale of Alcohol Due to Surge in COVID-19 Cases Among Young Adults

On June 26, 2020, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issued Emergency Order 2020-09 suspending the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at all businesses that “derive more than 50 [percent] of gross revenue from such sales.” The DBPR issued the order due in part to a spike in the number of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020, especially among younger people who may have been visiting bars, pubs, and nightclubs where alcohol is served and such establishments failing to comply with orders on occupancy restrictions.

California Judge Grants TRO Related to COVID-19 Risks at Fast-Food Restaurant

On June 16, 2020, several employees at a McDonald’s franchise in Oakland, California filed a lawsuit against their employer, in a matter entitled Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s (No. RG20064825, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda). The lawsuit consists of five plaintiffs, three of whom are employees who allege that they became sick with COVID-19 while working at the restaurant and “unknowingly” spread the disease to family and other members in their communities.

Tampa Bay’s New Face-Covering Requirements—We’ve Got You Covered

COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to increase, particularly in the Tampa Bay area. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties have enacted ordinances requiring face coverings in most indoor settings where social distancing (of at least six feet between persons) cannot be maintained.

Texas Businesses Across the State Face Fines for Failing to Comply With Newly-Issued Face Covering Mandates

As Texas has gradually reopened, the number of COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalizations has dramatically increased. In response to local conditions, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently issued Executive Order NW-10, under which all businesses operating in the county must adopt a health and safety policy that requires both employees and customers to wear face coverings.

Austin and San Antonio-Area Businesses Now Required to Adopt Plans Mandating Face Coverings, But Fines May Be Imposed in San Antonio

On June 17, 2020, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued Executive Order NW-10, requiring all businesses operating in the county, which includes San Antonio, to implement a health and safety policy to include the mandated use of face coverings by employees and customers when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible.

Judge Rules OSHA Can Release Employer Injury Records

On June 4, 2020, Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in The Center for Investigative Reporting v. Department of Labor that employers’ injury and illness records, submitted to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are not confidential and can be released if requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

20 Tips for U.S. Virgin Islands Employers in 2020: COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants, Bars and Nightclubs

Conducting business in the U.S. Virgin Islands poses unique challenges not often encountered in the states, but also unique opportunities. This 20-part series offers tips for doing business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, covering a broad array of topics affecting employers. Part four of this series addresses COVID-19 guidance for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

California Governor Extends Wage Claim and Cal/OSHA Deadlines

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on daily life, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-63-20 on May 7, 2020, extending certain statutory and regulatory deadlines for individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies in California. In addition to other temporary changes, EO N-63-20 extends the time for employees to file certain claims for unpaid wages with the state labor commissioner, the time for the state to issue certain workplace safety citations under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the time for employers to appeal such citations.

District of Columbia Enters Phase One of ‘Reopen D.C.’ Plan: What Businesses Need to Know

On May 27, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Mayor’s Order No. 2020-067, implementing phase one of a three-stage reopening plan in the District of Columbia. Beginning on May 29, 2020, D.C. residents and visitors will no longer be required to stay at home and certain businesses will be permitted to resume normal operations, so long as they comply with applicable health and safety guidelines.