Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Issues Phase II Executive Order

On May 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 as part of his three-phase plan to reopen the economy in Texas. The three-phase plan is outlined in a report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Executive Order GA-23 is Phase II of the plan and follows Executive Order GA-18 (issued April 27, 2020) and Executive Order GA-21 (issued May 5, 2020). Executive Order GA-23 “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC.”

OSHA, Industrial Commission of Arizona Issue Guidance on Recording COVID-19 Cases and Potential Workers’ Compensation Liability

Only one day before Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order was set to expire, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-33. Governor Ducey announced the modified extension of the stay-at-home order at a press conference on the afternoon of April 29, 2020. Consistent with the previous order, Arizonans must continue limiting their time away from their homes, except for participating in “Essential Activities,” employment in “Essential Functions,” and utilizing services or products of “Essential Businesses.”

Reading the Tea (or Cannabis) Leaves: California’s Trend Toward Recognizing a New Protected Class of Medical Cannabis Users

Although California was one of the first states to legalize medical cannabis, and later recreational cannabis, voters and the courts have long resisted extending protections against discrimination in employment to cannabis users. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, such as the treatment of anorexia, arthritis, chronic pain, and migraines.

OSHA Revises Its Recordkeeping Guidance for COVID-19 Work-Related Cases

On May 19, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, providing additional information on what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. Previous guidance, which OSHA issued on April 10, 2020, eliminated most employers’ (all industries except healthcare, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions) obligation to analyze whether a COVID-19 case is work-related if certain conditions are met.

OSHA Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facilities

On May 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a one-page guidance sheet titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers.” The guidance lists several tips that employers in the nursing home and long-term care facility industry may take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Triaging Employee Refusals to Work Due to COVID-19: A Legal Update for Healthcare Employers

Employees—particularly healthcare employees—are increasingly refusing to work because of safety concerns and the need for accommodations related to COVID-19. In certain circumstances, these refusals may trigger protections afforded by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), among others.

Employers Beware: COVID-19–Related Employment Lawsuits Are Heating Up

For the last several months, employers have been forced to learn how COVID-19 spreads, how to maintain or resume safe work environments, and how to navigate a complex web of new and existing laws and regulations implicated by the pandemic. Employers have also had to contend with a growing wave of COVID-19–related employment litigation.

Cal/OSHA Issues Guidance for Logistics and Warehousing Facilities

On May 7, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Logistics and Warehousing Facilities, which provides detailed guidance to logistics and warehouse facilities on how to support a safe and clean work environment for workers in order to avoid the outbreak and transmittal of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Governor Newsom Announces COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption in Favor of Employees

During a May 6, 2020, press briefing, Governor Newsom announced his latest executive order addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Executive Order N-62-20 creates a workers’ compensation rebuttable presumption that employees diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted the virus at work. This order will apply retroactively to employees who test positive for COVID-19 and have worked outside the home from March 19, 2020, until July 5, 2020 and is broadly worded to include “[a]ny COVID-19 related illness.”

COVID-19 Risk Awareness: Addressing Workplace Water Systems as Employers Restart Operations

An unintended workplace health threat resulting from the fight against COVID-19 could be lurking in an employer’s water system—Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. As state and local governments begin lifting safe-at-home orders, employers and building owners will be restarting operations and reopening buildings (or parts of buildings) that may have been unoccupied for weeks. Many such operations include water supply systems that have also been shut down during the business closings. These dormant water systems and devices can lead to an increased exposure to Legionella for several reasons, including a lack of water circulation and a temporary cessation of water treatment and water quality monitoring programs. In anticipation of the large number of workplaces and other buildings that will be reopening in the near future, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance for reducing Legionella risks in building water systems.

What Six-Foot Rule? OSHA Construction Fall Standard Forces the OSH Review Commission to State It Does Not Exist

The debate has raged for years. Is there a six-foot rule triggering fall protection requirements when an employee is within six feet of an unprotected edge? A construction fall protection standard adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not expressly state there is such a six-foot rule, but many employers, industry safety experts, and even some OSHA inspectors have followed one as a rule of thumb.

OSHA Issues Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of N95 Respirators in Healthcare

On April 24, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum titled “Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of Filtering Facepiece Respirators in Healthcare During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The guidance submits a list of approved and nonapproved decontamination methods for cleaning filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), which are better known as N95 “dust mask” respirators.

An Update on Coronavirus Contact Tracing: Status, Benefits, and Key Considerations

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have been engaged in varying levels of contact tracing within the workplace. Contact tracing involves identifying individuals who may have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus while that person was likely infectious. As part of employers’ pandemic response practices, many are implementing policies and procedures that attempt to ascertain the identities of employees who may have been in “close contact” with employees diagnosed with COVID-19, or those suspected of having contracted the virus.

CDC and OSHA Issue Guidance for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers

On April 26, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance on COVID-19 for “Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers” that is intended to supplement general guidance previously provided by OSHA and the CDC. The guidance was issued following news accounts of COVID-19 at multiple meat and poultry facilities as well as a lawsuit seeking to close a pork processing facility in Missouri.

State COVID-19 Orders Regulating Worker Safety—Are They Preempted?

Almost every state has issued closure orders designating certain businesses as “essential” and allowing them to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have recently issued orders expressly or implicitly regulating the safety and health of workers at those essential businesses. Are some or all of the provisions in these orders preempted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act)? It depends.

COVID-19 Likely Responsible for Hike in OSHA “Fatality/Catastrophe” Investigations at Healthcare Facilities

Compared to the first three weeks of April in 2019, April 1, 2020, through April 21, 2020, had a 720 percent increase in healthcare facility inspections in the “Fatality/Catastrophe” category. A stunning increase from 5 inspections in 2019 to 36 in 2020 during the same three weeks. Those inspections include hospitals and other medical facilities. The inspection information does not include any information about COVID-19, however, the massive increase in the category of inspections has no other explanation than the present pandemic and workers who have fallen ill or succumbed after contracting the virus.

Retail FAQs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Retail employers are facing challenges unique to their workforces due to the spread of COVID-19. Retailers must keep abreast of federal laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, in addition to guidance from federal agencies on these new laws. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions perplexing retailers confronting issues such as health and safety, unions and employee relations, and employee benefits.

OSHA’s New COVID-19 Inspection Plan: What Employers Should Expect

On April 13, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which provides a blueprint for the agency’s Area Directors and inspectors to follow when considering opening and conducting a COVID-19-related inspection. The plan gives employers a glimpse into what to expect from OSHA during the pandemic.

OSHA Considers Employer’s Good Faith Efforts When Enforcing Compliance During Coronavirus Pandemic

On April 17, 2020, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released interim enforcement guidance for assessing an employer’s compliance efforts with OSHA standards and regulations during the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The guidance is specifically aimed at standards and regulations that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, or assessments.

Healthcare Employers Facing OSHA Scrutiny During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state plans like California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (more commonly known as Cal/OSHA) are seeing a significant increase in complaints, inspections, and investigations of workplace illnesses and fatalities. Anecdotally, the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, acute care services, and senior living facilities, appear to be facing a huge wave of regulatory inspections at a never-before-seen pace.

OSHA Issues Interim Enforcement Guidance on the Meaning of “Work Related” for Recording Cases of COVID-19

On April 10, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim enforcement guidance for recording cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, affecting what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. The guidance clarifies which cases of COVID-19 are considered “work-related” under 29 C.F.R. § 1904, which means it also affects employer obligations for cases that must be reported to OSHA (e.g., in-patient hospitalizations).