San Francisco Judge Denies Injunctive Relief Allowing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards to Remain in Place

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.

Wisconsin Joins States Providing Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 Exposure

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.”

Cal/OSHA COVID-19–Related Citations May Provide Leverage to Labor Unions and Their Members

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 Department of Justice Establishes Worker Rights and Fair Labor Section

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.

5 Key Employee Handbook Updates to Consider in 2021

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.

The Top 10 Labor and Employment Issues Keeping Retailers Up at Night 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.

Cal/OSHA Updates Online Resources for California Employers

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.

Cal/OSHA’s ETS Under Scrutiny: California Judge Hears Oral Argument to Enjoin Enforcement

Following the implementation of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) on November 30, 2020, several employers and trade associations filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court for declaratory and injunctive relief against Cal/OSHA. The lawsuit, National Retail Federation, et al. v. California Department of Industrial Relations, et al. (Case No. CGC20588367), was the first filed seeking to prevent the agency from enforcing the ETS.

OSHA Issues ‘Stronger’ Workplace Guidance on COVID-19

On January 29, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published new guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. In a press release announcing the new guidance, OSHA declared that the new guidance is “stronger worker safety guidance” intended to inform employers outside of the healthcare industry about how to identify the risks of exposure to COVID-19 and determine the appropriate control measures for their respective workplaces.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Validity of MSHA’s 2017 Workplace Examination Final Rule

In a challenge to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) 2017 final rule expanding the workplace examination requirements at 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.18002 (Surface) and 57.18002 (Underground), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that the final rule had been promulgated and issued appropriately and denied the petition for review.

COVID-19 and Construction: Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards Address Issues for Industry Employers

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.

Global Strategies for COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace: 7 FAQs for Multinational Employers

COVID-19 continues to cause significant restrictions in many areas around the world, including workplaces: Employees are working in remote settings, they no longer share tools and supplies, partitions separate workspaces, employees may not gather in common areas, and in-person meetings are reduced to a minimum. With distribution of the first vaccines impending, employers may expect a return to pre-pandemic practices. There is wide variation internationally on the approach to vaccinations. Below are answers to employers’ frequently asked questions about vaccinating global and multinational workforces.

Virginia Issues Permanent COVID-19 Standard

In July 2020, the Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry approved an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19. In so doing, Virginia became the first state to issue such a temporary standard. On January 13, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board enacted a permanent standard for COVID-19. The “Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19” will be enforced by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH) and is anticipated to take effect on January 27, 2021.

Executive Order on COVID-19—Vague Regarding MSHA

On January 21, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed an executive order directing the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take certain actions to address worker safety and health with regard to COVID-19. The executive order says much less about what the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) should do with respect to mining worksites, largely leaving it to MSHA to set its own course in addressing the pandemic.

Cal/OSHA Issues FAQs Addressing COVID-19 Testing and Outbreaks Under the Emergency Temporary Standards

On January 8, 2021, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) released an updated version of its frequently asked questions (FAQs) guidance, entitled “COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions,” which includes information about COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards. The FAQs address a number of issues about COVID-19 testing and outbreak procedures and processes.

President Biden Issues Executive Order Promising Fast Movement by OSHA on COVID-19—Can It Deliver?

On January 21, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued an executive order requiring the federal government to take “swift action” to protect U.S. workplaces from the COVID-19 pandemic. He ordered the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to, among other things, consider, within the next two weeks, whether an emergency COVID-19 standard is necessary and, if so, to implement such a standard by no later than March 15, 2021.

Cal/OSHA Clarifies COVID-19–Related Paid Time Off Requirements

On January 8, 2021, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued an updated version of its frequently asked questions (FAQs) guidance, “COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions,” about COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards. The FAQs address many issues about which employers had questions, including paid time off and exclusion pay.

New Alberta Law Makes Sweeping Changes to Occupational Health and Safety Act, Amends Workers’ Compensation Act

On December 9, 2020, Alberta’s Bill 47, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, received Royal Assent. The legislation replaces Alberta’s current Occupational Health and Safety Act in its entirety, and makes significant amendments to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act.

California’s New COVID-19 Executive Order: How It Changes the Cal/OSHA Emergency Standard

Less than one month after the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted and approved an emergency COVID-19 regulation, Governor Newsom made changes to the regulation adding clarity and suspending the prescribed quarantine period of 14 days to the extent that the 14 days is longer than the quarantine period recommended by the California Department of Public Health.