New York Governor Lifts COVID-19 Guidance and Signs Legislation Amending the HERO Act

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.

Mandatory Vaccination Policy Lawsuit Update: Nurses Take a Shot Against Hospital, But Judge Jabs Back

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.

Cal/OSHA Publishes Revised Proposed COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions for June 17 Standards Board Vote

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.

OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance for All Industries Not Covered by Its ETS for Healthcare

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.

OSHA Finally Issues Its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, Confines It to Healthcare

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.

California OSH Board Votes to Withdraw Latest Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and Vote on a New Revision on June 17, 2021

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.

Surprise Flip-Flop at Cal/OSHA Standards Board: Motion to Adopt Sweeping Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Passes

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 Firearm Carry Act of 2021: Can Employers Bar Employees From Carrying Guns Onto Work Premises?

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.

Washington Staffing Agencies and Worksite Employers Must Now Train Temporary Employees on Workplace Safety Hazards

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.

German Employers’ Mandatory COVID-19 Testing and Telecommuting Requirements

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.

OSHA Revokes Guidance on Recordability of COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions

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.

Michigan’s COVID-19 Emergency Rules: Major Changes to Take Effect Soon

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

The New York HERO Act’s Proposed Amendments: What Employers Need to Know

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.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board Reschedules Vote on COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions

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.

Cal/OSHA Requests Standards Board to Skip Vote at May 20, 2021, Meeting

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.

Santa Clara County’s New COVID-19 Rules: Employers Must Obtain Vaccination Status, Report Positive Test Results, and Enforce Mask Use

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.”

100 Days of the Biden Administration, Part I: Key Labor and Employment Policy Developments

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.

Cal/OSHA Proposes Sweeping Changes to Its COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards

On November 30, 2020, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, more commonly known as Cal/OSHA, adopted COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for California. Among other topics, the ETS required that employers develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program and provided guidance on how employers should address COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the workplace. Since Cal/OSHA issued its ETS, the California workplace landscape has changed dramatically, with large-scale vaccinations for all ages and employees returning to work across the state.

South Carolina Governor Signs Liability Shield Legislation Into Law

As expected, on April 28, 2021, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) into law. The act, which provides protection from “coronavirus claims” to a broad class of covered entities and covered individuals, went into effect immediately and “appl[ies] to all civil and administrative causes of action that arise between March 13, 2020, and June 30, 2021, or [180] days after the final state of emergency is lifted for COVID-19 in [South Carolina], whichever is later, and that are based upon facts occurring during this time period.”

California Court Affirms PAGA Claims Based on Cal/OSHA Violations: Are Further PAGA-Cal/OSHA Actions to Come?

In Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, the California Court of Appeal highlighted an important distinction between Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims asserted against a public entity employer based on statutes that themselves provide for civil penalties and PAGA claims that are based on PAGA’s default civil penalties provisions under California Labor Code § 2699(f).

South Carolina Expected to Implement Liability Shield Law to Protect Businesses From Certain COVID-19–Related Claims

The “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) is expected to reach Governor Henry McMaster’s desk early this week for his signature. Senate sponsors initially introduced the act on December 9, 2020, and it received final approval in the House of Representatives on April 23, 2021. Similar to its previously introduced predecessors, House Bill 5527 and Senate Bill 1259, the act provides liability protections against coronavirus-based claims for a limited time period for businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.