To ensure “that the parties that contract with the Federal Government provide adequate COVID-19 safeguards to their workers performing on or in connection with a Federal Government contract,” President Biden has issued yet another executive order (EO) mandating that some federal contractors and subcontractors comply with Guidance published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
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.
On May 10, 2021, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit filed by the wife of a construction worker against his employer after he allegedly contracted COVID-19 at his workplace and transmitted it to her.
On April 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Douglas L. Parker to be assistant secretary of labor for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Parker currently serves as chief of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
In what is likely the final predicate for issuing a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), on March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) “targeting specific high-hazard industries or activities” in which there is a “hazard of contracting SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the cause of COVID-19.” The NEP also “includes an added focus to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation.” The NEP is effective immediately and will remain in force no longer than a year from March 12, 2021.
On March 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued guidance to DOT-regulated employers, employees, and service agents regarding drug and alcohol testing concerns during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the guidance, the DOT explains its commitment to maintaining public safety while simultaneously providing flexibility to transportation industries operating during the national emergency.
The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent notice on the use of cannabidiol (CBD) products serves as a warning to employees in DOT-defined safety-sensitive positions. While the DOT has always had clear regulations strictly prohibiting the use of marijuana for truck drivers, school bus drivers, train engineers, pilots, transit vehicle operators, and the like, the increasingly widespread use of CBD products created a gray area with regard to testing.
On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote both of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). Cynthia L. Attwood was first to be confirmed, followed shortly thereafter by Amanda Wood Laihow. The confirmations come as no surprise, as the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions unanimously approved both candidates on December 3, 2019.
On December 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) unanimously approved President Donald Trump’s two nominees to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
On October 15, 2019, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Cynthia L. Attwood to serve as a commissioner on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC).
On October 9, 2019, President Donald Trump announced his intention to appoint Amanda Wood Laihow to serve as the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission’s (OSHRC) second commissioner. That addition will give the commission its first quorum in five months and enable it to decide the cases pending before it.
In a matter of first impression before the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 and 18-2199 (June 12, 2019), that obesity is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. With the decision, the Seventh Circuit brought clarity to a novel issue previously unresolved for employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court recently invalidated the $350,000 noneconomic damages cap on pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits.
The year 2018 saw the issuance of several noteworthy federal workplace safety and health decisions.
On January 9, 2018, District III of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that temporary workers who are injured while working for their host employers have the right to elect either to claim workers’ compensation benefits or to sue their host employers in tort. The decision turns on its head the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act’s exclusive remedy provision, exposes thousands of employers in Wisconsin to tort liability that they previously did not have or anticipate having, and threatens general liability insurance carriers with risks they never anticipated accepting or priced their premiums to take into account.
On November 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule making significant changes to 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 40, which affects employers administering drug tests in the transportation industry. The final rule states that its purpose is to remain current with the changes made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, which were announced in early 2017.
On April 25, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officially rescinded its 2013 letter of interpretation that many viewed as a clear bow to organized labor by the previous administration and that had created the potential to use an OSHA inspection as a union organizing tool.