In its most recent COVIDView weekly update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that levels of COVID-19 “virus circulation and associated illnesses” have been rising nationally since September 2020. The CDC has also issued a “COVID-19 Alert,” noting that “COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the United States are rising.” In the context of such rising cases and increased scientific knowledge about the virus, the CDC made significant changes to its critical infrastructure sector guidance on November 16, 2020. In the revised guidance, the CDC urges employers to allow exposed but asymptomatic critical infrastructure personnel to continue to work only as “a last resort and only in limited circumstances.” [Emphasis in original.]
This year has been challenging for a number of reasons, not least of which is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace. After months of isolation and remote operations, many employers and employees are eagerly looking forward to opportunities during the approaching holiday season to come together (in person or virtually) to share festive spirit and reflect on the good times from this past year despite the setbacks. Nevertheless, we remain in the midst of a global pandemic, and many communities are experiencing an increase in the number of cases. While employers may welcome the opportunity to celebrate and strengthen employee morale this holiday season, they may want to assess the state of the pandemic in their respective communities and consider practical strategies for making holiday gatherings and celebrations as safe as possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has refined its guidelines regarding what is considered a “close contact” exposure to COVID-19.
On August 21, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its COVID-19 travel guidelines, removing the blanket 14-day quarantine recommendation for travelers returning from all international destinations.
On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a communication plan titled “COVID-19 Communication Plan for Select Non-healthcare Critical Infrastructure Employers.” The purpose of the plan is to outline actions certain critical infrastructure employers may consider to disseminate COVID-19 messages with employees more effectively.
On July 17, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings interim guidance. This is the guidance upon which employers rely in determining when employees are safe to return to work after being sick with or testing positive for COVID-19.
On July 3, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance entitled “SARS-CoV-2 Testing Strategy: Considerations for Non-Healthcare Workplaces.” The new guidance recommends incorporating COVID-19 testing in five scenarios: (1) testing individuals with COVID-19-related symptoms; (2) testing asymptomatic individuals with a recent known or suspected exposure in order to control transmission; (3) testing asymptomatic individuals without a recent known or suspected exposure for early identification in special settings; (4) testing to determine when an individual may discontinue home isolation; and (5) testing for public health surveillance.
On June 17, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an update to its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Questions & Answers, providing guidance on the use of antibody tests by employers.
On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an update to its COVID-19 technical assistance publication. The update provides new guidance for employers on the topics of accommodating employees with family members at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, handling pandemic-related harassment, caregiver responsibilities, and pregnancy issues.
On May 17, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 60-page document entitled CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again. In the document, the CDC (1) explains and expands upon the gating criteria articulated in President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines; (2) outlines the CDC’s various COVID-19 activities and initiatives, including monitoring the continued progression of COVID-19, support of increased contact tracing capacity, and other activities; and (3) provides testing guidance.
On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance titled Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages. As maintaining appropriate staffing levels is essential to providing both a safe working environment and proper patient care, the guidance offers a series of recommendations on contingency plans that healthcare providers experiencing staffing shortages may wish to consider.
In an April 20, 2020, update to its General Business Frequently Asked Questions, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) included some advice to employers on how to conduct employee temperature screens. While noting that there are several methods employers could utilize to conduct temperature screenings, the CDC provides three particular examples for employers to consider.
On April 28, 2020, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an interim urgency ordinance requiring employers with 500 or more employees to provide supplemental paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons. This follows similar measures taken over recent weeks in other local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco.
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.
On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which will allocate over $480 billion in additional funding for the federal COVID-19 response.
On April 14, 2020, the State of New York filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In the lawsuit, New York challenges the April 1, 2020, final rule that the DOL issued implementing the emergency family leave and paid sick leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Employers continuing to operate as essential businesses under the various state closure orders, or that are now beginning to plan to reopen or return workers as restrictions are scheduled to ease or phase out in various jurisdictions, are increasingly focused on how best to screen employees for COVID-19 as they report to work.
On April 8, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its new Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19. The guidance provides that critical infrastructure workers may be allowed to continue working following a potential exposure to COVID-19 in order to ensure the continuity of essential operations under certain circumstances.
Many employers have been referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidance on “Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings” in order to help determine when it is appropriate to allow employees to return to work from home isolation due to having COVID-19 symptoms or being diagnosed with COVID-19, in the absence of the individual receiving a direct release from his or her healthcare provider or other public health authorities. The CDC has now updated that guidance to provide additional recommendations regarding when asymptomatic individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 (i.e., those who have COVID-19 but do not exhibit symptoms such as fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing) may discontinue isolation.
Following up on its recent temporary enforcement guidance permitting suspension of N95 annual fit-testing for healthcare employers, on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an interim Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.
On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted a webinar to address emerging questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the EEOC’s previously updated pandemic guidance. The EEOC has not yet published revised guidance or a questions-and-answers document, but it offered listeners useful information during its webinar. Ogletree Deakins’ attorneys who were in attendance on the webinar prepared the following takeaways based on notes from the presentation to help employers in this evolving area.
The recent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States has caused employers to be increasingly concerned and uncertain regarding the future of their workforces. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the latest developments on the virus and guidance from federal agencies.
Employers across the globe, faced with the need to reduce the risk of workplace transmission of COVID-19, may be contemplating imposing standard temperature screenings on their employees. In many jurisdictions, an employer may need or want to consult with employee representatives (such as Works Councils in Europe or unions where applicable) or limit temperature checks to only those employees who consent. Even if temperature checks comply with local and national laws, instituting such measures may still present risks for employers, such as claims that the employer screened employees in a discriminatory fashion and mishandled the data from a privacy perspective. Temperature screenings may also pose employee and public relations considerations.
On March 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division posted a helpful guidance for employers addressing some of the issues they are likely contemplating with respect to employee wages in different COVID-19 scenarios. “COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Fair Labor Standards Act Questions and Answers” offers answers to a number of questions related to emergencies generally under the federal wage and hour laws. Here is what you need to know.
On February 7, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), February 2020. The interim guidance contains numerous recommendations employers may wish to consider as questions relating to the coronavirus 2019-nCoV arise.
Recent fast-paced developments, increasing employee apprehensions, and uncertainty regarding the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV have left employers and employees with some concerns. We recently discussed the emergence of the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, and the first confirmed cases in the United States, which were deemed to be travel related and acquired by individuals traveling from China.
Employers with employees traveling to and from China may want to take note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on January 21, 2020, that the United States had confirmed its first case of a new strain of the coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan, China, last month. The virus has already sickened hundreds of people and is reported to have killed six, according to Chinese authorities.
Workplace vaccination programs are not new. While many focus on influenza, healthcare employers often impose more robust requirements to protect employees and vulnerable patient populations.