Judge Extends Temporary Restraining Order on New York’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Based on Lack of Religious Exemption

On August 26, 2021, the New York State Department of Health’s Public Health and Health Planning Council approved temporary emergency regulations implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for personnel in all entities licensed under Article 28 of the Public Health Law (including nursing homes, hospitals, and diagnostic and treatment centers), home care agencies licensed or certified under Article 36, hospice programs licensed under Article 40 and adult care facilities licensed under Article 7 of the Social Services Law. Notably, the final version of the approved emergency regulations removed the religious exemption that was present in the initial proposed version. As a result, health care workers were required to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 27 — and personnel at other covered entities to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by October 7 — unless a medical exemption is granted. On September 13, 2021, several doctors and nurses who allege that their sincere religious beliefs compel them to refuse COVID-19 vaccination, filed suit (Dr. A, et al. v. Kathy Hochul, et al.) claiming the New York State Department of Health’s failure to recognize religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining the Department of Health from enforcing the mandate.

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NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission Presses Pause on Physical Evaluation Requirement for Drug Testing

As we discussed in a previous alert, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) brought new employment protections for job applicants and employees who lawfully use cannabis off-duty. In addition, CREAMMA preserved an employer’s right to conduct drug testing of its workforce, but added a new requirement: testing for suspected use of cannabis must be accompanied by a physical evaluation to determine the employee’s level of impairment while engaged in performing job duties, as conducted by an individual certified to opine on the employee’s state of impairment.

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New York Issues NY HERO Act Standard and Model Plan — A Playbook for the Next Pandemic

This week, the New York State Department of Labor issued the new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard and model template plan under the NY HERO Act. However, with no current designation for COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease” by the New York State Commissioner of Health, the model plan is more of a playbook for the next outbreak.

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Clearing the Fog: What Employers Should Look Out for Following Connecticut’s Legalization of Recreational Cannabis

Connecticut has joined the budding number of states legalizing recreational cannabis use. On June 22, 2021, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed An Act Concerning Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis (RERACA), which permits adults ages 21 and older to possess and use recreational cannabis. While the added strain on employers will not take effect until July 1, 2022, organizations should begin reviewing their current drug screening and testing policies and processes with employment counsel — and revisit training with hiring managers, HR professionals and supervisors.

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EEOC Issues New COVID-19 Guidance Addressing Vaccinations in the Workplace

Today, after much anticipation and just in time for the Memorial Day holiday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updated guidance on COVID-19 vaccination issues raised under federal equal employment laws. We outline five things you need to know about the new guidance.

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Employers Beware: New York Protects Off-Duty Use of Recreational Cannabis

The adoption of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) makes New York the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults age 21 and older. This new law expands employment protections for those engaging in lawful off-duty use of cannabis — and since it’s effective immediately, New York employers should review and update their drug and alcohol testing policies quickly.

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