OSHA Suspends Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Enforcement Following Fifth Circuit Ruling – Now What?

On Friday, November 12, 2021, in BST Holdings, L.L.C, et al. v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Case # 21-60845, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order affirming its November 6, 2021 order, staying the implementation and enforcement of OSHA’s November 5, 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees who report to a workplace are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The Fifth Circuit, which many consider to be the most politically conservative of all the circuit courts, issued its order following an expedited briefing schedule, prompted by an emergency motion to stay the ETS filed by various individuals, employers, religious groups and states. Pending further judicial review, the order barred OSHA from taking steps to implement or enforce the ETS. In response, OSHA has suspended all activities related to the ETS for the time being, stating: “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” Businesses now face an uncertain future with OSHA conceding that it will abide by the court’s order while pursuing its reversal. Because similar challenges to the ETS have been brought in all but one of the 12 federal circuit courts of appeals, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will conduct a lottery as required by statute, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §2112 (a)(3),  likely this week, to select which federal circuit will hear appeals in the numerous challenges, including with respect to the Fifth Circuit’s order. Any outcome from the circuit selected in the lottery process may and likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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New EEOC Guidance Addresses Faith-Based Vaccine Exemptions

As COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers become more common, so do requests for exemptions. Requests for religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates have forced many employers to make difficult decisions regarding the validity of the accommodation requests as well as whether and how to reasonably accommodate legitimate requests — while also meeting the obligation to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Yesterday, the EEOC issued new guidance providing helpful insight regarding an employer’s obligation to grant requests for religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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Texas Federal Court Rejects Challenge to Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

While public health leaders continue to wrestle with vaccine hesitancy, businesses are wrestling with employee challenges to COVID-19 vaccination mandates. This Saturday marked a win for private employers after a Texas District Court tossed a lawsuit brought by over 100 hospital employees claiming they were subjected unlawfully to a COVID-19 vaccination policy as a condition of continued employment. Although the plaintiffs’ counsel has said they plan to appeal the decision, the order provides helpful precedent for other organizations mulling such vaccination mandates.

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Time to Hit Reset on Remote Worker Expectations?

Many employers, reflecting on the challenging circumstances created by COVID-19, have temporarily bypassed traditional performance scoring for 2020 in favor of more flexible rating schemes. But as organizations increasingly settle into a new paradigm with expanded remote work, managers and human resources leaders face the challenge of recalibrating expectations for how such work will be managed and evaluated moving forward.

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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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Another Lawsuit Challenging Employer COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

Faegre Drinker previously reported on one of the first lawsuits challenging a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As employers continue to evaluate employee vaccination, another lawsuit has been filed in the Central District of California, California educators for Medical Freedom et al v. The Los Angeles Unified School District et al., 21-cv-02388 (C.D. Cal. filed 3/17/2021).

The California Educators for Medical Freedom, along with seven employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, are seeking injunctive relief and potential damages due to a vaccine mandate instituted in March of 2021. Plaintiffs were allegedly told that if they were not vaccinated by April of 2021, they could face a “job detriment, up to and including termination from employment.”

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