On Monday, May 17, 2021, on the heels of the CDC relaxing mask and distancing restrictions for fully vaccinated people, OSHA revisited its previous guidance recommending face coverings in the workplace. While the agency noted that it is still evaluating the new guidelines, OSHA provisionally advised employers to refer to the CDC for workforce safety measures for fully vaccinated workers.
The year 2021 continues the trend of increasing regulation of the workplace by state and local governments. Several new and revised state and local workplace regulations are effective, including several developments relating to discrimination. This update reviews these new requirements and recaps Q1 state and local employment law developments to help you and your organization stay in compliance.
For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.
On March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) designed to “significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to [COVID-19]” by targeting specific “high-hazard industries or work tasks” with greater frequency of close contact between workers for on-site inspections, outreach, and compliance assistance related to COVID-19 prevention and response measures. While federal OSHA’s NEP technically does not apply to state plans, OSHA is strongly encouraging them to do so; and state plans must submit within 60 days a notice of intent indicating whether they intend to adopt same or similar initiatives.
The NEP specifically targets certain industries based on public enforcement data, such as complaints, inspections and COVID-19-related violations, where the data reflects that workers are expected to perform tasks associated with exposure to COVID-19. The NEP lists numerous “primary” targets, which are divided up as either healthcare or non-healthcare employers.
As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.
The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.
Exclusion from work, paid time off and rigorous testing requirements. These issues and more came to a head for California employers on November 30, 2020, after the California Office of Administrative Law adopted the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) emergency temporary standards. While many California employers have already implemented COVID-19 plans fulfilling previous requirements for reopening under state and local government orders, the new Cal/OSHA standards vary significantly from what businesses have likely executed to date. We examine the highlights as well as which internal policies and processes affected employers should revisit.
On Friday, June 26, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Essential Workers Protection Act, providing protections to workers who speak out about unsafe workplace conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance, which is touted as the first of its kind in the United States, was supported by more than two dozen labor, advocacy and nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia.