On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced his six-pronged COVID-19 Action Plan, which will have a significant impact on employers across the country by mandating vaccinations for many employees. Many key details — including what exemptions may apply to mandatory vaccinations — remain unknown until additional federal guidance is provided in the upcoming weeks.”
As jurisdictions across the world grapple with the effects of the more infectious delta variant, many governments either have taken or are considering more restrictive measures to reduce infection rates and community spread of COVID-19. To encourage individuals to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, countries have developed creative initiatives, including by offering lottery tickets for cash prizes and tickets to soccer (i.e., football) matches, entering raffles to win cars, offering soused herring and providing barbeque sausage sandwiches. Despite these incentives and other forms of encouragement, vaccine hesitancy lingers. As such, some countries in which the “carrot” (i.e., reward) approach has not enticed enough individuals to receive a vaccination now have resorted to the “stick” (i.e., punishment) approach to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination rates. France is an example of a country that has taken a tougher stance on encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.
On August 11, 2021, the City of Philadelphia announced that in order to curb the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, it would be reintroducing certain mask requirements throughout the city.
On July 29, 2021, the Biden administration announced that federal employees and onsite contractors must attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or they will be required to wear a mask on the job and physically distance, comply with at least a weekly screening testing requirement, and restrict official travel. Private employers are encouraged to adopt similar safety protocols; such protocols will likely be required for federal contractors. Specifically, President Biden noted in his remarks that he was “directing [his] administration to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors. If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated.”
This past year, exculpatory waivers had their moment in the sun as businesses and educational institutions raced to put waivers in place to protect against claims stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision published this week, Carter Justice v. Marvel, LLC d/b/a Pump It Up Parties, provides clarity and confidence for the Minnesota businesses and educational institutions that utilize waivers for persons under 18. In an issue of first impression, the appellate court held that an exculpatory waiver signed by a parent on behalf of his or her minor child is binding on the child after the child becomes an adult. The court also reinforced the standard for determining whether a waiver is enforceable under Minnesota law and the effect of an overly broad waiver.
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.