Special thanks to guest contributor, Melissa Allchin

COVID-19 has been a mainstay for over two years now. Notwithstanding the pandemic’s devastating impacts, employers (and employees) have tired of thinking about COVID-19, and are ready to allocate their energy and resources to other pressing matters, such as the economic crisis or transformative geopolitical events.

Though

Special thanks to presenter Melissa Allchin.

The possibility of putting COVID-19 in our collective rearview mirrors grows every day. But before we declare the pandemic over, our Labor & Employment and Immigration lawyers discuss the key items employers should keep in mind as we head towards the pandemic’s exit, including:

  • contact

Employers across the U.S. are requiring employees to return to the brick and-mortar workplace as COVID-19 cases drop, and they are looking forward to having employees work together again face to face.

But employers beware: employees have had little in-person interaction with their colleagues over the past two years, and some employees who were onboarded

As the COVID-19 Omicron wave recedes and the desire to get back to a pre-pandemic “normal” is stronger than ever, scores of states have either lifted mask mandates or have set a date for lifting them. But what should employers take into account before allowing employees to toss masks aside?

In this Quick Chat video,

As the Omicron wave recedes, a raft of states have announced plans to lift their mask mandates.

In the past few days alone, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island have announced changes to their face covering rules. And if the number of Omicron cases continues to dwindle

On February 9, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation (Senate Bill 114) providing up to two additional weeks of paid time off if an employee is sick with COVID-19, or if they have to take care of a family member who contracts the disease. The law takes effect immediately and is retroactive to January 1, 2022, but an employer’s obligation to provide 2022 COVID-19 supplemental California paid sick leave (CPSL) does not begin until 10 days after the governor signs: February 19, 2022. Leave is available through September 30, 2022.

The law is similar to legislation that expired in September last year.

What kinds of employers are covered?

Small businesses are exempt. The new law only applies to businesses with 26 employees or more.

Who are covered employees?

Covered employees are those unable to work or telework due to certain reasons related to COVID-19, including:

Continue Reading California Revives Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Creating Immediate Obligations for Employers | Everything You Need to Know

Wary of wage and hour class actions, many employers have been grappling with whether and how to compensate employees for activities related to COVID-19. After nearly two years of guessing, on January 20, 2022, the US Department of Labor (DOL) posted Fact Sheet #84, “Compensability of Time Spent Undergoing COVID-19 Health Screenings, Testing, and Vaccinations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),” on its website. The next day, and with no explanation, Fact Sheet #84 disappeared.

Before it disappeared, Fact Sheet #84 addressed the compensability of time spent undergoing those COVID-19 activities with reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (the OSHA ETS). Given that the OSHA ETS had been stayed just a week earlier by the US Supreme Court and then was subsequently withdrawn by OSHA on January 26, Fact Sheet #84’s sudden disappearance is perhaps not surprising. Nevertheless, employers should keep their eyes peeled for an updated Fact Sheet #84 that addresses compensability of testing and vaccination time without references to the OSHA ETS, especially since the advice in the now withdrawn Fact Sheet #84 is in line with other prior DOL advice on compensable time for employer-required testing and medical procedures under the FLSA.

What Fact Sheet #84 Said Before It Was Withdrawn

The guidance in Fact Sheet #84 distinguished between testing and vaccination that occurs during regular work hours and after regular hours:

Activities that occur during normal working hours

  • Under the FLSA, employer-required activities during normal working hours are compensable, unless the activity falls within one of the exceptions stated in 29 C.F.R. Part 785 (e.g., bona fide meal breaks and off-duty time).
  • Employees must be paid for time they spend going to, waiting for, and receiving medical attention required by the employer or on the employer’s premises during normal working hours-including COVID-19 related medical attention. Therefore, if an employer requires an employee to engage in COVID-19 activities (such as receiving a COVID-19 vaccine dose, taking a COVID-19 test, or undergoing a COVID-19 health screening or temperature check) during the employee’s normal working hours, the time is compensable time-regardless of where the activity occurs.


Continue Reading Compensability of COVID-related Activities | The DOL May Have Weighed In to Help Employers Avoid Class Actions

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion ruling that the parties challenging OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, which required private US employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination or regular testing of their workforce, were likely to succeed on the merits of

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court issued two opinions in which the Court (1) blocked enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (OSHA ETS) and (2) allowed enforcement of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid covered facilities.

While the federal contractor vaccination mandate (Contractor Mandate) was not the subject of those cases, the Supreme Court’s decisions hint at its future–and it’s grim.

The Contractor Mandate is Currently Stayed

The Contractor Mandate is currently stayed by multiple district courts. And the 6th Circuit and the 11th Circuit have both declined to lift those stays. There are two more appeals pending in the 5th and 8th Circuits. Resolution of these cases will take months. In the meantime, the federal government cannot enforce the Contractor Mandate. Therefore, the likeliest option is that the Supreme Court simply lets the various Contractor Mandate cases run their course.

However, there’s always a chance the Supreme Court decides to intervene and hear appeals on the stays – as it did with the OSHA ETS and CMS vaccine mandate. If this happens, the Contractor Mandate is in trouble. Here’s why.

The OSHA Opinion (NFIB v. OSHA): OSHA Is Not Authorized to Regulate Public Health

First, an overview of the Supreme Court’s OSHA opinion. On January 13, 2022, the conservative majority of Supreme Court ruled that the parties challenging the ETS are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that OSHA lacked statutory authority to impose the ETS. The majority held that while OSHA is empowered by statute to regulate workplace safety standards and occupational hazards, it has not been authorized to regulate “public health standards” and “the hazards of daily life” more broadly.

The Court acknowledged that the pandemic is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, but distinguished COVID-19 from the typical occupational hazard because it has spread everywhere “that people gather.” The Court characterized COVID-19 as a “kind of universal risk” that is no different from the “day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution or any number of communicable diseases.” The Court concluded that permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while working would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory purview.

The Court said that “we expect Congress to speak clearly when authorizing an agency to exercise powers of vast economic and political significance.” After reviewing the statutory text, the Court found that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) does not clearly authorize OSHA to regulate public health through the ETS. The Court further noted that OSHA has “never before adopted a broad public health regulation…addressing a threat that is untethered…from the workplace.” Put simply, the Court decided that the ETS is not “what the agency was built for.”

Continue Reading What Does the Supreme Court’s Stay of the OSHA ETS Mean for the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate? Don’t Count On It Surviving Judicial Review.

We are pleased to share a recent Corp! article, “Supreme Court Stops Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Large Businesses,” with quotes from Robin Samuel. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Biden administration from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which called for businesses with 100 or more employees to require workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a