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 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

The US Supreme Court just blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (the OSHA ETS), reversing the 6th Circuit and granting an emergency stay of the ETS. The stay is temporary, but effectively spells the end of the ETS.

The Court’s Opinion

In its unsigned opinion issued January

Illinois employers have a plethora of new laws to keep up with for 2022. From new Chicago and Cook County patron vaccination orders, to new laws limiting restrictive covenants, to pay data reporting (and more!), new Illinois laws are certain to make for a busy 2022 for Illinois employers. Here are 10 changes employers should know now as we get the ball rolling in 2022.

  1. Chicago and Cook County Vaccination Orders Require Some Employers to Check Vaccination Status of Employees and Require Testing for Unvaccinated Employees

Employers at restaurants, bars, gyms, and other establishments in Chicago and Cook County have already started scrambling to implement patron vaccination requirements–and requirements that they obtain the vaccination status of their employees and require weekly testing for employees who aren’t fully vaccinated. As of January 3, 2022, Mayor Lightfoot’s Public Health Order 2021-2 and the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Public Health Order 2021-11  took effect. Under the Orders, covered businesses (including establishments where food and beverages are served, gyms and fitness venues, and entertainment and recreation venues in areas where food and beverages are served) must:

  • Turn away patrons age 5 and over entering the indoor portion of an establishment unless they show a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or an official immunization record (or a photo of the same) from the jurisdiction, state, or country where the vaccine was administered, reflecting the person’s name, vaccine brand, the date(s) administered and full vaccination status (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). There are certain narrow exceptions, such as allowing individuals inside for 10 minutes or less to carry out food or use the bathroom
  • Post signage informing patrons of the vaccination requirement
  • Develop and maintain a written record of the protocol for implementing and enforcing the Orders’ requirements

While covered businesses that are employers do not have to require employees to be vaccinated, they must:

  • determine the vaccination status of each employee by requiring each vaccinated employee to provide acceptable proof of vaccination status (including whether the employee is fully or partially vaccinated), and maintain a record of each employee’s vaccination status; and
  • require COVID-19 testing for employees who are not fully vaccinated. Employees who are not fully vaccinated and who report at least once every 7 days to a workplace where there are others present must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every 7 days and must provide documentation of the most recent COVID-19 test result to their employer no later than the 7thday following the date on which the employee last provided a test result.

Employers with 100 or more employees must also comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Emergency Temporary Standard (OSHA ETS), at least for now. The US Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether to block the ETS at a special January 7 session, but until the Supreme Court issues its ruling, the ETS stands, requiring employers with at least 100 employees to implement and enforce a policy that mandates employees to be fully vaccinated or to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing. For more on the Chicago and Cook County Orders and the OSHA ETS, see our blog here.

Continue Reading Illinois Employers: Ten Top Developments for 2022

We are pleased to share a recent SHRM article, “What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court’s OSHA Vaccine-or-Testing Case,” with quotes from Robin Samuel. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 7 on whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) overstepped its authority when it issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring

It could be a hectic start to 2022 for some Chicago and Cook County employers. On January 3, 2022, Mayor Lightfoot’s Public Health Order 2021-2 and the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Public Health Order 2021-11  took effect, mandating proof of full vaccination (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) for patrons age five and older before they can enjoy certain public establishments.

Though the Orders are largely patron-focused (and employees are likely not “patrons” under the Orders), businesses in Chicago and Cook County will also need to comply with the Orders’ requirements that employers ensure employees are fully vaccinated or produce weekly negative COVID-19 tests.

Here’s what Chicago and Cook County employers need to know now.

Which establishments are covered?

  • Establishments where food or beverages are served, including but not limited to restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, and hotel ballrooms
  • Gyms and fitness venues, including but not limited to gyms, recreation facilities, fitness centers, yoga, pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, boxing and kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, and other facilities used for conducting indoor group fitness classes
  • Entertainment and recreation venues in areas where food or beverages are served, including but not limited to movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers

What if you own a restaurant that only provides carry out? You won’t need to check the vaccination status of every patron coming in to grab food and go. Individuals entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes for the purpose of ordering and carrying out food, making a delivery, or using the bathroom are exempted. In addition, there are other exemptions, including for individuals who have previously received a medical or religious exemption as long as they provide the establishment proof of the exemption and a COVID-19 test administered by a medical professional within the last 72 hours prior to entering the establishment.

Continue Reading Chicago and Cook County Employers: Ring in the New Year with New COVID Requirements for Patrons and Employees

To mitigate against a 47% increase in the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate and a 14% increase in hospitalizations, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the return of an indoor mask mandate — which will apply irrespective of vaccine status in many locations — starting December 15 and lasting until January 15. California is implementing this change because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and increased travel and mixing of households during the holiday season.

So, just as things were starting to relax a bit in some parts of the state, the California Department of Public Health mask mandate once again tightens up face covering requirements for California employers. What do California employers need to know now?

Who & Where: A number of California counties — including Los Angeles, Ventura, Sacramento, and most of the San Francisco Bay Area – already have their own indoor mask mandates that were implemented in the summer and have no end dates. The new mandate does not supersede these existing orders, and thus will primarily change things for employers in San Diego County, Orange County, the Inland Empire, swaths of the Central Valley, and rural Northern California.

What & When: California employers must comply with the new order by requiring both employees and customers to wear masks in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, from December 15, 2021 to January 15, 2021.

In addition to masking, the state will now require those without proof of vaccination attending events with more than 1,000 people to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day. The previous guidelines required a test within 72 hours. The state will also recommend those who travel in or out of California get tested for COVID-19 within three to five days.

What else are employers asking?

Some employers have questioned whether the mandate covers office settings where workers are 100% vaccinated. The answer is: “it depends.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the CDPH clarified that the new indoor mask mandate only applies to local jurisdictions that do not already have an existing mask requirement in place as of December 13, 2021. Thus, for example, because San Francisco already has an indoor mask mandate that allows stable cohorts of 100% vaccinated people to forego masks in indoor settings like workspaces and gyms, the CDPH clarification enables employers in San Francisco to continue allowing their fully vaccinated stable cohorts to go without masks if they otherwise meet the requirements of the San Francisco health order. (In the Bay Area, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma counties have adopted similar exemptions and thus the same analysis applies.) Note that some counties and cities with mask mandates do not permit vaccinated persons to forgo masks indoors, and in such locations, the local order applies, but vaccinated employees must still wear masks.

Continue Reading Breaking News – Mask Up California! New Statewide Mandate Effective December 15