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 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.

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

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

OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is here, and employers have only about 30 days to start complying. On November 4, 2021, in response to President Biden’s call for an emergency standard (see our prior blog here), OSHA issued the ETS. As expected, the rule requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure employees are either vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19 .

Covered employers need to move quickly. First, by December 5th, 2021, employers must comply with several requirements under the ETS, such as providing paid time for employees to get vaccinated and requiring masks for unvaccinated workers in the workplace.

Next, covered employers must decide whether they will mandate vaccination for all employees or instead allow employees to test weekly in lieu of vaccination.  Employers who mandate vaccination must require employees to have their final vaccination dose – either their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4, 2022. Note that, in a departure from most existing vaccine mandates, employees do not have to be “fully vaccinated” by this deadline, and they just have to have had all required shots.  Employers who elect testing or vaccination must ensure that employees who have not received the necessary doses begin providing a verified negative COVID-19 test on at least a weekly basis after January 4.

Here’s what employers need to know now.

Require vaccines, or test and mask. The ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy-unless employers instead establish, implement, and enforce a policy allowing employees who are not fully vaccinated to elect to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at the workplace. If an employer implements a mandatory vaccination policy, the policy must require vaccination of all employees except those who have a medical contraindication to vaccination, those for whom a vaccine must be delayed out of medical necessity, or those legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation because they have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicting with the vaccination requirement. Employees who are granted reasonable accommodations do not have to be permitted to work onsite while masked, as other accommodations such as remote work may exist, but employers can choose to allow them to do so. Employers must ensure each of their workers are fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis, and those who aren’t vaccinated must wear face coverings while indoors.

Continue Reading “OSHA ETS Day” Is Finally Here: What Employers Need To Know Now About OSHA’s Vaccinate, or Test and Mask Rule

On October 6, 2021, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the country (Ordinance No. 187219, the “Ordinance”), requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for patrons to enter a wide range of private establishments–more than just bars, wineries, or breweries. Employers who are covered by the Ordinance–which is similar to ordinances in New York, West Hollywood, and San Francisco–will have to quickly determine what changes they’ll need to make in order to meet the Ordinance’s requirements less than a month from now.

Here’s what businesses need to know now about the Ordinance.

Where does this matter?

The Ordinance applies to businesses operating within the city limits of Los Angeles, but not those in unincorporated areas of L.A. County.  North Hollywood?  Yes!  Santa Monica? No!

Continue Reading No Shoes, No Shirt, No Jab = No Entry: Proof of Full Vaccination Required in Los Angeles for Patrons to Enter Private Establishments

Federal contractors and subcontractors in the US now have guidance on mandatory vaccines for employees, while private US employers with 100 or more employees are still waiting for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force–the task force created by President Biden to provide workplace guidance to heads of federal agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic–released its COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors (the Guidance). The Guidance primarily addresses vaccination requirements for employees of covered federal contractors, but it also imposes mask and physical distancing requirements for covered contractor worksites (including for employees, visitors and others) and requires contractors to designate a person (or persons) to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at their workplaces.

Continue Reading No Fair! US Federal Contractors Get Guidance on Mandatory Vaccines While Other Private Employers Continue to Wait

On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that he has directed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an emergency temporary standard requiring all US companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested  weekly before coming to work. In an