Pennsylvania employers may need to revise policies and practices within the workplace in response to new mitigation order by Governor Wolf

On November 23, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf issued the Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Mitigation, Enforcement and Immunity Protections, which establishes various mitigation measures that Pennsylvania businesses must implement effective November 27, 2020. Many of these measures are already familiar to Pennsylvania businesses that have been implementing the mitigation measures prescribed by the April 15 worker and business safety order, which we discussed in a previous article. Although this Order is, to some extent, a reiteration of many requirements in the April 15 order, it also includes several new and updated requirements that may require Pennsylvania businesses to update current policies and practices. This article highlights some of the most significant new requirements under the new Order.

Mandatory telework

Under the Order, Pennsylvania businesses are required to conduct their operations remotely through telework “unless impossible.” Where telework is impossible, in-person operation of the business may continue subject to the other workplace safety requirements stated in the Order, including, for example, enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing, mask wearing, capacity limits, and workforce scheduling.

Neither the Order nor the updated FAQs for businesses offer guidance as to what would render telework “impossible.” As addressed in our prior articles here and here, a July 15 order had established mandatory telework “unless not possible,” which was clarified in later guidance to mean to the extent possible. It is unclear whether the wording change in the November 23 Order is intended to convey a stricter standard and, if so, what that standard is and how it applies to those positions for which telework is possible for certain job duties but impossible for others. Throughout the pandemic, Pennsylvania employers have faced telework requirements established under shifting standards and the related challenges in balancing the interests of complying with those telework orders and the business needs of completing in-person operations. Unquestionably, Pennsylvania employers would benefit from clearer and consistent guidance. Continue Reading

Pennsylvania employers and employees receive the gift of new post-travel testing/quarantine requirements for the holiday season (Part II)

As addressed in Part 1 of this article, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued new orders on November 17, 2020 targeted at mitigating the recent surge of COVID-19 cases within the Commonwealth in recent weeks.  Part 1 focused on the new face covering requirements now imposed on all Pennsylvanians.  This article focuses on new the requirements for testing and quarantine following out-of-state travel established by the DOH and the impact that the new travel requirements might have on Pennsylvania employers.

New out-of-state travel requirements

The Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating to Travel, mandates that individuals traveling into the Commonwealth from any other state – regardless of whether the individual resides in another state and is travelling to Pennsylvania or the individual is a Pennsylvania resident returning from out-of-state travel – produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 test from a specimen collected within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth.  Individuals who do not have a negative COVID-19 test are required to quarantine for 14 days, and may only leave their homes to receive testing or other necessary medical services.  Failure to comply with the order may result in the imposition of a fine ranging from $25.00 to $300.00.  These newly instituted requirements take effect on Friday, November 20, 2020. Continue Reading

Pennsylvania employers and employees receive the gift of new face covering requirements for the holiday season (Part I)

Like many U.S. states, Pennsylvania has experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.  On November 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health took aggressive steps targeted at mitigating spread of the virus within the Commonwealth by issuing new orders that impose stricter face mask requirements and introduce new requirements for testing and quarantine following out-of-state travel.  For more information on the newly implemented travel requirements and how employers may be impacted, see Part II of this article, available here.

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New York updates its travel protocols for out-of-state travelers for the second time this month

As we previously reported, on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring that individuals returning to New York State from so-called restricted states – i.e., states that met certain COVID-19 transmission levels – quarantine for a period of 14 days upon return.  As we also reported, effective November 4, New York adopted new protocols and issued an updated travel advisory and Interim Guidance allowing out-of-state travelers to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Just six days later, however – on November 10 – the State updated these protocols yet again. This article will summarize the cumulative changes implemented by the November 4 and 10 updates.

Specifically, the updated protocols permit any traveler to New York from a noncontiguous state, a U.S. territory, or a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) level two or three country, to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine as follows: Continue Reading

New York adopts new travel protocols for out-of-state travelers

As we previously reported, on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring that individuals returning to New York State from so-called restricted states – i.e., states that met certain COVID-19 transmission levels – quarantine for a period of 14 days upon return.  Effective November 4, however, New York has adopted new protocols and issued an updated travel advisory allowing out-of-state travelers to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Specifically, the updated protocols permit any traveler to New York from out of state – with the exception of neighboring states Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont – to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine as follows:

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New CDC close contact definition announced for contact tracing and worker exclusion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its definition for close contact in its COVID-19 guidelines. As a result, employers should immediately reevaluate both their social distancing protocols and their contact tracing protocols to ensure full compliance with CDC standards.

The updated definition clarifies that it is contact within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Further, close contact is relevant for contact tracing start two days before the onset of symptoms through the time the infected person is removed from the workplace. Likewise, close contact with asymptomatic individuals will trigger exclusion based on qualifying contact up to two days prior to the asymptomatic individual’s positive COVID-19 test. As a result of these changes, employers should evaluate two key issues. Continue Reading

New Jersey implements additional safeguards for workers in response to rising COVID-19 cases

On October 28, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 192, which will require a series of workplace protections for workers beginning on November 5, 2020.  Importantly, nothing in Executive Order 192 repeals, supersedes, or modifies the requirement of Executive Order 107 that requires businesses to “accommodate their workforce, wherever practical, for telework or work-from home arrangements.”  Employers with in-person staffing are also expected to keep staffing to the “minimum number necessary” and to abide by all other restrictions regarding indoor capacity limitations.

Now, in addition to the prior requirements, workplaces that require or permit a workforce to be physically present at a worksite must, at minimum: Continue Reading

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County vote to ban discrimination against race-based hairstyles

Last week, the Pittsburgh City Council and the Allegheny County Council unanimously voted to ban discrimination on the basis of race-based hairstyles by passing the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (known as the CROWN Act).

The CROWN Acts amend provisions of the City and County Codes addressing employment, housing, real estate, and public accommodation discrimination. Provisions of the County law would also impact public schools, but not private institutions.

Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald are expected to sign the bills.

Assuming that the legislation is signed, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will join a growing number of state and local governments that provide protections from hairstyle discrimination, which predominantly affects the Black community who are targeted for natural hair textures and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots.  State-wide protections exist in California, Washington State, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Colorado and at the local level across the country.

New York City passes key amendments to paid safe and sick leave law

New York City first adopted a local paid sick leave law in 2014. Over the ensuing six years, the City legislature amended the law several times, including in 2018 to add “safe leave” as a form of paid time off. Late last month, the City amended the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA) yet again – this time to align the Big Apple’s local law with the recently-enacted statewide Paid Safe and Sick Leave law (NYSPSL). As detailed below, the bill builds on and expands the ESSTA’s existing paid safe and sick leave requirements.

Scope of coverage

To start, the amendments modify the scope of workers covered by the ESSTA. Under the prior iteration of the law, the ESSTA only applied to individuals who worked in New York City more than 80 hours in a calendar year. The amended law, however, applies to all individuals employed within the City, regardless of the number of hours worked. Continue Reading

Executive Order 13950 on diversity training: Hidden traps for employers

Beginning November 20, 2020, President Trump’s Executive Order 13950 On Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping (“EO 13950” or “The Order”) will fundamentally reshape the way government contractors conduct diversity training.  Signed September 22, 2020, the Order prohibits federal workplace trainings that “promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating.” Importantly for private employers, federal contractors also “will not be permitted to inculcate such views in their employees.” On October 7, 2020, the Department of Labor issued guidance in the form of “frequently asked questions” regarding EO 13950. Continue Reading

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