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On May 27, 2021, Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam announced at a press conference that Pennsylvania’s statewide masking order is slated to be lifted in its entirety effective June 28, 2021. This announcement comes on the heels of the Wolf Administration’s May 4, 2021 announcement that all COVID mitigation orders in Pennsylvania would be lifted effective May 31, 2021, except for the masking order. The May 27 announcement reflects a change of course that sets a firm expiration on the masking requirements, regardless of the Commonwealth’s vaccination rate at that time.

Pennsylvania’s masking order, which was amended March 17, 2021, incorporates by reference the CDC’s Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People under its exceptions from the statewide masking requirements. As such, the masking requirements under the order were effectively lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated (except for in certain limited circumstances, pursuant to CDC guidance), but still applied to those who were not fully vaccinated. At the May 27 press conference, Acting Health Secretary Beam stated that, even once the statewide masking order is lifted, Pennsylvania should continue to follow CDC guidance for wearing a mask. However, the lifting of the masking order indicates that such compliance will be recommended, but not required under state order. That certainly is an important point for which Pennsylvania employers will seek clarity as they eagerly take steps towards returning their workforce to the workplace.
Continue Reading Is that a smile that I see? Pennsylvania businesses adjust reopening plans as the statewide mask mandate is scheduled to be lifted

After more than a year of navigating the myriad orders impacting Pennsylvania businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolf administration has announced that it will lift all mitigation orders, except masking, on May 31, 2021. Although the announcement was sparse on detail, its general nature suggests that the following mitigation mandates – which we have covered in detailed previously – will be lifted this Memorial Day.

  • Remote work

Although remote work was mandated unless impossible for a period of time, the Governor’s amended order of April 1, 2021 modified this requirement to only “strongly encourage” businesses to conduct their operations, in whole or in part, via telework. Effective May 31, 2021, businesses may be permitted to resume their normal in-person operations without restriction.

  • Business and building safety requirements for businesses with in-person operations.

Adhering to enhanced cleaning, sanitation, and operational requirements throughout the pandemic has presented a number of practical issues for businesses. Most recently, Governor Wolf’s November 27, 2020 Order set forth a number of enhanced cleaning and mitigation protocols for businesses maintaining in-person operations, including altering business hours to provide sufficient time to clean; wiping down carts and handbaskets before they become available to customers for use; staggering check-out counters and registers to allow for hourly cleaning; implementing temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of each shift; staggering employee break times; conducting meetings and trainings virtually; and scheduling handwashing breaks as necessary.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania businesses may need to finalize reopening plans

The City of Pittsburgh is expected to enact the new Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), which provides Pittsburgh employees with a new entitlement of up to two weeks of paid time off for qualifying absences related to COVID-19. While this legislation may be well intended, it presents potentially significant challenges for employers with Pittsburgh-based workforces that have spent the past several months adapting to what seems like an ever-evolving carousel of federal, state, and local laws enacted in response to the pandemic.

With the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) set to expire on December 31, 2020, absent an extension by the federal government, the Ordinance appears to be the City’s effort to provide paid leave rights for qualifying reasons relating to COVID-19.

However, the Ordinance considerably exceeds the FFCRA in the scope of covered employers.  All Pittsburgh employers with 50 or more employees (including employers whose employees normally work in the City of Pittsburgh but are now teleworking from other locations as a result of the pandemic) are covered by the Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Ordinance.  By contrast, the FFCRA’s coverage was limited to only employers with fewer than 500 employees. As such, many larger employers with a workforce in Pittsburgh that were excluded from the FFCRA’s coverage will now immediately have to take steps necessary to provide for the requisite paid leave benefits. Further, even if an employer was subject to the FFCRA and previously took actions to provide for COVID-related paid leave, those employers should immediately update previously established policies to ensure compliance with the Ordinance.
Continue Reading Employers with Pittsburgh-based employees face new requirements to provide COVID-19-related paid sick leave

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

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 post-travel testing/quarantine requirements for the holiday season (Part II)

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

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

This is an update to our July 17, 2020 article addressing the July 15, 2020 orders issued by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health “directing mitigation measures” in response to a reported rise in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.

As explained in that prior article, both orders included the following mandate requiring telework:  “Unless not possible, all business are required to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees[.]”

The plain text of these orders generated confusion for many Pennsylvania employers as the scope of the teleworking mandate was unclear.  Accordingly, in our article, we called for Pennsylvania leadership to provide necessary guidance to resolve that confusion and enable Pennsylvania employers to understand whether they were being ordered to utilize telework arrangements “in whole” to the extent possible, or whether reducing the number of workers through “in part” telework arrangements would suffice.
Continue Reading Update: Pennsylvania order mandates telework, but to what extent?

On July 15, 2020, Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued orders “directing mitigation measures” in response to a reported rise in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.  Both orders included the following mandate requiring telework:  “Unless not possible, all business are required to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees[.]”
Continue Reading New Pennsylvania order mandates telework, but to what extent?

On May 4, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a document titled “Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency” (the Business Guidance or the Guidance). The Business Guidance contains the latest requirements applicable to businesses during Pennsylvania’s Red, Yellow, Green phased reopening approach. These new requirements are directed at businesses already conducting in-person operations during the Red phase, and those businesses preparing to open in-person operations in counties designated in the Yellow phase. The governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania has more information regarding Pennsylvania’s phased reopening approach. Briefly, in counties designated as Red phase, only businesses designated as life-sustaining or that otherwise obtained exemptions are permitted to lawfully operate. In counties designated as Yellow phase, some identified additional businesses may lawfully operate subject to certain requirements. A future Green phase would allow for all in-person business to reopen without special state requirements, subject to general adherence to guidelines in place at that time provided by health authorities such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH).
Continue Reading Pennsylvania’s governor issues additional requirements for businesses currently authorized to be open