On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOLI’s) Safety and Health Codes Board (Board) convened and voted to recommend revoking the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 permanent workplace safety standard. This action comes after newly-elected Governor Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Order 6 directing the Board to convene an emergency meeting to consider
Pennsylvania businesses with COVID-19 vaccine requirements may have to provide new exemption for employees
Pennsylvania House of Representatives members have proposed House Bill 2318, which proposes that employers must provide a “natural immunity” exemption to employees under any employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy. The bill defines “natural immunity” as possessing immunity to the COVID-19 virus as a result of previous infection caused by the virus. Thus, if the proposed…
Real Time Video Chat: Workplace vaccination policies in the UK: Latest trends and issues
Next up in our Real Time Video Chat series, David Ashmore, Carl De Cicco and Alison Heaton explore the latest trends and issues regarding workplace vaccination policies in the UK. The group discusses the current statutory position on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, sick pay policies affecting the unvaccinated and what the term “fully vaccinated” means…
New York issues guidance on its latest mask mandate
As we previously reported, effective today, masks must be worn in New York State in “all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.” On Friday, December 10, 2021, the State issued guidance on the measure, clarifying the following key points:
- Definition of indoor public place – An indoor public place
BREAKING: New York State reinstates indoor mask mandate
Just a short while ago, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced that, effective December 13, 2021, masks will be required to be worn in “all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.” This means that, for any business that does not have a proof of vaccination requirement in place, all…
OSHA COVID-19 rule: Sixth Circuit case status update
On November 16, 2021, the Sixth Circuit was selected via a lottery to hear the consolidated challenges made against the recent OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (the ETS). As background, on November 5, 2021, OSHA published the ETS that would require most private employers with 100 or more employees to establish either (1) a mandatory vaccination policy requiring that all covered employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or (2) a vaccination policy that requires that employees choose between being fully vaccinated or submitting to regular and recurring COVID-19 testing.
While all eyes had previously been on the Fifth Circuit, it is now the Sixth Circuit that’s in the spotlight. Not surprisingly, there has been a flurry of activity in the case. There are currently two main issues pending before the court that will certainly shape the dispute: (1) several petitioners have asked for an initial hearing en banc (i.e., requesting that the full court – and not just a three-judge panel – decide the case initially); and (2) the government has asked the court to dissolve the Fifth Circuit’s stay.
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Illinois limits conscience-based vaccine objections, while other states allow them
On November 8, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act (the Act) that will prevent employees from relying on the Act to avoid employer COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandates. The amendment goes into effect on June 1, 2022.
Overview of the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act
The Act was first passed in 1977 and was meant to protect from discrimination health care workers who participated in, or refused to participate in, the delivery or receipt of health care services that were “contrary to their conscience.”
Recently, however, some non-health care workers in Illinois have relied on the Act to claim an exemption from their employers’ COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirements based on the Act’s broad language prohibiting discrimination “against any person in any manner” who refuses to “obtain, receive or accept” health care services or medical care. In fact, several lawsuits have recently been filed by employees claiming that their employers’ policies violate the Act.
Continue Reading Illinois limits conscience-based vaccine objections, while other states allow them
Real Time Video Chat: The basics of the OSHA ETS on vaccination and testing requirements (Part 1)
Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment group is proud to announce the launch of our video chat series, Employment Law Watch: Real Time. The series will focus on new developments and hot topics that employers around the world need to know about. Tune in for regular 10 to 15 minute chats led by the firm’s labor…
Employers subject to OSHA ETS must be mindful of OSH Act whistleblower protections
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act or the Act), employees who raise concerns regarding safety or health in the workplace are protected against retaliation from their employer. With the publication of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) emergency temporary standard (ETS), employers should be mindful that the Act’s whistleblower protections extend to employees who raise concerns about their employer’s compliance with the ETS.
On November 5, 2021, OSHA published its much-anticipated ETS designed to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. We have previously discussed the requirements of the ETS, but generally speaking, the ETS requires employers with 100 or more U.S. employees to implement a policy that either (i) mandates COVID-19 vaccination for all employees, or (ii) encourages vaccination for all employees and requires testing of unvaccinated employees. The ETS also requires paid time off for vaccination and recovery from the side effects of vaccination, and it imposes recordkeeping obligations on employers.
Given OSHA’s limited number of workplace safety inspectors and the large number of employers subject to the ETS, employees will be key in enforcement of the ETS as suggested by recent remarks by the Biden administration. Jim Frederick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, recently stated that OSHA will focus on job sites “where workers need assistance to have a safe and healthy workplace … [t]hat typically comes through in the form of a complaint.” And, on November 10, 2021, in the announcement of a joint initiative between the Department of Labor (DOL), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to increase protections for whistleblowers, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda remarked: “[i]n the U.S. Department of Labor’s fight against … unsafe or unhealthy workplaces, and other unlawful employment practices, we will use all tools available to protect workers from retaliation.”
Further, while employees previously could file complaints with OSHA raising workplace safety and health concerns related to COVID-19 under the Act’s General Duty Clause, the ETS makes it easier for OSHA to establish a violation of the Act. Unlike the amorphous General Duty Clause, the ETS sets out specific standards for employers and penalties for failure to comply. Moreover, the ETS obviates the need for OSHA to establish a recognized hazard – that is, the workplace condition or practice to which employees are exposed has the potential for death or serious physical harm – for each General Duty clause violation since OSHA has already determined that COVID-19 constitutes a recognized hazard determination in issuing the ETS.
Continue Reading Employers subject to OSHA ETS must be mindful of OSH Act whistleblower protections
Vaccination requirements have arrived for all federal and many state employees and health care workers
Recently, we posted about President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, “Path out of the Pandemic” (the Memo). To recap: the Memo instructs OSHA to develop and issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to require all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or to require them to submit to…