OSHA’s Permanent COVID-19 Rule for Healthcare – OIRA Meetings and Next Steps

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

Per our update last month, on December 8, 2022, OSHA delivered to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed final rule for “Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings.”  On behalf of our Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, we secured three stakeholder meetings with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB for the three industry segments in the coalition most likely to be affected by the rule:

    • Construction / Maintenance:  Tuesday, January 3rd
    • Retailers / Retail Pharmacies:  Wednesday, January 4th
    • Manufacturers w/ Medical Clinics:  Thursday, January 5th

Below is a report out from those meetings with OIRA and a discussion about what we think is going to happen next and when.

The meetings were hosted by a Deputy Branch Chief at OIRA with participation by representatives from OMB/OIRA, DOL, DOL’s Office of the Solicitor, SBA’s Office of Advocacy, as well as OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance, Office of Engineering Safety, Office of Physical Hazards, Office of Chemical Hazards, and Office of Regulatory Analysis.

On behalf of our Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, we had representatives from the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) for the Construction / Maintenance industry segment, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for the Retail Pharmacy industry segment, and the American Chemistry Council for Manufacturers with On-site Medical Clinics.

Here are the official records on OIRA’s website about our meetings: Continue reading

Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Non-Emergency Rule Is Adopted

By Megan S. Shaked and Andrew J. Sommer

On December 15, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted 6-1 to adopt the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations. The Non-Emergency Rule was proposed to replace the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, which has been in effect in four different versions since November 30, 2020 and is set to expire on December 31, 2022.

The Office of Administrative Law will now review the new regulation, which is expected to be formally approved, effective January 1, 2023.

Discussion from the Standards Board Meeting

During the meeting, stakeholders provided public comments on the proposed Non-Emergency Rule.  During the public comment period, Conn Maciel Carey spoke on behalf of the California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, composed of a broad array of California employers and trade groups substantially impacted by Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 rulemaking. We urged the Board to vote “no” on the proposal, highlighting the availability of vaccinations, testing and treatment and the inflexibility of the two-year fixed term. We also Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s 2023 OSHA Webinar Series!

ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY LLP’S
2023 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES

Two years into the Biden Administration, with senior political leadership now firmly entrenched at federal OSHA, the agency is making good on its promise to “use all of the tools available” in its regulatory and enforcement toolbox to protect workers.  In part, that has taken the form of increasingly aggressive enforcement (more inspections, more significant penalties, etc.), hiring more compliance officers, launching new special emphasis enforcement programs, and expanding its enforcement policies like its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.  It has also taken the form of a broad-based rulemaking agenda that includes work on a new heat illness rule, pushing out a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare, expanding its E-Recordkeeping requirements, among other high priority rulemakings.

Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before for employers to stay attuned to developments at OSHA.  To help you do so, ​Conn Maciel Carey LLP is pleased to present our complimentary 2023 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes monthly programs (sometimes more often, if events warrant) put on by the OSHA-specialist attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group.  The webinar series is designed to arm employers with the insight into developments at OSHA that they need during this period of unpredictability and significant change.

​To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below, or to register for the entire 2023 series, click here to send us an email request so we can get you registered.  If you missed any of our programs over the past eight years of our annual OSHA Webinar Series, here is a link to a library of webinar recordings.  If your organization or association would benefit from an exclusive program presented by our team on any of the subjects in this year’s webinar series or any other important OSHA-related topic, please do not hesitate to contact us.

2022 Year in Review and 2023 Forecast

Thursday, January 26th

MidYear Review of OSHA Developments

Thursday, July 20th

Annual Cal/OSHA Update

Thursday, February 16th

OSH State Plan Update

Thursday, August 10th

Responding to Whistleblower Complaints

Tuesday, March 21st

Powered Industrial Trucks

Thursday, September 14th

Repeat, Willful, Egregious and SVEP

Thursday, April 13th

Investigations and Audit Reports

Thursday, October 5th

OSHA Rulemaking Update

Thursday, May 18th

OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule

Tuesday, November 14th

Preparing for OSHA Inspections

Thursday, June 8th

Combustible Dust

Thursday, December 7th

See below for the full schedule with program descriptions,
dates, times and links to register for each webinar event.

Continue reading

OSHA’s Proposed Permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare Nears the Finish Line

Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Thankfully, it has been quite a while since our last COVID-19 rulemaking update.

As you will recall, OSHA reopened its rulemaking record for the COVID-19 Rule for Healthcare on March 22, 2022, and then on April 22nd, we submitted three sets of written comments on behalf of the Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition regarding issues facing: (1) retailers and retail pharmacies; (2) addressing embedded medical clinics and emergency response teams for manufacturers and other industrial worksites; and (3) addressing construction issues at healthcare workplacesWe participated in OSHA’s Public Hearing for the rulemaking, held on April 27th – May 2nd, and then submitted two additional sets of post-hearing comments on May 23rd.  Then basically nothing happened.

We were beginning to think that OSHA had abandoned the rulemaking for a permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare.  But we now have some significant news to share.  Last week, on December 8th, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its website to reflect that it officially has OSHA’s “Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings” Standard “under review.”

The website reflects that OMB received the proposed final rule from OSHA on December 7thHere is a link to the page for this rulemaking and below is all the relevant information reflected on OMB’s website: Continue reading

Biden Administration Signals that the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate May Go Into Effect, But Not Yet

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On Friday, October 14th, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) issued some “clarifications” about the expected next steps for Executive Order 14042 – the federal contractor vaccine mandate – now that the longstanding nationwide injunction restricting enforcement of the E.O. has been narrowed by order of the Eleventh Circuit.  That narrowing (to just the six States that were named parties to the legal challenge in Georgia v. Biden) took effect on October 18th.  OMB and the Task Force suggested that we would see at least three new guidance documents now that the injunction is narrowed, including:

    1. OMB would give notice to federal agencies about compliance with applicable injunctions, and also whether, where and when the new clause implementing Executive Order 14042 should be included in new solicitations and contracts.
    2. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force would update its COVID-19 guidance for covered contractor workplaces, including a timeline for implementation.  Last week’s clarification specified that this “updated guidance [by the Task Force] will be issued following development and review by the Task Force, subject to the OMB Director’s approval and determination published in the Federal Register that the updated guidance promotes economy and efficiency in Federal contracting, in accordance with Executive Order 14042.”
    3. After the updated Task Force guidance issues, and if the OMB Director makes a determination that implementation of the E.O. in some form continues to promote economy and efficiency in federal contracting , then OMB would provide additional guidance to agencies on timing and considerations for provision of written notice from agencies to contractors regarding enforcement.

On October 19th (the day after the 11th Circuit’s narrowing of the nationwide injunction took effect), OMB did issue one of the notices we were expecting. Continue reading

Governor Newsom to End COVID-19 State of Emergency, While Standards Board Marches On

In major news yesterday, Governor Newsom announced that California’s COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on February 28, 2023.  See the following excerpts from the governor’s press release:

  • Capture“With hospitalizations and deaths dramatically reduced due to the state’s vaccination and public health efforts, California has the tools needed to continue fighting COVID-19 when the State of Emergency terminates at the end of February, including vaccines and boosters, testing, treatments and other mitigation measures like masking and indoor ventilation. As the State of Emergency is phased out, the SMARTER Plan continues to guide California’s strategy to best protect people from COVID-19.”
  • “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been guided by the science and data – moving quickly and strategically to save lives. The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we utilized to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” said Governor Newsom. “With the operational preparedness that we’ve built up and the measures that we’ll continue to employ moving forward, California is ready to phase out this tool.”
  • “To maintain California’s COVID-19 laboratory testing and therapeutics treatment capacity, the Newsom Administration will be seeking two statutory changes immediately upon the Legislature’s return: 1) The continued ability of nurses to dispense COVID-19 therapeutics; and 2) The continued ability of laboratory workers to solely process COVID-19 tests.”

In contrast to Governor Newsom’s announcement, however, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board continues to advance a  proposed non-emergency COVID-19 rule, with a two-year fixed term extending well beyond the end of the State of Emergency. Just last Friday, the Standards Board issued a revised draft of the non-emergency rule providing a 15-day notice period for comments. The revised non-emergency rule provides the following substantive changes: Continue reading

OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules [Webinar Recording]

On September 13, 2022, Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Ashley D. Mitchell presented a webinar regarding Important Nuances of OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules.

Although OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rules may seem clear on their face, there are many nuances in the applicable standards that can create challenges to accurately making and maintaining those required records and reports. And the accuracy of injury and illness records could be becoming even more essential in light of the changes OSHA has proposed to the current e-recordkeeping rule, which would increase the availability and use of injury and illness data.

Already, e-recordkeeping data is collected by OSHA and used in developing and executing its Site-Specific Targeting (“SST”) Program based on an employer’s 300A Summary. Per the changes proposed in the current rulemaking effort, OSHA intends to expand who is required to submit recordkeeping data, what data is collected, and what data is shared with the public. This would result in more employers’ injury and illness data being under the microscope and incorporated into OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Indeed, as COVID-19 recordkeeping continues to drive up DART rates for a number of employers due to the need for COVID-19 positive employees to isolate, more may be pulled in OSHA’s SST Program. Thus, it is important for employers to understand the changes possibly to come in e-recordkeeping, as well as what those changes could mean in the context of evaluating and recording/reporting injuries and illnesses.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Moves Closer to Issuing Its COVID-19 Non-Emergency Standard

By Andrew Sommer and Megan Shaked

In July 2022, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revealed a proposed Permanent COVID-19 regulation. The draft permanent rule is intended to replace the current version of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that is set to expire at the end of 2022.  Here is a link to the agency’s draft regulatory text for the permanent rule.

On July 29, 2022, the Standards Board issued a rulemaking notice that set both the date for a meeting of the Standards Board when the proposed COVID-19 permanent rule would be debated and discussed, as well as an official due date for written comments from interested stakeholder.  Both of those were yesterday, September 15, 2022.  A vote on a proposed final rule is expected in late November or December, with the rule replacing the ETS and going into effect on January 1, 2023 and continuing through December 2024.

Background about the Proposed Permanent Rule

The proposed non-emergency rule (commonly referred to as the permanent rule) would apply until 2 years after effective date, with recordkeeping requirements applying until 3 years after effective date.  The most significant expansion in the proposal is the incorporation of the controversial new definition of “close contact” from the California Department of Public Health, which now means Continue reading

New Twist in the Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine-Mandate Saga

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

In case anyone has forgotten, there are still a few COVID-19 vaccine mandates out there that the Supreme Court has not struck down.  There are the federal employee and military vaccine mandates, and for private employers, the federal contractor vaccine-mandate.  The federal contractor mandate arose from Pres. Biden’s Executive Order 14042, which directed executive agencies to include a clause in procurement agreements requiring employees who work on or in connection with a covered federal contract, or who even share a workplace with another employee who does, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  

You may have forgotten about that federal contractor vaccine mandate because that requirement has been the subject of nationwide temporary injunction for the last nine months, following a decision in December 2021 by a federal district court judge in Georgie in a legal challenge captioned Georgia v. Biden, one of several legal challenges to the Biden Administration’s authority to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine through the 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (aka the Procurement Act).  The district court judge in Georgia v. Biden entered a nationwide preliminary injunction after concluding that the plaintiff States and one trade association were likely to prevail on their assertion that the mandate was outside the scope of the Procurement Act. The judge ordered the federal government not to enforce the mandate in any covered agreement, and several other federal courts have also imposed other, though narrower, restrictions on EO 14042.  Since then, the Administration has shelved the vaccine requirement for federal contractors. 

A lot of water has also passed under the bridge since that time, and the COVID-19 landscape has changed pretty significantly.  Most notably, the CDC recently updated its COVID-19 guidance in several ways, but most relevant to the federal contractor vaccine mandate, the CDC now no longer distinguishes between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals for how COVID-19 controls should apply.  For example, quarantine and isolation requirements are perfectly aligned for fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and completely unvaccinated individuals.  The rationale for the new relaxed guidance from Pres. Biden’s CDC is that there are now “so many tools available to use for reducing COVID-19 severity, [so] there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”  That rationale would seemingly undermine the original purpose of the federal contractor vaccine mandate – ensuring “economy and efficiency” of the federal procurement system by ensuring the health of the contracting workforce.

Nevertheless, the Administration has continued to defend the federal contractor vaccine mandate as the legal challenges to EO 14042 have moved through the court system.  The latest development in that litigation came in yet another Friday night COVID-19 surprise, Continue reading

CDC Updates Its COVID-19 Guidance – But Still No Word From OSHA

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Thankfully, it has been quite a while since there has been a material update to discuss on the COVID-19 front.  Except for those of you in the healthcare space, things continue to be pretty quiet at OSHA on that front, but as I am sure you all have seen, a week ago, on August 11th, the CDC updated some of its COVID-19 guidance in a way that probably affects many employers’ COVID-19 protocols. 

The CDC’s new guidance, entitled Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems, scales back prior onerous recommendations for COVID-19 prevention strategies based on an acknowledgement in the guidance document that:

“with so many tools available to use for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”

However, how the new guidance maps to workplaces is not a simple analysis.  As has been the case throughout the pandemic, trying to apply CDC’s guidance to general industry workplaces, when it is actually written for the general public or for specific sectors (most often public health agencies and healthcare) is not always intuitive, and often leads to conflicting and impossible outcomes.  Of course, that’s where OSHA is supposed to come in; i.e., to take CDC’s general guidance and explain for employers how it should apply in private industry workplaces.  But OSHA has not kept up with its duty in that regard.  Indeed, despite promises for more than five months that updated COVID-19 guidance was coming “soon,” OSHA has not chimed in about how it expects employers to map CDC’s general public guidance to the workplace since before the Delta variant struck.  So with that vacuum, here is our best take on the CDC’s updated guidance.

What Does CDC’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance Change?  Continue reading

Update on the Timeline for OSHA to Finalize the Permanent COVID Rule for Healthcare

It’s been a while since our last update about OSHA’s rulemaking for the permanent COVID-19 rule for healthcare, which is very good news.  It was always a possibility that by the time OSHA got around to finalizing and issuing its permanent COVID-19 regulation that the pandemic would be in such a state that it would not make any practical, health, or political sense to actually issue the rule.  But that does not appear to be OSHA’s thinking right now, or the thinking of the DC Circuit and the nurses unions that continue to push OSHA to finalize the rule.

According to a sworn statement by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Doug Parker on July 25, 2022, OSHA remains “on track” to complete its long-term COVID-19 safety healthcare standard in September to October of 2022.  This is consistent with OSHA’s January 2022 statement that it intended to develop a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare workers within six to nine months.

Assistant Secretary Parker’s statement appears to be a reaction to inconsistent testimony from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh before the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 15, 2022.  There, Secretary Walsh testified that OSHA would finalize the standard in three to six months, which sounded like a shift in OSHA’s target issuance date to later in the year or even next year.  Continue reading

What Does the EEOC’s Updated COVID-19 Testing Guidance Mean for Employers

By Kara M. Maciel and Ashley D. Mitchell

As COVID-19 infections continue to climb, the EEOC rolled back its guidance that COVID-19 viral screening tests conducted by employers is always permissive under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The updated guidance requires employers to weigh a host of factors and determine whether COVID-19 viral screening is “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” the traditional standard for determining compliance with the ADA.

The Factors Employers Should Consider:

Under the EEOC’s updated FAQs, an employer may, as a mandatory screening measure, administer a COVID-19 viral test, if the employer can show it is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” In making this determination, employers should assess these factors:

  • The level of community transmission
  • The vaccination status of employees
  • The accuracy and speed of processing different types of COVID-19 viral tests
  • The degree to which breakthrough infections are possible for employees who are “up to date” on vaccinations
  • The ease of transmissibility of the current variant(s)
  • The possible severity of illness from the current variant
  • What types of contact employees may have with others in the workplace or elsewhere that they are required to work
  • The potential effect on operations of an employee enters the workplace with COVID-19

It is worth noting, Continue reading

Comment Period Set for Cal/OSHA’s Permanent COVID-19 Rule

Last month, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revealed a proposed Permanent COVID-19 regulationThe draft permanent rule is intended to replace the current version of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that is set to expire at the end of 2022.  Here is a link to the agency’s draft regulatory text for the permanent rule.

The proposed permanent rule is expected to remain in effect for two years, except for the record-making and recordkeeping provisions that would remain effective for three years.

On July 29, 2022, the Standards Board issued the attached rulemaking notice that set both the date for a meeting of the Standards Board when the proposed COVID-19 permanent rule would be debated and discussed, as well as an official due date for written comments from interested stakeholder.  Both of those are set for September 15, 2022.

The rulemaking process for the proposed permanent rule is different than with the prior iterations of the emergency COVID-19 rulemaking.  A nonemergency rule requires Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Reveals a Draft of Its Proposed “Permanent” COVID-19 Regulation

By Andrew J. Sommer

Cal/OSHA has used up all of its “re-adoptions” of its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, so if COVID-19 regulatory requirements are to remain in effect in California into 2023, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board will need to adopt a “Permanent” COVID-19 rule. At a meeting of the Cal/OSH Standards Board last week, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) revealed a proposed Permanent COVID-19 rule.

Andrew J. Sommer, the Head of CMC’s Cal/OSHA Practice, was interviewed by InsideOSHA about these developments.  Here’s a link to the article with that detailed interview, and below is some additional context and background about the rulemaking.

The draft permanent rule is intended to replace the COVID-19 ETS that is set to expire at the end of 2022.  Here is a link to the agency’s draft regulatory text for the permanent rule.  The proposed permanent rule is expected to remain in effect for two years, except for the record-making and recordkeeping provisions that would remain effective for three years.

While DOSH previously indicated that the “permanent” rule would be consistent with the ETS, there are a few significant changes we have identified.  Most troubling among them, the definition of “close contact” has been made consistent with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance removing the 6-foot, 15-minutes standard.  Instead, the draft defines close contact as:

Continue reading

[Panel Webinar] A Chat with EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling: Artificial Intelligence in the Workforce in 2022 and Beyond

​Join Kara Maciel and Jordan Schwartz on Tuesday, June 7th at 2 PM ET for a very special bonus event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 Labor and Employment Webinar Series in the form of a panel webinar program regarding The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Workforce in 2022 and Beyond.

Presented by
Conn Maciel Carey LLP with Special Guest
EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling

On May 12, 2022, the EEOC issued a Technical Assistance (“TA”) document entitled, “The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Use of Software, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence to Assess Job Applicants and Employees” focused on providing “clarity to the public regarding existing requirements” under the ADA and agency policy. This is the first guidance document the EEOC has issued regarding the use of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) in employment decision-making since announcing its Al Initiative in October 2021.

It’s no secret that more employers have turned to AI to enhance their work processes over the years. An estimated 83% of employers have Continue reading

Coalition to Work on OSHA’s Rulemaking to Expand the E-Recordkeeping Rule

On March 30th, OSHA published a new proposed rule to amend and dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule (i.e., the E-Recordkeeping Rule).  Read our full article here for more information about the history of E-Recordkeeping, the new proposed amendments to the E-Recordkeeping Rule, and the implications of the proposed changes.

As we have had to do too often the last couple of years, Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Team is organizing a flat fee-based rulemaking coalition of employers and trade groups to collaborate to work on submitting public comments on this new proposal and otherwise participate in the rulemaking process to advocate for the most manageable possible E-Recordkeeping Rule.

We held a kickoff call for the coalition earlier this week.  If you were unable to attend, we are pleased to share links to the recording and a copy of the slides that we used. We expect to have a follow up virtual meeting in May to solicit detailed input from coalition participants and review our advocacy strategy.

There is still time to join our coalition if your organization would like to partner with us on this rulemaking.  OSHA requested public comments to be submitted by May 31, 2022.

We expect to address, among other important concerns, that: Continue reading

11th Cir. Hears Oral Argument in Challenge to Biden’s EO for a Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine-Mandate

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

This past Friday, April 8, 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument in Georgia v. Biden, one of the legal challenges to President Biden’s Executive Order imposing a hard vaccine-mandate on federal contractors.  This was the first of several challenges to the federal contractor vaccination mandate to be heard at the US Court of Appeals level, and this particular challenge reaches the 11th Circuit with a rare nationwide temporary injunction imposed at the district court level.

There’s a link to the recording of the 11th Circuit argument on this page – https://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/oral-argument-recordings.  Scroll down to docket number 21-14269.  The recording is difficult to load, it stops and starts, and the sound quality is uneven, so if you don’t want to subject yourself to that, here is a summary of the argument and our best effort to read the tea leaves.

During this hearing, the three-judge panel was most interested in two aspects of the dispute: Continue reading

Religious and Disability Accommodations in Response to COVID-19 Mandates [Webinar Recording]

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, Andrew J. Sommer and Lindsay A. DiSalvo presented a webinar regarding Religious and Disability Accommodations in Response to COVID-19 Mandates.

Employee requests for medical and/or religious accommodations in the workplace are not new. However, never before have these accommodation requests been such a hot-button topic, nor have these accommodation requests been used so frequently (and in particular, religious accommodation requests). The imposition of COVID-19 vaccine mandates has changed that, particularly with regard to religious accommodation requests, which has become the ultimate “gray area,” as both employers and employees alike have learned that sincerely held religious belief can include an employee’s religious-based objection to vaccinations. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued guidance regarding the obligations of employers under Title VII when an employee presents with a religious objection to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, which actually builds upon prior EEOC guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccinations in the employment context. Thus, there are multiple issues that employers need to keep in mind and juggle when addressing these vaccination accommodation requests.

Participants in this webinar learned how to best deal with such requests by their employees, including: Continue reading

Virginia OSHA Rescinds Its “Permanent” COVID-19 Rule and Introduces New Workplace Guidance

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Under the direction of then-Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, the Commonwealth of Virginia was the very first U.S. State to implement a broad, all-industry programmatic COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) way back in July 2020.  Through all the fits and starts with federal OSHA’s COVID-19 rulemaking, VOSH’s COVID-19 regulation was a consistent presence through most of the pandemic.  Indeed, that ETS was made “permanent” in January 2021, months before federal OSHA had even adopted its COVID-19 ETS for Healthcare.

However, on his first day in office – January 15, 2022 – new Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin signed an Executive Order directing the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (“Board”) to determine whether there was a continuing need for these regulations (with more than a little pressure from the Governor’s office to conclude it was not).  Not surprisingly, under that political pressure, and in the wake of the Supreme Court’s harsh decision about federal OSHA’s authority to regulate COVID-19, by mid-February, the Board had adopted the position of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (“DOLI”) that “based on emerging scientific and medical evidence, [COVID-19] no longer constitute[s] a grave danger to employees in the workplace.”

That Board finding started a 30-day clock for public notice and comment about the Board’s intention to repeal the rule, and as expected, the Board voted on March 21st to rescind the ETS (effective March 23rd, 2022).

So where does that leave Virginia employers?  Continue reading

BREAKING – OSHA Reopens Rulemaking for a Permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare (Expanded Scope)

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

After OSHA just recently initiated a three-month COVID-19 focused enforcement blitz targeting the healthcare industry, earlier this week, on March 22nd, OSHA announced that it has officially reopened the rulemaking record for a “permanent” COVID-19 standard applicable to the healthcare industry, and perhaps now some industries tangentially related to healthcare.

OSHA will accept comments on the proposed permanent standard through April 22, 2022, and has scheduled a public hearing on the rulemaking for April 27th.

Below we provide some important background and recommendations on next steps to ensure the healthcare industry and other potentially impacted employers maximize this opportunity to influence the direction and outcome of the permanent COVID-19 rulemaking.

Importantly, we also identify below a potential major expansion of the scope of coverage of the standard that OSHA is contemplating.  OSHA is explicitly considering eliminating the coverage exemption that had been included in the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare (the ETS) for those ambulatory care, non-hospital settings where some healthcare services are provided, but that screen individuals for COVID-19 before entry and prevent COVID-19 infected individuals from entering. If that exemption is not carried forward from the ETS into the permanent standard, then general industry manufacturers that have medical clinics onsite; dental and other doctors’ offices; retail pharmacies; etc. will be pulled into coverage under the permanent standard; i.e., any employer that operates any type of facility where any form of healthcare services are provided could be regulated by the permanent standard.  It is imperative, therefore, that potentially impacted employers participate in this rulemaking.

Why is OSHA Partially Reopening the Rulemaking? Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Andrew SommerFred Walter, and Megan Shaked presented a webinar regarding a Cal/OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update.

This has been a challenging year for California employers navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with a set of ever-changing regulatory requirements, as well as a flurry of other new workplace safety laws the legislature passed towards the end of 2021. This update covered the latest legislative and rulemaking developments concerning COVID-19, including the second re-adopted COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  We will also cover other laws creating new workplace safety requirements and expanding the Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (DOSH) enforcement authority.

During this webinar, participants learned about: Continue reading

BREAKING – OSHA Launches New COVID-19 Enforcement Blitz for Healthcare Employers

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

On Tuesday, March 8th, OSHA announced a major COVID-19 enforcement blitz in the healthcare industry that will last for the next three months.  OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum announcing the enforcement program, which OSHA is referring to as a major “saturation effort,” to ensure that hospitals and others in the healthcare industry have appropriate COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place to protect workers today and are prepared for a future variant.  The program will be comprised of a short-term burst of highly-focused inspections directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat COVID-19 patients.  Below is a summary of who is covered, when the enforcement effort will end, the impact on State OSH Plans, and what to expect during the inspections.

OSHA states that the goal of this inspection program is to expand its presence to ensure continued mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 and preparation for future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and to protect the health and safety of healthcare workers at heightened risk for contracting the virus.  New Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Doug Parker stated:

“We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard….  We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare.”

OSHA plans to conduct as many as 1,000-1,500 inspections in the next 90 days to determine whether hospital and other healthcare workers are being adequately protected from COVID-19 spread at work.  The inspections will last 2-4 days and will focus on what had been the major elements of OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare.  The OSHA resources designated for this enforcement blitz and the revised COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) will comprise at least 15% of OSHA’s enforcement activity for the year.

Who is Covered by the Enforcement Effort?

The initiative supplements OSHA’s targeted enforcement under the Revised COVID-19 NEP [DIR 2021-03 (CPL 03)], by conducting focused, partial follow-up and monitoring inspections of previously inspected or investigated hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities within four North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes listed in the enforcement memorandum, where COVID-19 citations or Hazard Alert Letters were issued, including remote-only inspections where COVID-19-related citations were issued.  Specifically, facilities in the four NAICS codes listed below may be selected for inspections under the initiative if they meet one of the following criteria: Continue reading

VOSH Begins the Process of Withdrawing its “Permanent” COVID-19 Rule

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

Last Wednesday (February 16th), at the direction of Virginia’s new Governor, Virginia OSHA’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to withdraw VOSH’s COVID-19 Regulation. The Board’s vote came after VOSH recommended that COVID-19 no longer constituted a “grave danger,” the legal showing required to justify an emergency rule.  Procedurally, the board vote was just the first step. Next is a 30-day public comment period, followed by a public hearing, then a final Board vote. If the measure is in fact repealed after the final Board vote, then Virginia employers would no longer have to require employees who work indoors to wear a face covering,; social distance; provide employee training; improve or maintain ventilation systems; or inform the VA Department of Health about outbreaks.

Although this move comes in lock step with Friday’s CDC announcement that it is rescinding mask guidance, along with other states like California and New Jersey rescinding their mask mandate, on January 15th Virginia’s newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an Executive Order instructing the Board to Continue reading

CDC Relaxes Face Covering and Distancing Guidelines

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

As governors and big city mayors across the country have been allowing indoor masking mandates to expire over the last few weeks, last Friday, February 25th, the CDC unveiled a brand new approach to assessing COVID-19 risks and setting mask and distancing recommendations.   The CDC’s old tool, which measured the number of COVID-19 cases to determine the relevant level of virus transmission in each community had lost its usefulness as it rendered nearly the entire country as high-risk (95% of all counties), even as the number of people getting seriously ill had dropped precipitously this year.

CDC’s new guidelines measure the impact the pandemic by looking at three factors week over week:

  1. New cases per capita (as with the prior guidelines; but also
  2. New COVID-19 related hospital admissions; and
  3. The percentage of area hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Each county will have a weekly “COVID Community Level Rating” that is either Low (green), Medium (yellow) or High (orange).  Each level/color has recommended mitigation strategies, set in the table below:

Here is a link to CDC’s tool to identify the level of COVID-19 transmission in your county.

The big news is that CDC recommends Continue reading

OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement [Webinar Recording]

On Thursday, February 10, 2022, Eric J. ConnKate McMahonAaron Gelb and Amanda Strainis-Walker presented a webinar regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement.

As US employers grapple with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant, they are also left to grapple with uncertainty following the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstitute a Stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS. Will we see another COVID-19 emergency rule that tries to navigate the guardrails set by the Supreme Court? Will OSHA return to aggressive enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause? What is expected from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid OSHA enforcement?

During this webinar, attorneys from CMC’s COVID-19 Task Force provided a detailed analysis of OSHA’s regulatory and enforcement landscape post-Supreme Court. Specifically, we addressed these important questions raised by the latest developments on the COVID-19 front: Continue reading