Conn Maciel Carey LLP with Special Guests Neal Katyal and Jordan Barab
In this exclusive, bonus program we will facilitate a panel discussion regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision to stay OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test emergency temporary standard, what that decision means for employers in fed OSHA and State OSH Plan states, and how OSHA will address the COVID-19 hazard in the workplace moving forward.
We are especially excited to be hosting a remarkable cast of panelists for this event:
Neal Katyal – former Acting Solicitor General of the United States and leading Constitutional Law expert; Partner at Hogan Lovells and Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center
Jordan Barab – President Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and Acting Head of OSHA; former Sr. Policy Advisor to the US House Education and Labor Committee
The Supreme Court has spoken, and OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing and Face Coverings Emergency Temporary Standard is once again subject to a nationwide judicial stay. The conservative majority on the Court reasoned that the 50-year old OSH Act does not include an explicit-enough delegation of authority from the US Congress for OSHA to issue a regulation that addresses an issue that is not unique to the workplace and which is of such great economic and social significance. Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh announced that “OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.”
So, the big question facing employers now is what are the potential regulatory pitfalls from unwinding or stopping the implementation of any of their COVID-19 prevention and/or vaccination policies developed either in response to OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS or more general efforts to keep up with CDC recommendations and/or protect against OSHA General Duty Clause citations? Or said another way, without the COVID-19 emergency standards, what does OSHA expect from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid enforcement? Continue reading →
As we kickoff Year 2 of the Biden Administration, it is time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA during the very eventful year that just concluded. And more importantly, it is time to look ahead and assess what to expect from OSHA now that OSHA’s full senior leadership team is in place and ready to put its stamp on the agency.
In this webinar, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group reviewed OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and personnel developments from 2021. We also discussed the top OSHA issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.
After its normal release of opinions this morning that did not include a decision about whether to stay OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS, this afternoon, at approximately 2:30 PM, the United States Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision reinstituting a stay of OSHA’s ETS. Here is a link to the opinion of the Court.
A per curiam decisions is a court opinion issued in the name of the Court rather than specific judges, but it is certainly not an indication that the decision was unanimous or non-controversial, and in this instance, we know it was not that. The decision was 6-3 with a concurrence by Justice Gorsuch (joined by Justices Thomas and Alito), and a joint dissent by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
What Was the Legal Basis for the Court’s Decision?
As we anticipated based on the tone of last week’s oral argument last week, the majority of the Court based its decision on the lack of an explicit enough delegation of authority from Congress for OSHA to issue a regulation of this significance and of an issue that is not unique to the workplace. That rationale could have broader implications for OSHA’s regulatory reach than just this COVID-19 ETS (see heat illness):
“Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”
As we kickoff Year 2 of the Biden Administration, it is time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA during the very eventful year that just concluded. And more importantly, it is time to look ahead and assess what to expect from OSHA now that OSHA’s full senior leadership team is in place and ready to put its stamp on the agency.
In this webinar, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group will review OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and personnel developments from 2021. We will also discuss the top OSHA issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.
The Department of Labor was represented at argument by the Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. The lawyers representing the petitioners that are seeking an emergency stay of OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS were:
Scott Keller from Lehotsky Keller LLP, representing National Federation of Independent Business and other industry associations; and
Benjamin Flowers, the Solicitor General of Ohio, representing Ohio and other petitioner states.
The Ohio Solicitor General, arguing against OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS, appeared remotely for the argument because he tested positive for COVID-19, somewhat ironically, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s own testing mandate for lawyers who would appear in-person to argue before the Court.
Our very high level takeaway from the argument today, and based on the nature of the questions the various Justices asked and what we know about their jurisprudence, it seemed that the conservative majority of the Court Continue reading →
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the state of Illinois, operators of indoor dining establishments, gyms, and entertainment venues where food and drinks are being served in the City of Chicago face a series of new requirements that necessitate quick action. Beginning January 3, 2022, Public Health Order 2021-2 will require all individuals over the age of 5, show proof of full vaccination to dine indoors, workout, and patronize entertainment venues. For purposes of the Public Health Order, fully vaccinated is the more restrictive of either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance or Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) posted guidelines. For the time being, both the CDC and CDPH guidelines are aligned, defining fully vaccinated as two weeks after receiving the second dose in a two dose vaccination series and one week after receiving a single dose in a single dose vaccination series. It remains to be seen if, or when, the recommended-but-not-required boosters will be added to that definition.
Employers, of course, must quickly figure out how to implement measures to comply with this Order—both with respect to customers/guests as well as with employees given that the Order does not have a minimum employee threshold like the Fed OSHA ETS. This means that even small, independently owned restaurants and bars will be expected to comply even if they were not covered by the ETS which kicked in only at 100 employees.
ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY’S
2022 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES
A full year into the Biden Administration, the senior leadership team at federal OSHA is set, the agency’s new regulatory agenda has been revealed, and the enforcement landscape has begun to take shape, revealing a dramatic shift in priorities, including stronger enforcement, higher budgets and more robust policies protecting workers, and a renewed focus on new rulemaking. Following an Administration that never installed an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, relied almost exclusively on the General Duty Clause to enforce COVID-19 safety measures, drastically curtailed rulemaking, and declined to issue an emergency COVID-19 standard, the pendulum swing at OSHA has already been more pronounced than during past transitions. Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before for employers to stay attuned to developments at OSHA.
Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s complimentary 2022 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes monthly programs (sometimes more often, if events warrant) put on by the OSHA-focused attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA 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 2022 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 seven 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.
This Healthcare ETS was issued back in June 2021 in response to President Biden’s Day 1 OSHA Executive Order. Recall that this was the ETS that had been crafted by OSHA to apply to all employers in all industries, but as it was being finalized in late Spring, when it looked like we might just be approaching the end of the pandemic, the Administration decided to narrow the scope to just the healthcare industry. That ETS was what we call a “programmatic” standard; requiring the development of a comprehensive COVID-19 prevention program, complete with an array of required engineering and administrative controls. When the Healthcare ETS was issued, OSHA noted on its webpage for the ETS that it expected the ETS to be in effect for six months from the date of publication — until December 21, 2021.
December 21st came and went without any word from OSHA. But on Monday of last week, , six days after the Healthcare ETS’s six-month anniversary, OSHA issued a statement that:
“[while OSHA] intends to continue to work expeditiously to issue a final standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards, and will do so as it also considers its broader infectious disease rulemaking[,]” it is “withdrawing the non-recordkeeping portions of the healthcare ETS. The COVID-19 log and reporting provisions … remain in effect.”
New York City employers finally have some clarity about whether the New York City private employer hard vaccine mandate will survive the transition from Mayor de Blasio to Mayor-Elect Eric Adams, and will be enforced under the new Administration. Late last week, on December 30th, Mayor-Elect Eric Adams announced that he will keep Mayor de Blasio’s private-sector vaccine mandate in place, which took effect earlier this week – on Monday, December 27th, but with a focus on compliance – not punishment. He also noted that the city will promptly analyze whether the mandate, along with other NYC vaccine requirements, will need to be updated to include obligatory booster doses in lieu of two vaccine shots, according to Adams’ winter coronavirus agenda passed out to reporters Thursday morning.
As outlined in our prior communication about the NYC mandate below (and in this blog article), beginning December 27, 2021, workers are required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to a covered entity before entering the workplace, and a covered entity must exclude from the workplace any worker who has not provided such proof, unless they are provided an accommodation for a disability or religious reason.
A “Covered entity” means a non-governmental entity that employs more than one worker in New York City or maintains a workplace in New York City; or a self-employed individual or a sole practitioner who works at a workplace or Continue reading →
On December 27, 2021, the CDC updated and shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine periods for the general population. To be precise, yesterday CDC issued a media statement laying out its new guidance, but CDC’s actual Isolation Guidance webpage has not yet been updated. CDC explained in the statement that:
“[b]oth updates [to the isolation and quarantine periods] come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.”
What are CDC’s New Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines?
With respect to isolation (which relates to behavior after a confirmed infection), CDC states:
“[g]iven what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.”
Explaining the change, CDC maintains that it is “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days, and if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.”
Additionally, with respect to quarantine (which refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19), CDC states: Continue reading →
We wanted to share (hopefully) one last ETS update before Christmas. As you know, when the Fifth Circuit issued its Stay of OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in November, OSHA announced that it had “suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” Essentially, OSHA said it was “pencils down” completely – no longer responding to email inquiries about interpretations of ETS terms, no longer speaking/presenting about the ETS, and importantly, no longer producing additional compliance guidance or FAQs.
With the Sixth Circuit lifting the Stay last week, however, OSHA immediately updated its website to reflect that the agency “can now once again implement this vital workplace health standard.” OSHA went right back to work on compliance assistance, not just licking its chops to start enforcing the rule. Indeed, in the last couple of days, OSHA has updated its FAQs on its Vaccination and Testing ETS webpage, including several about the confusing and challenging testing elements of the ETS (See Section 6 – and 6P. through 6.X. are the news testing FAQs). Below are a few of the notable new testing-related FAQs that address questions we were fielding frequently (and thankfully answering correctly):
As we shared over the weekend, at 6:50 PM on Friday night (December 17th), a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dissolved the nationwide stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS that had been issued in early November by the Fifth Circuit. That same night, several of the petitioners in the legal challenges to the ETS appealed the Sixth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court.
As we have been discussing for a while, the decision about the Stay of the ETS (and ultimately the legality of the ETS) was destined for the Supreme Court, and the Court, at least on the issue of the TRO/Stay, could choose to address the question either by:
the so-called “shadow docket,” with no briefing and a decision perhaps issued by a single Justice; or
more conventional proceedings, with briefing and oral argument, and likely a decision by all nine Justices.
Each of the nine Justices on the US Supreme Court is assigned to oversee one or more of the regional US courts of appeals. Justice Kavanaugh is the justice assigned to the Sixth Circuit, to oversee requests for emergency review or shadow docket consideration from cases before the Sixth Circuit. Justice Kavanaugh is part of what is becoming something of a triad of swing voters on the Court, along with justice Coney Barrett and Chief justice Roberts.
On Monday, Justice Kavanaugh issued an Order to the Department of Labor to submit briefing in response to the emergency petitions with a deadline of 4 PM on Thursday, December 30th. The Order does not provide for any additional briefing by petitioners or friends of the court. Then, just a few hours ago, the Court issued another Order setting the case for oral argument a week later, on January 7, 2022.
The Q&A document addresses the current status of the ETS and the legal challenges to it, who is covered and who is exempted from the rule, the core elements of the ETS (i.e., what is required and prohibited by the ETS, when the requirements kick-in, etc.), and other issues around enforcement and compliance strategy.
In addition to this FAQ resource, we have also been working with dozens of companies to help them develop custom, compliant written COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings Policies, along with the necessary ancillary forms, as required by the ETS. We have a questionnaire that we can work through with you to understand and make the best policy choices for your organization (e.g., what cap you will set for paid recovery time; whether to supply test kits to employees or require them to take tests offsite; how you will communicate to employees the information required to be shared; etc.), and with those answers, we develop a customized written program including: Continue reading →
We briefly summarize the Sixth Circuit’s decision below and explain the lay of the land as it stands at this moment, what might occur next and, most importantly, what this means for employers across the nation. Bottom line is that events are moving fast, but as we said a few weeks ago, do not put a fork in the ETS, and continue to prepare to come into compliance with it. It is alive and well, at least until we hear from the Supreme Court.
Sixth Circuit Decision
In a 2-1 opinion written by Obama-appointee Judge Jane Stranch and, notably, joined by Bush appointee Judge Julia Gibbons, the Sixth Circuit rescinded the nationwide stay of OSHA’s ETS that had been issued by the Fifth Circuit first an administrative stay on November 6th and then as a TRO on November 12th. The three-judge panel that heard the case consisted of one Obama appointee, one Bush (W.) appointee, and one Trump appointee. Judge Gibbons (the Bush appointee) joined Judge Stranch, but she also wrote a separate concurring opinion. Trump-appointee Judge Joan Larsen, who had purportedly been on a Trump’s short-list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court, dissented.
For those of you with establishments in New York City, note that this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a private employer vaccinate mandate, and yesterday published this implementation guidance for employers.
The key provisions of the mandate include:
1. Beginning December 27, 2021, workers must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to a covered entity before entering the workplace, and a covered entity must exclude from the workplace any worker who has not provided such proof, unless they are provided an accommodation for a disability or religious reason.
“Covered entity” means:
a non-governmental entity that employs more than one worker in New York City or maintains a workplace in New York City; or
a self-employed individual or a sole practitioner who works at a workplace or interacts with workers or the public in the course of their business.
“Worker” means an individual who works in-person in New York City at a workplace. Worker includes a full- or part-time staff member, employer, employee, intern, volunteer or contractor of a covered entity, as well as a self-employed individual or a sole practitioner.
Worker does not include:
an individual who works from their own home and whose employment does not involve interacting in-person with co-workers or members of the public;
an individual who enters the workplace for a quick and limited purpose (such as to use the bathroom, make a delivery, or clocking in and receiving an assignment before leaving to begin a solitary assignment); or
non-City residents who are performing artists, college or professional athletes, or individuals accompanying such performing artists or college or professional athletes who do not have to display proof of vaccination pursuant to the Key to NYC program, Emergency Executive Order No. 316 and successor Orders.
“Workplace” means any location, including a vehicle, where work is performed in the presence of another worker or member of the public.
“Proof of vaccination” means one of the following documents demonstrating that an individual has (1) been fully vaccinated against COVID-19; (2) received one dose of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine; or (3) received the first dose of a two dose COVID-19 vaccine, provided that a worker providing proof of only such first dose provides proof of receiving the second dose of that vaccine within 45 days after receiving the first dose:
A CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or other official immunization record from the jurisdiction, city, state, or country where the vaccine was administered, or from a healthcare provider or other approved immunizer who administered the vaccine, that provides the person’s name, vaccine brand, and date of administration. A digital photo or photocopy of such record is also acceptable.
New York City COVID Safe App showing a vaccination record;
A valid New York State Excelsior Pass/Excelsior Pass Plus;
CLEAR Health Pass; or
Any other method specified by the Commissioner as sufficient to demonstrate proof of vaccination.
2. Workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business must show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 27th.
Workers will then have 45 days to show proof of their second dose (for Pfizer or Moderna vaccines).
Published in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021, the Federal OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard on Vaccination and Testing (“ETS”) first major compliance deadline was December 6, 2021. However, as a result of a stay entered by the 5th Circuit, and the 6th Circuit’s refusal to grant the Biden Administration’s petition to move up the briefing schedule, OSHA cannot begin enforcing, and has ceased all action, including answering employer questions about, the standard. (For continued updates on the status of the ETS review our Employer Defense Report and OSHA Defense Report.) As outlined in greater detail in a previous blog, the ETS generally requires employers with 100 or more employees to: develop employer policies on vaccination; provide paid time off for vaccination and to recover from vaccination; require employees to provide proof of full vaccination or submit to weekly testing; require unvaccinated workers to wear a face covering; remove COVID-19 positive cases from the workplace; and inform employees about the requirements of the ETS, COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and safety, prohibited retaliation, and the criminal penalties associated with knowingly supplying false statements or documentation. Given the robust requirements of the ETS, employers would be well advised to put in place mechanisms for compliance with the ETS in the event the stay is lifted, particularly if there is no delay in compliance deadlines. One important consideration is how to handle ETS-related medical and religious accommodation requests.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, so long as it does not Continue reading →
The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has issued a revised draft of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for a second re-adoption. This draft shows in underlined text the latest proposed changes from the current emergency regulation (not the October draft text discussed in our prior blog post). The second re-adoption of the ETS, if adopted, will be effective from January 14, 2022 to April 14, 2022, and then could be replaced by a “permanent” COVID-19 rule.
At its December 16, 2021 meeting, the Standards Board will consider this proposed revised ETS, as well as discuss the proposed “permanent” COVID-19 rule being considered to replace the ETS once the emergency rule expires.
Below are the areas where the ETS text proposed for a second re-adoption materially departs from the current rule: Continue reading →
As the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) works its way through the courts in pending legal challenges, employers are still scrambling to position themselves in the event the ETS goes back into effect. (Review our Employer Defense Report and OSHA Defense Report for full background on the ETS and the most recent updates on its current status.) A key issue to consider is the cost of testing.
Should the ETS go back into effect, employers with 100 or more employees must implement a program to facilitate (1) a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all employees (known as a “hard mandate”) or (2) a combination of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and weekly testing, plus face covering requirement, for those employees who choose not to get vaccinated (known as a “soft mandate”). Under this soft-vaccine mandate, an employee may only report to the workplace after demonstrating either: proof of being fully vaccinated; or for employees who do not get vaccinated or decline to share their vaccination status, proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the last week. Employees who are not fully vaccinated must also wear face coverings when indoors and when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
While we and employers across the nation have been focused on OSHA’s issuance of its second COVID-19 emergency temporary standard in six months, earlier this month, OSHA published in the Federal Register an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating a new formal rulemaking focused on “Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings” (the ANPRM). The ANPRM provided this summary of OSHA’s action:
“OSHA is initiating rulemaking to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat and is interested in obtaining additional information about the extent and nature of hazardous heat in the workplace and the nature and effectiveness of interventions and controls used to prevent heat-related injury and illness. This ANPRM provides an overview of the problem of heat stress in the workplace and of measures that have been taken to prevent it. This ANPRM also seeks information on issues that OSHA can consider in developing the standard, including the scope of the standard and the types of controls that might be required.”
And while everyone still has most of our focus on OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings emergency temporary standard, it is critical that those industries and employers potentially impacted by an OSHA heat illness regulation focus on this important active agency rulemaking. In fact, long after COVID-19 is a just bad memory in the rearview mirror, a heat illness standard will have lasting and potentially enormous impacts on your organization.
To that end, Conn Maciel Carey LLP is organizing a new fee-based coalition of employers and trade groups to participate in OSHA’s Indoor and Outdoor Heat Illness Rulemaking with a goal of helping to shape any heat standard that OSHA ultimately promulgates in such a way that the rule is palatable to Industry. Continue reading →
*As of 12/18/21, the federal contractor mandate is currently subject to federal court injunctions.
While we remain focused on the legal challenges now consolidated at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, quite a lot has been going on with regard to the Federal Contractor Mandate which is facing its own set of challenges.
Did you recently receive a request to amend an existing federal contract?
If so, you are not alone! Over the past few weeks, federal administrative agencies have been busy sending emails to tens of thousands of federal contractors seeking to amend existing federal contracts by implementing a COVID-19 vaccination mandate pursuant to guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce. These efforts are now being tracked through a new online interactive dashboard reflecting whether or not the 17,000+ contracts currently administered by GSA have been amended. The contracts in this publicly accessible database are classified as “Accepted”, “Closed/Cancelled”, or “Pending.” Meanwhile, federal agency contracting officers are being strongly encouraged to check this database before placing new orders.
Needless to say, there are potentially serious consequences for a current federal contractor who fails to respond or declines to accept the vaccination mandate. GSA has warned that company names flagged as “Closed/Cancelled” in this database may be removed or hidden in other federal contracting tools which will make it difficult if not impossible to get any new orders on existing contracts. Recent solicitations for new federal contracts have the clause implementing EO 14042 already included in the terms and conditions.
Employees of federal contractors challenge EO 14042
While several cases have been filed to challenge the President’s authority to mandate vaccinations for federal employees and/or contractors, so far, none have secured a stay of EO 14042.
In Altschuld v. Raimondo, employees of more than a dozen different federal agencies and two unnamed government contractors are challenging both Executive Orders 14042 and 14043. Last week, Judge Chutkan in the DC Circuit Court held that plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm, since they had all requested religious exemptions from the vaccination mandate, so they are not entitled to a preliminary injunction. Explaining further, the Court noted that: Continue reading →
After the Obama/Biden Administration’s efforts to “modernize” the way the federal government regulates chemical process safety, we saw much that rolled back, stalled, or amended as the Trump Administration implemented a de-regulatory agenda. As the regulatory ping-pong ball bounces back the other direction, the regulated community is left in limbo to see what will become of OSHA’s and EPA’s plans for process safety.
As the Biden Administration begins to make its mark in this arena, we are tracking rulemaking and enforcement from OSHA, EPA and the CSB, and whether and how far these agencies will go back to the previous policies to modernize the applicable regulations.
Since OSHA published its Vaccinations, Testing, and Face Coverings ETS in the Federal Register 11 days ago, petitioners have filed more than 30 separate lawsuits challenging the legality of the ETS and moving to temporarily and then permanently enjoin implementation of the ETS. The petitioners across these nearly three dozen challenges include more than half the states in the US, numerous private employers, religious groups, the Republican National Committee, and some labor unions (presumably for strategic reasons – to give more liberal courts a chance to take the lead in hearing the litigation).
By judicial procedure, when a legal challenge to an OSHA standard is filed in more than one US Court of Appeals, the US Judicial Panel on Multi-District/Circuit Litigation will respond to a motion by either party in the challenge to consolidate all of the challenges that were filed within 10 days of issuance of the standard, and by way of a true lottery, will assign the consolidated cases to a single circuit court.
Yesterday marked the tenth day since the OSHA ETS was published in the Federal Register, so this morning, (November 16th), the Department of Labor gave notice to the MDL Panel of the numerous petitions for review of a single case filed in each of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 10th Circuits, two cases in each of the 4th and 7th Circuits, three cases in the 9th, 11th, and District of Columbia Circuits, four cases in the 8th Circuit, and five cases in the 6th Circuit. For those keeping score at home, that’s at least one legal challenge filed in every US Court of Appeals in the country except for the Federal Circuit, which does not have jurisdiction to hear challenges to OSHA standards. Regardless of the number of challenges filed in any given circuit court, each circuit had one chance in the lottery. Continue reading →
Emphasizing that the extraordinary power afforded to OSHA under the emergency provisions of the OSH Act should be delicately exercised, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a 22-page opinion late yesterday, November 12th, reaffirming after briefing by both parties the Stay of OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings emergency temporary standard (ETS) that it had ordered on November 6th. The Fifth Circuit panel ordered that OSHA may take no further steps to implement or enforce its newly issued ETS until further court order, and thus may not require employees of covered employers to undergo COVID-19 vaccination, take weekly COVID-19 tests, or wear a mask.
Why Did the Fifth Circuit Stay OSHA’s ETS?
Notably, the Fifth Circuit commented in a footnote that debates over the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate have “roiled the country throughout much of the Fall,” and that the ETS (referred to as “the Mandate” by the three-judge panel) “affects every person in America one way or another.” Drawing from a variety of sources—including White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain’s retweet of an MSNBC anchor’s tweet characterizing the ETS as a “workaround” for a federal vaccine mandate, the Court refused to accept the government’s arguments that a sufficient emergency exists justifying a second COVID-focused ETS in less than 6 months. Indeed, the Court found that prior statements by the Administration “belie the notion that COVID-19 poses the kind of emergency that allows OSHA to take the extreme measure of an ETS.” To that end, the Court seized on the fact that more than 78% of Americans aged 12 and older are either fully or partially vaccinated and thus face “little risk at all” according to the Administration.
While the November 12 opinion was issued after the Fifth Circuit conducted an “expedited” review, the Court leaves little doubt as to how it will likely rule Continue reading →
On November 5, 2021, OSHA published its latest Emergency Temporary Standard (“Test-or-Vaccinate ETS”) to address the effects of COVID-19 in the workplace – “COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings.” Under the Test-or-Vaccinate ETS, employers with 100 or more employees must implement a program to facilitate (1) a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all employees or (2) a combination of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and weekly testing for those employees who choose not to get vaccinated. Per OSHA’s stated intent to strongly encourage vaccination through the Test-or-Vaccinate ETS, the rule specifically requires employers to provide paid time off for vaccination AND to recover from vaccine-related side effects. In the Preamble to the Test-or-Vaccinate ETS, OSHA asserts that these requirements ensure unvaccinated employees can be vaccinated without having to sacrifice pay or their jobs.
Below we review the two different types of leave, including their individual nuances, that are required by the Test-or-Vaccinate ETS.
Paid Leave for Vaccination
Under 29 C.F.R. 1910.501(f)(1), employers must provide reasonable time – up to 4 hours per dose – to each employee to receive their primary vaccine dose or doses during work hours. This includes time spent:
Making the appointment and completing related paperwork;
Waiting to get and actually getting vaccinated, as well as post-vaccination monitoring; and
Traveling to and from the vaccination site as necessary.
OSHA guidance does clarify that an employer is not required to reimburse an employee for transportation costs incurred to receive the vaccine, just for the actual time to receive each vaccine dose. Even where an employer facilitates a vaccination event on site, it must provide reasonable paid time to employees to receive each primary vaccination dose, though the time may be more limited as it takes out travel and making the appointment. Notably, if an employee chooses to receive a primary vaccination dose outside of work hours, the employer would not be required to grant paid time to that employee for that dose. However, because of the paid leave scheme, it does seem less likely that an employee would make the choice to go outside of their work hours.
Time must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and only applies to the primary vaccination doses; i.e., time required to receive a booster shot is not required to be paid under the Test-or-Vaccinate ETS.
Importantly, this paid time cannot be offset by other forms of leave, such as sick leave or vacation leave. As a justification for prohibiting the use of other paid leave for this purpose, OSHA explains that it created this new bucket of required paid time because it believes employees could be discouraged from getting vaccinated if they have to dip into their accrued sick leave or general PTO to get vaccinated. Continue reading →
In September, President Biden revealed a new COVID-19 Action Plan with one of several key goals to “Vaccinate the Unvaccinated.” The most notable aspect of that plan was a directive to federal OSHA to develop another COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard requiring many employers to implement a “soft” vaccine mandate; i.e., to require employees to either be fully vaccinated or submit to a weekly testing. The President also directed OSHA to include in this new ETS a requirement that employers provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects of the vaccine.
OSHA moved quickly in response to the President’s directive, and published the final ETS in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021. During this webinar, the attorneys from CMC’s OSHA and Employment Law practices provided a detailed analysis of the rule and addressed these important questions raised by the latest development on the COVID-19 front: Continue reading →