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

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

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

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

Cal/OSHA Standards Board to Consider Revised COVID-19 Emergency Rule for Re-adoption

CaptureThe 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

California Adds Increased Meal/Rest Period and Workplace Safety Protections for Warehouse Employees Subject to Production Quotas

By Ashley D. Mitchell

On September 22, 2021, California became even more labor friendly when Governor Newsom signed AB 701 which adds additional requirements to California’s existing meal and rest breaks rules for non-exempt warehouse employees. Effective January 1, 2022, employers covered by AB 701 must disclose all quotas to warehouse employees that the employee may be subject to.  Employers are subject to a rebuttable presumption of retaliation against employees who are subject to an adverse employment action within 90 days of engaging in protected activity under AB 701.  Employers must make the disclosure to each employee upon hire or within 30 days of the law going into effect.

Aimed at making large Amazon warehouses in the state safer, AB 701 covers employers with 100 or more employees at a single warehouse distribution center or 1,000 or more employees at one or more warehouse distribution centers in the state of California. Covered employers must provide to all non-exempt employees a written description of every quota the employee must comply with and may be subjected to discipline for failing to meet including “the quantified number of tasks to be performed or materials to be produced or handled, within the defined time period, and any potential adverse employment action that could result from failure to meet the quota.” For purposes of AB 701 a warehouse is classified by the following NAICS Codes: 493110 (for general warehouse and storage); 423 (for merchant wholesalers, durable goods); 424 (for merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods); or 454110 (for electronic shopping and mail order houses) but not 493130 (farm product warehousing and storage). If an employer fails to disclose an employee’s quota, the employer cannot take an adverse employment action against the employee for failure to meet that quota.

Quotas may not prevent: Continue reading

California Governor Signs Bill Vastly Expanding Cal/OSHA’s Enforcement Authority

By Fred Walter and Andrew J. Sommer

California Governor Newsom has just signed Senate Bill 606 authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), broadly expanding Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority and the penalty amounts employers may be assessed.  This new law targets employers with multiple work sites in California, recognizing violations on an enterprise-wide basis resulting from a written policy or procedure or otherwise a pattern of violations.  SB 606 also empowers Cal/OSHA to levy penalties for each violation and each employee deemed exposed to an alleged hazard where there is a finding an employer “willfully and egregiously” violated a safety order.  Lastly, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, is empowered to seek permanent injunctions in civil court against employers who are deemed in violation of the new law.  SB 606 will take effect January 1, 2022.

SB 606 leaves little room for California employers to make an honest mistake or to be presumed by Cal/OSHA as acting in good faith.  The new law is likely to foster a radical change in the way Cal/OSHA interacts with employers and weaken employers’ appeal rights.  It is certain that the penalties assessed for citations will increase as will the number of appeals filed with the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board.  It is therefore crucial that employers, large and small, understand these regulatory changes and take steps now to strengthen their safety programs to be as bulletproof as possible.  To that end, we have broken our discussion of the law into two key parts. Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Proposes “Permanent” COVID-19 Prevention Rule – Under Review By Its Advisory Committee

Cal/OSHA has just convened an Advisory Committee to consider a proposed permanent Cal/OSHA COVID-19 prevention permanent rule, scheduled to meet on September 23, 2021.  Conn Maciel Carey has been invited to serve on the Advisory Committee, on behalf of the California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition – composed of a broad array of California and national employers substantially impacted by Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 standards.

Last Friday, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) posted the attached discussion draft for the proposed permanent rule.  If adopted, the permanent rule would expire in 2 years (subject to renewal/amendment) and replace the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). We expect that upon the permanent rule sunsetting, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board might take up a permanent general infectious disease standard – which would be another battle to be waged.  There is a broad consensus among the employer community that a general infectious disease standard is unnecessary and ill advised, in light of the existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standards and the inability to prescribe specific measures to address pandemics that have yet to arise.

As many may recall, the ETS was hurriedly adopted around Thanksgiving last year and then amended in June 2021 following bizarre twists and turns, with the Standards Board reconsidering proposed text and votes faced with concerns the draft amendment was not aligned with CDC guidance and was otherwise unwieldy.  Ultimately, the Standards Board formed a subcommittee to consider the future of the ETS that has met regularly since June.

Big picture, the draft permanent rule is largely a significant improvement over the ETS but there are some areas of concern that we hope are addressed through the Advisory Committee process.  We have summarized how the draft permanent rule materially departs from the ETS: Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard [Webinar Recording]

On June 18, 2021, Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn presented a webinar regarding Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard.

The saga around Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) has taken several bizarre twists and turns.  After hurriedly adopting the ETS over Thanksgiving weekend 2020, Cal/OSHA set about this spring to fix some problems with the initial ETS regulatory text.  The agency proposed a revised version of the ETS to be considered by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board in late May 2021, but on the eve of that Standards Board meeting, Cal/OSHA pulled it back, purportedly to address the CDC’s updated guidance about masks and distancing for vaccinated workers. Inexplicably, however, Cal/OSHA produced an updated proposed amended ETS that was more onerous, not less.

On June 3, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board convened a special meeting to consider the revisions to the ETS.  The public meeting was long and contentious, with 100+ stakeholders testifying lasting late into the evening.  Initially, the Board voted to Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS To Be Updated This Week — And They Mean It This Time

By Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn

We are barreling towards major changes to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 requirements for California employers expected to take effect on Thursday or Friday of this week.

After the back and forth with the last revised ETS that was voted down, then approved minutes later, the clawed back a few days later to make way for another revised ETS, late last week, Cal/OSHA released the new revised text for its COVID-19 ETS.

The text of what appears now to become the official updated version of Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS is available here, and a redline comparison with the presently effective text is here.  Additionally, DOSH has just issued these FAQs clarifying the intent of the proposed revised COVID-19 ETS.

Below is our summary of the major substantive changes coming to the ETS, as compared to the prior proposed revisions (subsequently withdrawn), as well as highlighted guidance that interprets or expands on these anticipated new regulatory requirements.

Substantive Revisions to the ETS Text

As expected, these latest changes were limited given the short window for issuing revisions following the Standards Board’s special meeting earlier this week.  We understood Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Standards Board Votes Down – Then Revotes to Adopt, with Reservations – Cal/OSHA Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Yesterday, June 3, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Board) convened and, in a bizarre turn of events, voted against, and then, moments later, voted to approve, Cal/OSHA’s revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  The revised ETS is expected to take effect on June 15, 2021.

The Board initially voted 4-3 against adoption of the revised ETS, and next voted to set up a Subcommittee of three Board members to meet with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Division) to make the rule “better.”  The Board members rejecting the proposal had expressed concern over the clarity of the vaccination documentation requirement, the continued use of face masks in the workplace, and the mandate for employers to provide N95 respirators for unvaccinated workers.  Yet, the stated goals for this Subcommittee are ambiguous, to say the least.

At that point, the Board members expressed concern about the existing ETS remaining in effect indefinitely in the meantime, and took a break apparently to confer over whether to reconsider their earlier vote.  After returning to the meeting, the Board voted unanimously, without explanation, to Continue reading

More On Cal/OSHA’s Proposed Amendments to its COVID-19 ETS

By Fred Walter

In our May 11th blog article, we covered some of the most important changes to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard that the Division has proposed for approval at the next Cal/OSHA Standards Board meeting later this week on May 20, 2021. Here we offer some additional insights into the amendments and their likely impact on California employers.

Face coverings: The new language mentions several options for face coverings but does not mention a popular one — gaiters. Responding to a question we presented to the Division, Cal/OSHA confirmed that gaiters can be an acceptable face covering if they are doubled over to create two layers of protection.

Written notice of COVID-19 cases: Verbal notice can be substituted where the employer has reason to know that an employee will not get the written notice or has such “limited literacy” that a written notice will be ineffective.

Testing: The requirement that employers “offer” testing, which was ambiguous from Day One, has been changed to: “Make … testing available…,” an almost completely verbatim copy of a suggestion made in written comments by CMC’s California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition during the Advisory Committee process. You’re welcome Cal/OSHA.

The requirements that the test be free to the employee and conducted on company time remain. In a bit of foresight, the new rule will provide an exception for employees who are fully vaccinated before a close contact and remain symptom-free.

Training: This and other sections of the new regulation signal a shift to what might be called “mandatory-voluntary” use of the N95. Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Introduces Proposed Amendments to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On Friday, May 7th, Cal/OSHA finalized and published a proposed amended version of its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (the “ETS”), which the Cal/OSH Standards Board will consider for readoption at the Board’s upcoming May 20, 2021 meeting.  The revised sections of the ETS include a series of changes sought by the regulated community, and quite a few that our

Cal/OSHA’s Proposed Amended COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Sent to the Standards Board

California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition specifically advocated for, but the rule is still a bear.

It bears emphasizing that the proposed updated ETS is coming more than five months after the Board unanimously adopted the ETS, and during that span, Cal/OSHA has been busy considering potential changes, due in large part to the lack of opportunity by the regulated community to consider and comment in the rush to issue the emergency regulation back in November.  Indeed, when the ETS was first adopted, the regulated community struggled to understand and implement the regulation.  And while Cal/OSHA issued numerous FAQs in January, February and March, many questions remained unanswered.

In February, the Division convened an Advisory Committee about the ETS consisting of members from business and industry, labor and community groups, public agencies, and the health sciences to provide input on possible changes to the ETS.  As you know, Conn Maciel Carey, on behalf of the California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition (the “Coalition”), participated in the three-day (February 11, 12 and 16) Advisory Committee meetings.  On March 2, the Coalition submitted written comments to the Chief of the Division addressing a variety of concerns and suggesting, among other recommendations, that the Division:

  • Clarify the scope of the ETS;
  • Clarify various requirements under the ETS to be consistent with guidance the Division has provided in its FAQs;
  • Create more flexibility in the standard to account for the vastly different operations covered by the ETS;
  • Address the evolving science and public health guidance on COVID-19 and the vaccines; and
  • Clarify and align notice requirements under the ETS with other California requirements.

The good news is, the agency Continue reading

Vaccinated Workers Are Not Required to Quarantine Under Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS, But Masks and Distancing Are Still Required

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance yesterday – COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People – that affects some aspects of Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS.  For purposes of this discussion, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 either two weeks or more after they receive the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks of more after they received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson/Janssen).

CDPH Vaccination GuidanceRelevant to application of Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS requirements to fully vaccinated workers, the new CDPH guidance provides that in a workplace setting, fully vaccinated workers are no longer required to quarantine following a known exposure at work, so long as the exposed vaccinated worker remains asymptomatic.  But that is as far as the guidance goes in providing relief under Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS for vaccinated workers.

Specifically, employers must still follow all other requirements of the ETS with respect to fully vaccinated workers.  Regardless of vaccination status, an exposed fully vaccinated worker or a fully vaccinated worker who is part of a group of workers covered by an outbreak determination must still Continue reading

Pres. Biden Nominates an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA – Doug Parker, the Current Head of Cal/OSHA

By Eric Conn, Fred Walter, and Beeta Lashkari

Last Friday, April 9th, the White House announced Pres. Biden’s nomination of Doug Parker for Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA – the top job at federal OSHA.  Mr. Parker is currently the Chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), serving as the Head of Cal/OSHA since the summer of 2019.  Mr. Parker was considered a leading candidate for this nomination to head OSHA since he was picked for a spot on the Biden-Harris Labor Transition Team to focus on worker safety and health issues.

In his role as Division Chief at Cal/OSHA, Mr. Parker has been involved in numerous major developments, including:

  • Developing the enforcement plan for Cal/OSHA’s new-ish regulation for Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare;
  • Rolling out Cal/OSHA’s emergency Wildfire Smoke Rule and overseeing the development of the Permanent Wildfire Smoke Rule;
  • Overseeing an extension of the statute of limitations for injury and illness recordkeeping violations – making them “continuing violations” for the five-year record-retention period;
  • Advancing a rulemaking for an Indoor Heat Illness Prevention standard; and
  • Implementing a Cal/OSHA operational change to significantly expand the agency’s definition of “Repeat” violations

Even with all that, Mr. Parker’s tenure at Cal/OSHA will likely be best remembered for his role in developing and rolling-out Continue reading

Another Status Update about Federal OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Rulemaking

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

It has been nearly a full month since the deadline set by President Biden’s Day-1 OSHA Executive Order for Federal OSHA to determine the necessity of and to issue a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), and we are all still waiting for the big news.  OSHA has not issued a final ETS.  The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) website has not been updated to reflect that it has received a proposed ETS from OSHA.  OSHA has not even explicitly announced that it will issue a COVID-19 ETS.

According to reports last week from Bloomberg Law, brand new Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh requested a hold on the release of an OSHA ETS, but according to a DOL spokesperson, that “hold” was so that OSHA could make “a rapid update based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and the variants.”  The sense from that reporting was that OSHA would be quickly updating certain provisions in a near-final draft of the ETS to align with the latest CDC guidance.  No suggestion that an ETS would not be issued.

However, later in the week, Politico reports that Secretary Walsh gave a public interview in which he said this:

That was the first time since President Biden’s Executive Order that we heard anyone at OSHA or the Department of Labor imply that a COVID-19 ETS may not happen, and it conflicts directly with Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and Vaccinated Workers

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

As the number of vaccinated workers continues to rise, and despite guidance from the CDC lifting certain restrictions against fully vaccinated individuals, Cal/OSHA’s current official position, as reflected in its COVID-19 ETS FAQs, is that “[f]or now, all prevention measures must continue to be implemented” for vaccinated persons.  The same set of FAQs, however, also informs us that “[t]he impact of vaccines will likely be addressed in a future revision to the ETS.”  See Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS FAQs “Vaccines” FAQ #1.

Following the February 11, 12, and 16 Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS Advisory Committee meetings, in which CMC participated on behalf of our California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, Deputy Chief of Cal/OSHA Research and Standards shared an updated version of a “Discussion Draft” of the ETS that reflects changes under consideration by the agency.  The issue of how vaccinated employees should be treated under the ETS was a major topic of discussion during the Advisory Committee meetings, and potential changes to the ETS around that are reflected in notes in the Discussion Draft.

While the notes are not necessarily proposed amended regulatory text (rather, they largely incorporate committee members’ feedback ), reading the tea leaves from the Advisory Committee meetings, it is clear that Cal/OSHA Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee Convened as Division Considers Changes to COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Over four months after the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Board”) unanimously adopted a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”), the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the “Division”) has been busy considering potential changes to the emergency regulation.  When the ETS was first adopted, the regulated community scrambled to understand and implement the regulation.  The Division issued numerous Frequently Asked Questions in January, February and March, but many questions remained unanswered.

Cal ETS Advisory CommitteeIn February, the Division convened an Advisory Committee to provide input on possible changes to the ETS.  The Advisory Committee consisted of members from business and industry, labor and community groups, public agencies, and the health sciences.  A coalition of California employers organized by Conn Maciel Carey – the California Employer COVID-19 Prevention Coalition (the “Coalition”) – was one of a very small group of industry representatives invited to participate on the Advisory Committee.

Ahead of the Advisory Committee meetings, which were held on February 11, 12 and 16, Cal/OSHA circulated Discussion Drafts reflecting changes to be considered during the meetings.  Over the course of the 3-day Advisory Committee meeting, the Coalition had the opportunity to provide meaningful input on it members’ concerns and recommendations to improve the ETS.

On March 2, the Coalition submitted written comments to the Chief of the Division.  The Coalition addressed a variety of concerns, including suggesting the Division: Continue reading

Annual Cal/OSHA Update: Legislation, Regulations, Guidance, Executive Orders and More! Oh My! [Webinar Recording]

On March 23, 2021, Andrew J. SommerFred Walter and Megan Shaked presented a webinar regarding Annual Cal/OSHA Update: Legislation, Regulations, Guidance, Executive Orders and More! Oh My!

This year’s annual Cal/OSHA update covered the latest legislative, regulatory and enforcement developments concerning COVID-19, including the Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Rule. We also alerted you to new regulatory changes concerning the Wildfire Smoke rule, various proposed rules being considered by Cal/OSH Standards Board, and general DOSH enforcement trends.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

Five Important Updates About Federal OSHA and Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Recordkeeping

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

It has been a little while since we last shared an update about COVID-19 recordkeeping issues. Since Fed OSHA issued its COVID-19 recordkeeping guidance in May 2020 and Cal/OSHA issued its controversial COVID-19 Recordkeeping FAQs with unique, more onerous requirements in June, the agencies have been mostly quiet about COVID-19 recordkeeping. But that does not mean there have not been significant developments in that area or that there are no important developments to monitor closely.

Here are five notable OSHA and Cal/OSHA COVID-19 recordkeeping updates that we wanted to share with you:

1.  Congressional Intervention About Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Recordkeeping FAQs

As we explained last year, Cal/OSHA’s May 27th COVID-19 Recordkeeping FAQs departed from Fed OSHA’s COVID-19 recordkeeping requirements in two key ways: (i) rejecting Fed OSHA’s recordability precondition of a positive COVID test; and (ii) flipping the burden of establishing work-relatedness on its head, setting instead a presumption of Cal-OSHA RK FAQSwork-relatedness if any workplace exposure can be identified, even if the cause of the illness is just as likely to be attributable to a non-work exposure.

Aside from being bad policy that will result in many non-work related illnesses being recorded on California employers’ 300 Logs, Cal/OSHA is not legally permitted to deviate from Fed OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements.

The latest big development on that front was a helpful letter from the U.S. Department of Labor responding to an inquiry about this issue from a group of California Congressmen, in which DOL confirms that Cal/OSHA should be following the same recordkeeping requirements as Fed OSHA. Despite the clear statements in Cal/OSHA’s FAQs that a “confirmed case” is not required for recordkeeping and that work-relatedness should be presumed, the federal Department of Labor explained in its letter to the Congressmen: Continue reading

Annual Cal/OSHA Update: Legislation, Regulation, Guidance, Executive Orders and More! Oh My! [Webinar]

On Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 1:00 P.M. PT / 4:00 P.M. ET, join Andrew J. Sommer, Fred Walter and Megan Shaked for a webinar regarding “Annual Cal/OSHA Update: Legislation, Regulation, Guidance, Executive Orders and More! Oh My!

This year’s annual Cal/OSHA update will cover the latest legislative, regulatory and enforcement developments concerning COVID-19, including the Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Rule. We will also alert you to new regulatory changes concerning the Wildfire Smoke rule, various proposed rules being considered by Cal/OSH Standards Board, and general DOSH enforcement trends.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Survives Two Legal Challenges

By Andrew Sommer, Eric Conn, and Beeta Lashkari

On February 25, 2021, Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman officially ruled on two requests for preliminary injunctions against the implementation of Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), denying the injunctive relief sought in both cases.

Two separate legal challenges to the ETS were filed a couple of weeks after the rule was adopted by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board.  The first was filed by the National Retail Federation and others, alleging generally that an emergency rule was not necessary and appropriate; i.e., the agency had not asserted facts adequate to establish the existence of an emergency, and therefore, the rushed rulemaking process that ignored stakeholder input was not lawful.  It also alleged that Cal/OSHA overstepped its jurisdictional authority with respect to the ETS provisions mandating wage and benefits continuation.

The second legal challenge was filed by the Western Growers Association and other agricultural interests.  This lawsuit similarly challenged the legality of an emergency rule in this context and the pay and benefits provisions.  It also attacked the provisions regarding employer-provided housing and transportation.

In a 40-page order, Judge Schulman rejected all of the plaintiffs’ arguments, commenting, “No federal or state court in the country has blocked emergency public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, and the illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths that follow in its wake.  This Court will not be the first.  Lives are at stake.”  Indeed, the cases faced long odds, with Judge Schulman Continue reading

Coalition to Work on Federal OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Rulemaking

Background

In his first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order (“EO”) that directed Fed OSHA to revisit its strategy for regulating and enforcing workplace spread of COVID-19.  Among other actions, the EO directed OSHA to consider whether a federal COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) is necessary.  We believe it is a foregone conclusion OSHA will issue an ETS.  The lack of an explicit mandate to do so is likely more a formality than a real open question; i.e., the President prefers the appearance that the workplace safety experts at OSHA made the decision, but the White House has made clear what it expects.

Assuming OSHA determines an ETS is needed, the EO sets a March 15th deadline for OSHA to finalize and issue the rule, so OSHA is surely already working intensely on a COVID-19 ETS.  Although OSHA has not yet confirmed its intent to develop an ETS, we believe it prudent to begin our advocacy efforts as soon as possible, as there will likely be a small pre-rule window to impact the rule before it issues.

The question remains, though, what will a Fed OSHA COVID-19 ETS look like?  We need look no further than the examples set by the State OSH Plans that already have issued COVID-19 ETSs to see the difference between a manageable, effective rule (see Virginia OSHA’s ETS) and a daunting, sometimes unworkable rule (see Cal/OSHA’s ETS). Continue reading