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:

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Chambers USA Recognizes Conn Maciel Carey as 1 of Only 3 “Band 1” Ranked Law Firms for OSHA Law

Conn Maciel Carey LLP (CMC) is honored to announce that the firm has been recognized as one of only three national law firms ranked in Band 1 Nationwide for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Law. CMC is the only “boutique” firm among all of the law firms recognized.

The recognition comes from Chambers and Partners, an independent research company that delivers detailed rankings and insight into the world’s leading lawyers. This is the first year that Chambers has ranked the OSHA Law practice area.

Chambers’ researchers identified CMC as a “leading national boutique handling the full spectrum of labor and employment litigation with particular emphasis on workplace safety issues. The group…maintains a strong track record in complex OSHA inspections and enforcement matters.”

Among the client comments collected by Chambers about the firm, one stated that CMC’s OSHA Team “offers impressive expertise in federal- and state-level workplace safety laws, and has been especially active in recent months guiding clients through COVID-19 compliance…The firm is the real deal; it is a top OSHA firm.”

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OSHA Grants Request to Extend the Comment Period for the Proposed Amended E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of CMC’s National OSHA Practice

On March 30th, OSHA published a proposal to dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule (aka 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.

In short, the proposed changes to the E-Recordkeeping Rule would:

  1. Replace the current requirement for all workplaces with 250+ employees to annually submit to OSHA’s electronic Injury Tracking Application the data from their 300A Annual Summary of work-related injuries, with a new requirement for workplaces with 100+ employees in the “high hazard industries” listed in new Appendix B to submit the full panoply of OSHA recordkeeping records – i.e., OSHA Forms 300 (the OSHA Log), 301 (detailed incident reports for each recorded injury), and the 300A Annual Summary;
  2. Require workplaces with 20+ employees in another larger list of so-called “high-hazard industries” (new Appendix A) to submit the data from their 300As; and
  3. Compel all submitting employers to include their proper company name with the electronic data submissions.

That Federal Register Notice set the deadline for stakeholders to submit comments for Tuesday, May 31 — the day after Memorial Day and one week after the deadline to submit post-hearing comments about OSHA’s proposed Permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare.  Because of that crowded schedule and the importance of the proposed changes to the E-Recordkeeping Rule, last week, on behalf of Conn Maciel Carey’s Employers E-Recordkeeping Rulemaking Coalition, we prepared and filed a Letter to OSHA Requesting an Extension of the Comment Period. 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

OSHA’s Rulemaking to Expand the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn

Who else misses the time when OSHA would issue a new regulation only once every decade or so?!?!  Alas, OSHA has been quite busy the last few months on the rulemaking front, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.  You’ve heard a lot from us about the various COVID-19 rulemaking efforts – two emergency standards and a new effort to make permanent the COVID-19 standard for healthcare.  Now, OSHA has turned its attention to a more traditional OSHA subject – injury and illness recordkeeping.

Specifically, on March 30th, OSHA published a new proposed rule to dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule; i.e., the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule.

Background on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Requirements

OSHA first issued regulations requiring that employers record occupational injuries and illnesses in 1971.  Pursuant to 29 CFR 1904.7, employers must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses that involve death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a physician or other licensed health care professional.  Additional requirements were added for Reporting of Fatality and Multiple Hospitalization Incidents, and later, in 2014, OSHA expanded the types of incidents that had to be reported to OSHA; i.e., a single in-patient hospitalization, amputations, and losses of an eye. (79 FR 56130)

In 2016 (amended in 2018), annual electronic injury recordkeeping data submissions to OSHA became mandatory both for establishments with 250 or more employees, and establishments with 20-249 employees in certain designated industries.  The current version of the E-Recordkeeping Rule has undergone some changes and revisions, and indeed, as we have chronicled in the past,  the E-Recordkeeping Rule has had a long and tortured history.  Before promulgation of the E-Recordkeeping Rule, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer’s participation in its annual injury data survey, employer injury and illness recordkeeping data was maintained internally by employers. In a major policy shift, in 2016, President Obama’s OSHA enacted the E-Recordkeeping Rule, requiring hundreds of thousands of workplaces to proactively submit injury and illness data to OSHA through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).  More specifically, the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule required: Continue reading

[BREAKING] Supreme Court Reinstitutes a Stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS

By Eric J. Conn, Chair, OSHA Practice Group

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.”

Under this theory, the majority opinion indicates that Continue reading

[Webinar] OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast

Join the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET, for the kickoff event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 OSHA Webinar series.  This first program of the year, as is tradition, will be OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast.

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.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

OSHA Updates its Testing-Related FAQs about the COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings ETS

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

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):

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FAQs About OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings Emergency Temporary Standard

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

In a Friday night surprise (December 17th), the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dissolved the nationwide stay of OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings ETS, so the ETS is alive and well (unless the U.S. Supreme Court puts it back on ice).  Accordingly, it is time for employers to take the steps necessary to come into compliance with the ETS.  To help our clients and friends in industry, Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s national OSHA Practice has created this extensive set of Q&As about OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccinate-or-Test ETS.

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

Coalition to Work on OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Rulemaking

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s National OSHA Practice

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 onHeat 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

30+ Challenges to OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings ETS Consolidated in the Sixth Circuit

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

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

[BREAKING] 5th Cir. Temporarily Stays OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings Emergency Rule

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On Saturday, November 6th, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) staying the effect of OSHA’s vaccination, testing, and face coverings emergency temporary standard (ETS) that it had promulgated just the day before.  The entirety of the court’s explanation for the stay Order was this:

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory
and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED
pending further action by this court.”

The suit challenging OSHA’s new vaccination, testing, and face coverings ETS was initiated on behalf of a group of private businesses and religious organizations, as well as several states, including Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and Mississippi. The petitioners argued that OSHA overstepped its legal authority in issuing an emergency standard to address COVID-19 in US workplaces at this point in the pandemic. The petitioners assert that an emergency stay is necessary because these employers will face workforce shortages if unvaccinated employees quit their jobs in lieu of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and the ETS forces them to expend resources to develop and implement written compliance and reporting procedures beyond what the law authorizes under the circumstances.

Specifically, their objections to the OSHA ETS include: Continue reading

OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard Set to Issue Imminently

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

OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing emergency temporary standard is expected to be released imminently, likely Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

OMB Has Concluded Its Review of the ETS:

This morning, OMB’s website updated again, but this time, it was not to add more EO 12866 stakeholder meetings to the calendar, it was to declare OMB’s review of the ETS “concluded.”  Here are two screenshots from OMB’s website.  The first shows the list of active DOL rulemakings at OMB for some form of review, and it identifies the status for the COVID-19 vaccination and testing ETS as “Concluded.”

The second one provides a little more detail, including these notes about the ETS:  “Received Date: 10/12/2021” and “Concluded Date: 11/01/2021.”

The Dept. of Labor Gives Some Clues About What to Expect in the ETS:

Additionally, a Department of Labor spokesman shared this statement this morning:

“On November 1, the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard in the coming days. [OSHA] has been working expeditiously to develop an emergency temporary standard that covers employers with 100 or more employees, firm- or company-wide, and provides options for compliance…. Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose either to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work. The ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.”

The DOL statement provides some useful insight about what will be in the final rule and when we will see it.  First, OSHA did stick with the 100-employee threshold that the President identified in his announcement and new COVID-19 Action Plan from September 9th.  There was always a chance that OSHA would  scrapped that employee-count trigger as they wrote the rule and instead made it apply to everyone.  We also see in this DOL statement that, as expected, the 100-employee count will be Continue reading

Update on Fed OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Rulemaking

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

Although it has only been 10 days since OSHA delivered a proposed COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing emergency temporary standard (ETS) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a lot has happened.  We have seen bizarre attempts by groups of individuals to try to muck up the OMB review process.  The US Department of Labor sent letters to certain states informing them that federal OSHA is considering revoking their approved status to operate their State OSH Plans.  And, President Biden’s nominee to Head OSHA, Doug Parker, is scheduled to be confirmed early next week.  Here is a summary of what we’ve been seeing and where we are now.

When Will the Vaccination and Testing ETS be Issued? 

The stakeholder input process at OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is well underway.  OMB’s website reflecting the schedule of Executive Order 12866 meetings is normally only updated once per day, making it hard to nail down when OMB intends to conclude its review of the proposed ETS.  As of the end of last week, we heard that OMB might conclude its review process as early as last Friday, October 12th, but every day, OMB’s website updated to include more and more stakeholder meetings.  As of this morning (Friday, October 22nd), the OMB website updated again, and it did add some new scheduled OIRA EO 12866 stakeholder meetings (now up to 68 meetings), but all of the new meetings have been scheduled to be completed today by 3 PM.

It is beginning to look to us like OMB will have “completed” its review of the ETS by the end of the day today, so at this point, we think OSHA could release the pre-publication package revealing the regulatory text and the preamble of the final ETS, as early as the close of business today.

We have also been hearing Continue reading

President Biden’s Broad COVID-19 “Hard” Vaccine-Mandate for Federal Contractors

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

*As of 12/18/21, the federal contractor mandate is currently subject to federal court injunctions. 

While we have been mostly focused on the September 9th directive from President Biden to fed OSHA to issue a COVID-19 vaccination / testing emergency temporary standard, that was hardly the only major move the Administration announced on the vaccine-mandate front.  This update will focus on federal contractors – companies that provide services to the federal government through direct contracts with federal agencies and through subcontracts in support of federal contracts.

On the same day last month that Pres. Biden announced the OSHA “soft” vaccine mandate for private employers that serve only private customers, he also issued an executive order (EO) setting three new requirements for federal contractors at all tiers:

    1. Setting a “hard” vaccine mandate – “Covered Contractor Employees” must be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2021 (and thereafter before starting to work on any federal contract);
    2. Designating a COVID-19 safety coordinator to communicate requirements to employees and non-employees at your “Covered Contractor Workplaces”; and
    3. Ensuring all individuals at a “Covered Contractor Workplace” comply with CDC masking and distancing guidance.

For months now, since January 2021, contractors and subcontractors working in-person on federal property have already been required to provide a self-certification that they were fully vaccinated OR had received a recent negative COVID-19 test.  (See EO 13991 – “Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing”).  The new EO for federal contractors eliminates the “testing-out option” and expands the mandate beyond just federal properties to also cover private workplaces, or really any place at all, where an individual is working in support of a covered federal contract.

Only those unvaccinated employees who are “legally entitled to an accommodation” for medical or religious reasons may continue to be employed to work on federal contracts.  There are no exceptions for people who previously were infected and recovered.  Anti-body tests are not acceptable to prove vaccination status.  Under limited special circumstances involving an “urgent, mission critical need”, a federal agency may allow certain individuals who are not fully vaccinated to continue working for only up to 60 days from beginning the work on a covered contract or in a covered workplace.

Another development of this federal contractor mandate is that employers must review covered employees’ official documentation to verify vaccination status (i.e., the white card or an official record from a health department database), and self-attestation is not an acceptable substitute.

Who is covered by the various requirements of the EO? Continue reading

Coalition to Work on OSHA’s 2nd COVID-19 Emergency Rulemaking to Set a “Soft” Vaccine Mandate

We hate that we have to do this again, but alas, as we reported late last week, on Thursday, September 9th, President Biden announced that he is directing OSHA to issue a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would require many employers to provide paid time for employees to get and recover from getting vaccinated and to implement “soft” vaccine mandates; i.e., require employees either to be fully vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as issuing new Executive Orders requiring federal contractors to implement “hard” vaccine mandates.

While we anticipated OSHA would reconsider the need for a broader COVID-19 ETS applicable beyond just the healthcare sector in light of the impact of the Delta variant, President Biden’s decision to use a new ETS focused on vaccinations and testing as a central element of his newly unveiled Path Out of the Pandemic – COVID-19 Action Plan raises a host of challenges for employers across the country.  We understand from our contacts at OSHA that the agency will move much more quickly to prepare and send this ETS to the White House, so it is imperative that the employer community come together now to identify shared concerns and considerations and begin advocating to OSHA and OMB so that this new ETS is one with which industry can reasonably manage.

To that end, Conn Maciel Carey LLP is organizing a fee-based company-anonymous coalition of employers and trade groups to advocate for the most reasonable fed OSHA COVID-19 emergency rule focused on vaccination and testing possible. Continue reading

Federal OSHA to Issue Another COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Setting a “Soft” Vaccine-Mandate

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Taskforce

On September 9, 2021, President Biden charged federal OSHA with developing a second emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring all but small employers in all industries but healthcare to implement “soft” vaccine mandates, i.e., to require employees to either be fully vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing.  The President directed OSHA to include in this new ETS a requirement that these employers provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated and recover from the vaccine.  The President also issued executive orders mandating federal contractors and healthcare employers implement “hard” vaccine mandates.

The push now for a broader COVID-19 ETS applicable beyond just healthcare is a step for which we have been bracing for a while now.  In June, when OSHA issued its COVID-19 ETS that was limited only to the healthcare industry, the vast majority of employers dodged the bullet, but since the explosion of new cases because of the Delta variant, we began to see that bullet more as a boomerang, likely to come back around for the rest of industry.  Here are five signals we picked up that OSHA was likely to revisit its decision in June to limit its COVID-19 ETS to only healthcare employers:

    1. The rate of community transmission and COVID-19 deaths around the country has returned to the level we were experiencing in the Spring of this year when OSHA delivered to OMB a proposed ETS that was written to cover all industries.  To the extent the decline in cases and deaths was a major factor in OSHA’s decision to limit the ETS to just healthcare, that factor no longer cuts in favor of a healthcare-only rule.
    2. Between the time OSHA delivered the broad proposed ETS and the time it issued the narrow healthcare-only ETS, the CDC released groundbreaking guidance relaxing COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated individuals.  OSHA’s decision to limit the ETS to just healthcare only a month later had to be influenced by that seismic shift.  But since that time, in July, CDC backtracked on its guidance for vaccinated workers, causing OSHA to adjust its own guidance in that regard.
    3. Since issuing the ETS for healthcare, OSHA has been under pressure from national unions and worker advocacy groups to expand the ETS to all industries, both in the form of written comments during the ETS’s post-issuance comment period and a lawsuit filed by AFL-CIO challenging OSHA’s decision to limit the ETS to just healthcare.
    4. There has been a growing tension between the Biden Administration and certain Republican governors, particular DeSantis in Florida and Abbott in Texas, around mask and vaccine mandates.  The Biden Administration could resolve that tension by issuing a specific federal OSHA regulation setting requirements for masking and vaccinations, which would likely preempt conflicting state laws.
    5. The White House has changed its tune about strict COVID-19 protocols and vaccine mandates dramatically since the OSHA ETS was issued.  The Administration’s decision to limit the ETS to healthcare only was likely at least partially politically-motivated; i.e., a broad ETS was too unpopular due to the massive decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths.  However, we have started to see President Biden take politically risky moves around vaccinations; e.g., reinstituting mask recommendations for vaccinated individuals and setting a “soft” mandate for federal workers and contractors and encouraging industry to set similar mandates.  If the politics of aggressive COVID-19 requirements influenced OSHA’s decision to issue a narrow rule in June, it appears the Administration has changed its political calculation in the face of the spread of the Delta variant surge.

Those were the main signals we saw that kept us up at night worried OSHA would deliver to OMB a new or amended COVID-19 ETS that would apply to all industries.  But President Biden’s announcements yesterday sent the strongest signal yet that we will soon see further regulatory action from federal OSHA on the COVID-19 front.  A lot of questions remain, and we expect those to be answered in time as the new rules take effect, but we wanted to share with you what we know so far, as well as our preliminary thoughts/speculation about some of those questions.

What Happened Yesterday?

Let’s start with the President’s “Path Out of the Pandemic: POTUS COVID-19 Action Plan.”  Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Webinar Library

Since 2015, Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group has conducted monthly webinars to give employers insight into critical developments about OSHA. We have compiled the recordings from that Annual OSHA Webinar Series and have created a comprehensive webinar library so you can easily navigate and find relevant OSHA regulatory programs.

Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel to access all of our past webinars and get an email notification when new recordings become available.

Click the links in the schedule below for program descriptions for the rest of the 2021 OSHA Webinar Series Continue reading

Fed OSHA Updates Its COVID-19 Workplace Guidance – Realigns with CDC on Masks for Vaccinated Workers

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

As we predicted a few week ago, following in CDC’s footsteps, on Friday of last week (August 13, 2021), OSHA updated its primary COVID-19 guidance for non-healthcare employers – Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace to embraces CDC’s updated mask recommendations for vaccinated individuals from July 27th.  OSHA’s updated guidance includes several links directly to CDC’s July Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, as well as CDC’s COVID-19 Integrated County View Data Tracker, which depicts levels of county-level community transmission (low, moderate, substantial, or high).

Broadly, OSHA’s updated COVID-19 guidance tracks CDC’s updated guidance closely.  For example, OSHA now recommends that:

    • Fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers; and
    • Fully vaccinated workers everywhere in the country who experience a close contact exposure with a COVID-19 case wear a mask for 14 days or until they receive a negative COVID test taken at least 3 days after the contact.

Additionally, the guidance clarifies OSHA’s recommendations for protecting unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in “workplaces with heightened risk due to workplace environmental factors,” including those in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing.

What Changed in OSHA’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance? Continue reading

[WEBINAR] 2021 Mid-Year Review of Important Developments at OSHA

On Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. ET, join the Partners from Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice for a webinar event – “2021 Mid-Year Review of Key OSHA Developments

Having shared a series of predictions during our January webinar regarding how OSHA would tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and reshape its priorities under new leadership during the first year of the Biden Administration, we will now take stock of what has happened at DOL and OSHA during the first months of the Biden Administration, discuss surprise developments, and look ahead at the remainder of 2021 and beyond. We will take a close look at senior leadership now in place or on the way, and analyze what those appointments likely mean for employers. We will also review OSHA’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the new healthcare-focused emergency temporary standard and updated guidance for everyone else. We will also examine Pres. Biden’s efforts to make good on his promises to increase OSHA’s budget, grow the number of inspectors and generally ramp up enforcement. We will also review key developments in OSHA’s rulemaking agenda.

Participants in this webinar will learn the following:

Continue reading

Federal OSHA’s New COVID-19 ETS Standard and Updated COVID-19 Workplace Guidance [Webinar Recording]

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding Federal OSHA’s New COVID-19 ETS Standard and Updated COVID-19 Workplace Guidance.

On June 10th, federal OSHA finally revealed its much anticipated COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), but rather than a rule applicable to all industries, OSHA developed a regulation that is narrowly tailored only to certain healthcare settings. For everyone else, federal OSHA simultaneously published significant updates to its workplace COVID-19 guidance that it had originally prepared in Jan. 2021 in response to President Biden’s Day 1 OSHA Executive Order.

The COVID-19 ETS, and its 900+ page Preamble, is a dizzying piece of regulation.  While there are lots of generalizations about how it applies only to hospital settings, there are quirks in the Applicability section that could sweep in other employers, including on-site medical clinics at manufacturing plants, COVID-19 testing facilities in otherwise non-healthcare workplaces, and general facilities support at healthcare locations, such as maintenance, housekeeping, and laundry services.  And in terms of substantive provisions, the ETS does depart from the COVID-19 landscape we have all grown accustomed to over the past year and a half – the ETS requires creation of new roles, will likely require updates to written prevention plans and training, may require new engineering installations and work on HVAC systems, and will definitely affect record making, recordkeeping, and reporting policies.

The updated guidance for all other industries will also likely result in material changes to the way employers are managing the COVID-19 crisis in the workplace.  However, those will be mostly welcome changes, as, at its core, OSHA’s updated guidance aligns OSHA’s recommendations with the CDC’s May guidance regarding dropping masks and distancing for fully vaccinated workers.  But the devil is in the details.

Participants in this webinar learned the following: 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

Is Your Workplace Covered by Fed OSHA’s New COVID-19 ETS for Healthcare?

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Nearly 16 months after the pandemic began, federal OSHA revealed its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (the ETS) that imposes a series of requirements on healthcare employers.  While OSHA’s issuance of an ETS comes as no surprise to many who have been tracking the agency since Pres. Biden’s inauguration, the fact that it applies only to the healthcare sector and not to all industries is not what we expected.  Looking back, the promulgation of an ETS applicable to all workplaces seemed a foregone conclusion when President Biden took office in January and issued an Executive Order that same day directing OSHA to update its COVID-19 guidance, adopt a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program, evaluate whether an ETS was necessary and, if so, issue the ETS on or before March 15, 2021.

On April 27, 2021, OSHA delivered to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) an ETS, which, by all accounts, was a broad rule applicable to all industries, but because this was an emergency rulemaking, the proposed regulatory text was not available to the public.  In the weeks that followed, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within OMB, hosted a series of meetings to hear from stakeholders regarding a proposed rule they had not seen.  On behalf of the Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, Conn Maciel Carey organized and led two OIRA meetings at which we and our coalition members provided input and recommendations to OSHA and OMB.  As the meetings continued, the success of the vaccine rollout became clearer, with a corresponding drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and then came the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) game-changing guidance on May 13, 2021 relaxing protocols for vaccinated individuals.  All of this caused many to question whether an OSHA ETS was still necessary.  With conditions on the ground improving rapidly, we continued to help stakeholder schedule and participate in OIRA meetings to argue that a general industry ETS was no longer needed.

On June 10, 2011, after more than 50 OIRA meetings, a final ETS applicable only to the healthcare industry was sent to the Office of the Federal Register for publication.  The standard appears at 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502, and will appear in the Federal Register within a couple of weeks.

Explaining the purpose of the ETS for Healthcare, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh offered this statement: Continue reading