By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force
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.
We now have a clearer picture of Continue reading
By Dan C. Deacon
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).
By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Taskforce
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.
Under the ETS, a COVID-19 test must be: Continue reading
By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force
Earlier this week, the EEOC finally updated its guidance on Title VII and Religious Objections to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, which will impact how employers will implement their various vaccination, testing, and masking requirements.
US law has long-recognized an exemption from mandatory work policies (including vaccine-mandates) based on sincerely held religious beliefs, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and equivalent state statutes). For employers, evaluating religious exemption requests can be tricky (certainly trickier than requests for medical/disability-based exemptions), as there is often no readily verifiable evidence to help ascertain whether an employee’s religious objection to the work policy is a sincerely held religious belief (or even a religious belief at all). Indeed, although it is permissible to attempt to obtain a supporting statement from a religious leader or another member of their community who is familiar with the employee’s belief system, and employee is not required to provide such a statement, as they may not be affiliated with an organized religion. Furthermore, as an end-around to COVID-19 vaccine-mandates, many employees nationwide are attempting to seek a religious exemption when their actual objections are really based in political, ethical, or personal beliefs.
In response to requests from the regulated community, the EEOC has attempted to provide more clarity so that employers can have more confidence in implementing their accommodations process, and in many instances, to push back on suspect claims by employees of the need for a religious exemption. The guidance does offer some useful tools for employers, but unfortunately, it is not as helpful as we had hoped it might be.
The theme of the EEOC’s updated guidance is that employers must make an individualized evaluation of each employee’s request for a religious accommodation. The EEOC renewed Continue reading