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OSHA Implements COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare and Updates COVID-19 Guidance for all Employers

On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced an action OSHA has not taken in 38 years: issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”).  This ETS aims to protect “healthcare and healthcare support service workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 in settings where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present.”  The ETS does not go into effect until publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred but appears imminent (OSHA has submitted the ETS to the Office of the Federal Register for publication and codification in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart U).  The text of the ETS, as submitted to the Office of the Federal Register, is available here.  OSHA also launched a website with resources regarding the ETS.

COVID-19 Update: EEOC Vaccine Incentive Programs

On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its COVID-19 related technical assistance document, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” which can be found here (“WYSK”). This document was first published on March 19, 2020, and was last updated, as we noted in this previous WorkSmarts update, on December 16, 2020. Although the recent update was published without consideration of updated guidance from CDC for fully vaccinated individuals issued on May 13, 2020, it still contains valuable guidance for employers with respect to vaccines in the workplace.

To Mask or not to Mask – Questions in Light of new CDC Guidance

On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a surprising announcement: individuals who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or maintain social distance in most indoor spaces. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

DOL Withdraws FLSA Independent Contactor Rule

On May 5, 2021, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) withdrew the regulations (i.e. the “Independent Contractor Rule”) that were intended to clarify the standard for determining whether a worker qualifies as an independent contractor for FLSA purposes. See DOL Press Release, US Department of Labor to Withdraw Independent Contractor Rule (May 5, 2021); see also Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act: Withdrawal, 86 FR 24303 (Published: May 6, 2021). The withdrawal of the Independent Contactor Rule is effective as of May 6, 2021.

Taking a Shot at Avoiding Quarantine (and COVID-19): A Layered Approach

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest guidance from the CDC. On February 10, 2021, the CDC released new guidance for the general public regarding mask-wearing and quarantining for individuals who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This new guidance is important for employers whose employees are working in-person and for employers in certain industries who may have fully-vaccinated employees.

OSHA Issues New Comprehensive Worker Safety Guidance – COVID-19

On Friday, January 29, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new comprehensive worker safety guidance to protect workers against COVID-19, entitled: “Protecting Workers – Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

‘American Rescue Plan’ Proposed to Provide Expanded COVID-19 Paid Leave and Unemployment Relief

On January 14, 2021, President-elect Biden announced the “American Rescue Plan,” which is the new administration’s first emergency coronavirus and stimulus proposal.  If passed, the plan will greatly expand the availability of paid leave and unemployment benefits to U.S. workers.  Indeed, the new administration maintains that the plan could provide emergency paid leave to an additional 106 million Americans.  To do so, the plan will impose significant new burdens on employers by, for example, closing certain loopholes that previously exempted large segments of employers from federal paid leave requirements.

COVID-19 Update: FFCRA Tax Credits Extended and Updated Guidance from the CDC

On Monday, December 21, the stimulus bill from Congress was released. The bill contains individual relief, as well as an extension of federal unemployment assistance benefits. The bill did not, however, contain an extension of the mandatory paid leave benefits provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The stimulus does contain an extension through the end of March, 2021 of the tax credits provided for under the FFCRA leave. As a result, the mandate for FFCRA leave will formally sunset on December 31, 2020, but employers who voluntarily provide leave under the original provisions of the law may be able to qualify for tax credits through the end of March, 2021.

Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act Starts January 1, 2021

No Pay Discrimination for Substantially Similar Work, and New Job Posting Rules

On January 1, 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (“EPEWA” or “the Act”) becomes effective in Colorado.  C.R.S. § 8-5-101 et seq.  The Act applies to virtually all employers in the state, regardless of size, and is intended to “close the pay gap” between men and women and “ensure that employees with similar job duties are paid the same wage rate regardless of sex,” which it defines broadly as “gender identity.”  The Act has two major parts: (1) Part 1 amends Colorado’s previous equal pay statute by broadening the prohibition against wage discrimination to include paying employees of different sexes less for “substantially similar work”; and (2) Part 2 provides for “transparency in pay and opportunities for promotion and advancement” by requiring employers to announce opportunities for promotion and to disclose wage and benefit information in all job postings.

What to Consider Before Implementing a Mandatory Vaccine Policy

The first COVID-19 vaccines have been released, with more to come in the near future. This landmark development raises important questions – can employers require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a term and condition of continued employment when it becomes available to them? And if an employer implements such a mandate, would it be lawful?

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