New York Department of Labor Publishes Standard and Model Plans for HERO Act’s Imminent Adoption Requirement

The HERO Act, signed into law on May 6, 2021, and amended on June 14, 2021, is legislation designed to create enforceable health and safety regulations aimed at preventing airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The law applies to all New York employers, regardless of size, and includes a requirement that employers establish a joint labor-management workplace safety committee. The law also includes an anti-retaliation provision and provides for civil penalties and a private right of action.

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New York Enacts Amended HERO Act Requiring Employers to Implement Workplace Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans

On May 6, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law “first in the nation” legislation designed to create enforceable health and safety regulations aimed at preventing airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The New York Health and Essential Rights Act takes effect in stages and requires the New York State Department of Labor to develop and publish model airborne infectious disease exposure prevention standards that employers can choose to either adopt or use as a guide in developing their own airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans.

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Cal/OSHA Adopts New Workplace COVID-19 Standards, Providing Relief for Vaccinated Employees

On June 17, 2021, following a dizzying series of events, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration voted to adopt new emergency temporary standards for COVID-19, revising employer obligations designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to bringing face coverings and social distancing requirements into alignment with federal guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a recent order by the California Department of Public Health, the new standards update what is required of employers in creating mandatory COVID-19 prevention programs, including investigating and responding to COVID-19 in the workplace and providing engineering and administrative controls.

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OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard for the Healthcare Industry

On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration submitted for publication in the Federal Register its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), setting forth new mandatory safety requirements designed to protect workers from COVID-19. The much-anticipated ETS is generally applicable only to certain healthcare workplaces and imposes differing obligations with respect to vaccinated and unvaccinated employees in various contexts.

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Massachusetts Enacts Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law

On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave,” which requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits to employees who are unable to work for a qualifying reason related to COVID-19. The act establishes an Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund from which qualifying employers can receive reimbursement for covered leave, subject to certain restrictions.

The act went into effect immediately and will remain in effect until September 30, 2021 (or until the exhaustion of the $75 million in program funds, whichever occurs first).

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OSHA Issues Comprehensive COVID-19 Guidance Differentiating Between Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Employees

On June 10, 2021, OSHA updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for employers in nonhealthcare settings. The guidance provides employers with a road map of key approaches for addressing COVID-19 workplace risks in a manner that is consistent with current CDC guidance, and with different standards for fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated employees.

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EEOC’s Updated Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace Impacts Employer Approaches for Compliance with CDC Guidance and State and Local Requirements

On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidance on workplace COVID-19 vaccination issues under the federal EEO laws. The updated guidance is important for employers to consider in light of the recent CDC guidance relaxing restrictions for vaccinated persons, but not unvaccinated persons, and state and local workplace safety requirements that make a similar distinction.

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CDC’s Newest Safety Guidance for the Fully Vaccinated Will Impact Employer and Business Policies

On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, applicable to nonhealthcare settings, providing significant freedom to the fully vaccinated to move around and interact with each other with few restrictions.

However, before employers make any changes to their health and safety protocols, they must heed the CDC’s warning to consider applicable state and local laws, including local business and workplace guidance, to determine whether they differ from the CDC’s new guidance.

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Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Announce Dates for Lifting Most COVID-19 Restrictions for Employers

Pennsylvania and Philadelphia have each announced prospective dates for lifting a majority of the mandatory COVID-19 requirements applicable to employers. At the same time, these announcements create a new conundrum for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia employers: In the absence of state and local mandates, what health and safety policies should employers implement to mitigate the ongoing threat of COVID-19? There is no easy answer.

To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.