California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Expires – Now What?

California’s latest supplemental paid sick leave law, SB 95, which requires certain employers to provide paid leave to employees for qualifying COVID-19-related reasons, expires on September 30, 2021. No legislation has been passed to extend it and there are no bills on the horizon to replace it. This has left employers wondering what, if any, obligations they have if employees are absent for reasons related to COVID-19.

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OSHA Updates COVID-19 Guidance for Masking and Testing of Vaccinated Workers and Further Encourages Vaccination

OSHA recently updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for employers in nonhealthcare settings. The updated OSHA guidance tracks the CDC’s July 27, 2021, recommendations, based upon the increased spread of the delta variant and new evidence that vaccinated persons can spread COVID-19. The updated OSHA guidance, together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s August 23, 2021, approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, may lead to increased worker vaccination mandates.

The updated guidance now provides for vaccinated workers to mask in public areas in all workplaces located in counties with substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Further Opens Door for Employer Mandates

On August 23, the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals age 16 and older. Some employees who expressed vaccine hesitancy because the FDA approval was only an emergency use authorization (EUA) may have less hesitancy now. This may be a good time, through employee education, to once again encourage your employees to get vaccinated.

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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.

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