On December 16, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved the revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) – the second re-adoption. The vote was 6-1 with management representative Kate Crawford dissenting.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Division) was tasked with drafting the revised ETS text, which the Standards Board approved with no meaningful discussion by members, in spite of compelling substantive concerns repeatedly raised in comments by the employer community. To the dismay of many, the Board has continued to rubber stamp workplace safety rules drafted by the Division, thus effectively turning the enforcement agency into a rulemaking body.
The second re-adopted ETS will next be sent to California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for approval and publication. OAL has 10 days to approve the rule. If approved, the second re-adoption will be in effect from January 14, 2022 to April 14, 2022. Also, as the Standards Board meeting was underway, Governor Newsom signed an executive order authorizing an extension of the COVID-19 safety requirements in the COVID-19 ETS. The governor’s executive order enables a subsequent third re-adoption of the COVID-19 ETS through December 31, 2022.
It remains to be seen whether the ETS will be extended through the end of 2022, discarded, or replaced by the proposed “permanent” COVID-19 rule (with a two-year term). At the request of certain Board members, there was a lively panel discussion at the last Board meeting on the future of COVID-19 rulemaking, with labor representatives lining up in favor of continuing the hardwired, prescriptive COVID-19 ETS and management representatives supporting a fluid performance-based standard like the Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
The revised ETS includes language creating unclear and unmanageable regulatory requirements, as discussed in our prior blog post. When the revised ETS takes effect, the Division will publish updated FAQs that, while not having the force of law, will hopefully clarify the agency’s interpretation of these new requirements.
The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has issued a revised draft of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for a second re-adoption. This draft shows in underlined text the latest proposed changes from the current emergency regulation (not the October draft text discussed in our prior blog post). The second re-adoption of the ETS, if adopted, will be effective from January 14, 2022 to April 14, 2022, and then could be replaced by a “permanent” COVID-19 rule.
At its December 16, 2021 meeting, the Standards Board will consider this proposed revised ETS, as well as discuss the proposed “permanent” COVID-19 rule being considered to replace the ETS once the emergency rule expires.
Below are the areas where the ETS text proposed for a second re-adoption materially departs from the current rule: Read More
By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force
At long last, OSHA has revealed its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing emergency regulation. The Federal Register site has updated to show the pre-publication package, which is set to run officially in the Federal Register tomorrow, November 5th. The 490-page package includes the Preamble and economic analysis of the regulation, as well as the regulatory text. The regulatory text begins on PDF page 473. Also here is a Fact Sheet about the ETS issued simultaneously by the White House.
We are extremely pleased to report that the rule aligns very well with positions for which CMC’s Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition advocated to OSHA and OMB on the most significant topics, like the responsibility for the cost of COVID-19 testing and a delayed implementation date, as well as very narrow record-preservation requirements, grandfathering of prior vaccine-verification efforts, and other elements. OSHA and the White House clearly listened to our views and the compelling rational we put forward for these positions, making the rule a much better, more effective and less burdensome one for employers.
Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force will be conducting a webinar about the ETS on Wednesday, November 10th at 1:00 PM ET. Here is a link to register for that program.
In the meantime, below is a detailed summary of the rule:
What is the stated purpose of the regulation?
The ETS is “intended to establish minimum vaccination, vaccination verification, face covering, and testing requirements to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace, and to preempt inconsistent state and local requirements relating to these issues, including requirements that ban or limit employers’ authority to require vaccination, face covering, or testing, regardless of the number of employees.”
Who is covered?
As the president signaled in his announcement and action plan from September 9, the ETS applies only to employers with 100 or more employees, and the rule does make it explicit that the way you count those employees is on a company–wide basis, not establishment-by-establishment. Read More
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 Read More
Last month, Cal/OSHA issued a discussion draft of a proposed Cal/OSHA COVID-19 “permanent rule” and convened an Advisory Committee, involving hours of comment on September 23, 2021 by employer and labor advocates and public health officials. Conn Maciel Carey served on the Advisory Committee on behalf of our broad-based employer coalition. The permanent rule is not expected to take effect until the spring 2022.
In the meantime, Cal/OSHA has just issued a revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for readoption. If approved by the Standards Board, this second re-adoption of the ETS would be effective from January 14, 2022 through April 14, 2022. After that time the “permanent rule” presently under consideration would be expected to replace the ETS.
On September 22, 2021, California became even more labor friendly when Governor Newsom signed AB 701 which adds additional requirements to California’s existing meal and rest breaks rules for non-exempt warehouse employees. Effective January 1, 2022, employers covered by AB 701 must disclose all quotas to warehouse employees that the employee may be subject to. Employers are subject to a rebuttable presumption of retaliation against employees who are subject to an adverse employment action within 90 days of engaging in protected activity under AB 701. Employers must make the disclosure to each employee upon hire or within 30 days of the law going into effect.
Aimed at making large Amazon warehouses in the state safer, AB 701 covers employers with 100 or more employees at a single warehouse distribution center or 1,000 or more employees at one or more warehouse distribution centers in the state of California. Covered employers must provide to all non-exempt employees a written description of every quota the employee must comply with and may be subjected to discipline for failing to meet including “the quantified number of tasks to be performed or materials to be produced or handled, within the defined time period, and any potential adverse employment action that could result from failure to meet the quota.” For purposes of AB 701 a warehouse is classified by the following NAICS Codes: 493110 (for general warehouse and storage); 423 (for merchant wholesalers, durable goods); 424 (for merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods); or 454110 (for electronic shopping and mail order houses) but not 493130 (farm product warehousing and storage). If an employer fails to disclose an employee’s quota, the employer cannot take an adverse employment action against the employee for failure to meet that quota.
Quotas may not prevent: Read More
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:
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? Read More
California Governor Newsom has just signed Senate Bill 606 authored by Senator Lorena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), broadly expanding Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority and the penalty amounts employers may be assessed. This new law targets employers with multiple work sites in California, recognizing violations on an enterprise-wide basis resulting from a written policy or procedure or otherwise a pattern of violations. SB 606 also empowers Cal/OSHA to levy penalties for each violation and each employee deemed exposed to an alleged hazard where there is a finding an employer “willfully and egregiously” violated a safety order. Lastly, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, is empowered to seek permanent injunctions in civil court against employers who are deemed in violation of the new law. SB 606 will take effect January 1, 2022.
SB 606 leaves little room for California employers to make an honest mistake or to be presumed by Cal/OSHA as acting in good faith. The new law is likely to foster a radical change in the way Cal/OSHA interacts with employers and weaken employers’ appeal rights. It is certain that the penalties assessed for citations will increase as will the number of appeals filed with the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board. It is therefore crucial that employers, large and small, understand these regulatory changes and take steps now to strengthen their safety programs to be as bulletproof as possible. To that end, we have broken our discussion of the law into two key parts. Read More
By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force
We have an unfortunate update to share out of the CDC yesterday, July 27, 2021. Short story, do not throw away your “Masks Required” signs.
What Did the CDC Change About Mask Recommendations?
In the afternoon of Tuesday, July 27th, the CDC updated its “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People,” in which the CDC recommends:
Although the guidance speaks in absolutes, we think that the general limitations that have applied to all prior mask mandates throughout the pandemic continue to inform this updated guidance; i.e., “public indoor settings” is intended to cover locations where there is the potential for exposure to another individual, and not where an employee is “alone in a room” or “alone in a vehicle.”
Is Your County Experiencing Substantial or High Levels of Transmission?
By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force
Earlier this week, on August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier this year, many employers were hesitant to issue vaccine mandates and expressed concerns about potential legal risks associated with such a mandate since the COVID-19 vaccines were only approved for emergency use. While the full approval designation may not change the legal landscape as it relates to vaccine mandates, many employers may feel more comfortable imposing such mandates.
As explained in our prior blog, employers can mandate employee vaccinations under federal law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance several months ago stating that employers generally can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees who physically enter the workplace without running afoul of the federal anti-discrimination laws it enforces. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also issued a slip opinion on July 6, 2021, regarding vaccination mandates and the emergency use authorization status of the vaccines:
We conclude that section 564(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III) concerns only the provision of information to potential vaccine recipients and does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements for vaccines that are subject to EUAs. Read More