Q. What is the status of the Sixth Circuit’s consideration of the challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), and how does it impact the upcoming deadlines set by the ETS?

A. As discussed in our previous alert, on November 5, OSHA published an ETS that would require private employers with 100 or more employees to establish, by January 4, 2022 either (1) a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy; or (2) a vaccination policy that requires employees to either be fully vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work. The ETS would also require covered employers, by December 6, to: (1) determine the vaccination status of all employees; (2) provide leave for them to get vaccinated and recover from side effects of vaccination; and (3) ensure unvaccinated employees wear face coverings at work. Multiple challenges were filed over the ETS after OSHA’s issuance of the ETS, and, on November 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was selected by lottery to hear the consolidated challenges to OSHA’s recent ETS, including the Fifth Circuit’s extension of a nationwide stay of the ETS on November 12.


Continue Reading Final Sixth Circuit’s Briefing Schedule Likely Delays the December 6 Deadline Set by OSHA’s ETS

Q: Now that DOL-OSHA announced its COVID-19 vaccine ETS for private-sector workers, what does my company need to do to adhere to the guidelines?

A: On November 4, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an emergency temporary standard (ETS), containing the anticipated COVID-19 vaccination rule covering private companies with 100 or more employees. The ETS became effective immediately on November 5 upon its publication in the Federal Register. On November 6, the Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion to stay enforcement of the ETS effectively nationwide, pending further action by the court, which could come as early as November 9 at 6 p.m. ET. Other challenges to the ETS’s enforcement have been filed in the Eighth, Sixth, and Eleventh circuits thus far.


Continue Reading DOL-OSHA Announces New COVID-19 Vaccine ETS for Private-Sector Workers

Q. Have any court rulings upheld the denial of requests for exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine?

A. Yes. Coming on the heels of President Joe Biden’s plan to require millions of workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, many employers either have already implemented or have begun implementing vaccine mandates. As expected, these mandates have triggered some employee pushback, particularly from those requesting an exemption from the vaccine requirement based on a disability or religious belief. While there have not been many published decisions on this issue yet, one recent decision from the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas provides guidance to employers in determining whether a request for exemption from a vaccine mandate based on a religious belief must be accommodated.


Continue Reading Pennsylvania State Court Rules That Private Employer May Deny Exemption Request From COVID-19 Vaccination

Q: Have there been any court rulings on whether companies can limit employees from wearing Black Lives Matter and other social justice attire to work?

A: Yes. During this pandemic and the political and social unrest underlying the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, many employees have come to work wearing BLM masks and other attire. Some companies initially banned all BLM attire on the grounds that it could alienate prospective customers with differing opinions, lead to misunderstandings, and incite workplace violence. However, they later changed their decision in light of public backlash. Others continued to ban BLM masks and other attire by relying on companywide dress code policies that prohibit employees from wearing masks and clothing with any visible slogans or messages unrelated to the company. These workplace policies recently came under fire when a group of employees filed a class-action lawsuit against a grocery chain, alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation for wearing BLM attire.

Specifically, the workers alleged that the employer rarely enforced its dress code policy and that it did not prohibit workers in the past from wearing clothing with messaging unrelated to the company, such as Pride pins or apparel supporting LGBTQ+ workers and even a SpongeBob SquarePants mask. According to the workers, the employer selectively enforced its policy to target and suppress BLM messaging, and, thus, discriminated against Black employees and others associating with and advocating for Black employees in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The workers also alleged they were retaliated against for continuing to wear BLM apparel and protesting the dress code policy.
Continue Reading Federal District Court Found That Employer Did Not Violate Title VII in Prohibiting Black Lives Matter Attire

Q: What is the definition of “close contact” for purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantining requirements?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance that significantly expands the definition of “close contact” for purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantining requirements. Previously, the CDC defined “close contact” to include only certain individuals who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of someone with COVID-19. Because this previous definition was in place before the CDC issued its mask guidance, many, including employers, inferred that “close contact” meant contact without any face coverings.


Continue Reading Too Close for Comfort: CDC’s Latest Guidance Significantly Expands the Definition of “Close Contact”

Authors:
Lee E. Tankle, Associate, Pepper Hamilton
Moses M. Tincher, Associate, Troutman Sanders

As governors begin to lift stay-at-home orders and communities around the country continue to progress through various phases of reopening, employers and employees alike are starting to plan for workers to return to offices and worksites. Although many Americans are adapting to the temporary “new normal,” COVID-19 remains a threat and must continue to be taken seriously. In preparation for returning employees, employers should be asking the following questions:
Continue Reading Return to Work: Questions All Employers Should Ask Before Reopening

Authors:
Lee Tankle, Associate, Pepper Hamilton
Moses Tincher, Associate, Troutman Sanders
Tracey Diamond, Of Counsel, Pepper Hamilton
Susan Lessak, Partner, Pepper Hamilton

On March 18, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act). The Act addresses many issues related to the nation’s response to COVID-19, including