Near the end of 2021, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued the Emergency Temporary Standard (the ETS), which required employers with 100 or more employees to put in place a mandatory vaccination policy or require weekly COVID-19 testing and mask wearing by unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees. On November 5, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed enforcement and application of the vaccine mandate; this stay was dissolved by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 17, 2021. See the discussion of these rulings here and here. Thereafter, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review the issue.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Board) readopted a revised version of its earlier Emergency Temporary Standards (Standard) for employers on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace on December 16, 2021. The revised Standard was readopted by a 6-1 vote in the form proposed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Division) and will take effect on January 14, 2022, for a period of 90 days.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its long-awaited emergency temporary standard requiring all employers with a total of 100 or more employees at any time to mandate vaccination and/or weekly COVID-19 testing (the “vaccination/testing ETS”). As expected, the text of the vaccination/testing ETS requires that employees either become fully vaccinated or produce a negative test result at least every seven days before going in to work. In addition, the vaccination/testing ETS requires masks or other face coverings for unvaccinated employees working indoors. The new measure also requires employers to provide up to four hours of paid leave, including travel time, to employees to get vaccinated and recover from any ill effects of the vaccine. If employees experience side effects from vaccination, employers must also provide reasonable time and paid sick leave for recovery from each dose. However, under the federal mandate, employers are not required to shoulder the costs of weekly testing of employees or of providing face coverings for employees.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken steps to move forward with President Biden’s plan to require private-sector workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested. OSHA submitted the initial text of the proposed standard to the White House for approval on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. The text has not been made public, and details could change during White House review.
On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released updated general industry guidance for COVID-19 that is applicable to all workplaces. OSHA’s general industry guidance, which is advisory and creates no binding legal requirements, focuses on unvaccinated workers and others who are “at risk” (i.e., immunocompromised individuals).
OSHA has added additional recommendations that…
The City and County of Denver issued an Order on August 2, 2021, requiring personnel of the following entities, or types of entities, to be fully vaccinated by September 30, 2021:
- the City and County of Denver;
- care facilities;
- clinical settings;
- limited healthcare settings;
- shelters for people experiencing homelessness, including day and overnight shelters;
- correctional facilities, including jails, detention centers and community corrections sites and residences;
- schools, including post-secondary and higher education;
- childcare centers and services;
- any entity providing home care to patients; and
- any entity providing first responder services.
On June 10, 2021, OSHA updated general industry guidance for COVID-19 that is applicable to all workplaces. OSHA’s general industry guidance, which is advisory and creates no binding legal requirements, focuses on unvaccinated workers and others who are “at risk” (i.e., immunocompromised individuals). OSHA specifically states, “[u]nless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure.” Many employers are already implementing the actions and best practices recommended by OSHA for unvaccinated workers and at-risk workers. The Updated General Industry Guidance can be found here: Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVD-19 in the Workplace.
The OSHA guidance focuses on unvaccinated and at-risk workers. OSHA included no recommendations that specifically apply to fully vaccinated workers (i.e., they can go without face coverings and physical distancing whether indoors or outdoors). OSHA guidance allows unvaccinated employees to go without a face covering if physically distanced.
OSHA issued the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on June 10, 2021. The full ETS can be found here: Subpart U — COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (osha.gov).
The ETS applies to workplace settings where professional healthcare practitioners provide healthcare services or healthcare support services. The ETS primarily applies to hospital workplaces. Many other workplace settings where professional healthcare practitioners provide healthcare services or healthcare support services can be exempted from coverage of the ETS if they meet certain criteria, including having all employees fully vaccinated, screening all non‑employees for COVID-19 symptoms before entry, and prohibiting entry for persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. If there is a healthcare setting embedded within a non‑healthcare setting, such as medical clinics within manufacturing facilities, the ETS may apply only to the embedded healthcare setting and not the remainder of the non-healthcare setting.