On April 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh placed a “hold” on the implementation of a potential U.S. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which would set a national COVID-19 safety standard for OSHA-covered employers throughout the United States. While President Biden’s inauguration day Executive Order directed

On March 12, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, aiming to provide relief to individuals and businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA impacts employer-sponsored health plans in several ways, including the implementation of a COBRA premium subsidy. Employers should be aware of the actions they must take in response to this change.

COBRA requires an employer-sponsored group health plan to give employees who otherwise would lose coverage due to termination (or another qualifying event) a chance to continue to buy coverage for themselves and any family members on the plan for a limited period after that event. The maximum coverage period generally is 18 months. The plan typically may charge up to 102 percent of the cost of coverage for similarly situated active participants (the COBRA premium).


Continue Reading American Rescue Plan Act’s COBRA health care premium subsidy

On March 19, 2021 Governor Newsom signed into law SB 95 (adding sections 248.2 and 248.3 to the Labor Code), which requires employers to pay California employees up to two weeks of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (COVID-19 SPSL).

This new law revives and expands the supplemental paid sick leave law that expired on December 31, 2020. As a result of these changes from the prior iteration of California’s Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, many more California employers will be required to provide, and many more employees will be eligible for, COVID-19 SPSL.
Continue Reading California brings back, and expands, COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

As employers anticipate returning to work in light of increased availability of vaccines, some have considered requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination to return to the workplace. On March 4, 2021, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) updated its DFEH Employment Information on COVID-19 to address whether employers may mandate vaccines under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The FEHA prohibits discrimination against employees based on protected characteristics, including disability and religious beliefs.

Under the recent update, the DFEH states that employers may require employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccination against COVID-19 as long as the employer 1) provides reasonable accommodation related to disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, and 2) does not retaliate against employees for requesting such an accommodation.


Continue Reading DFEH issues guidance addressing mandatory vaccines in California

As employers are revising their return to work protocols in light of increased vaccination efforts and the prospect of increased on-site work, the federal government has been busy implementing additional COVID-19 safety measures for the workplace, including targeted on-site inspections of workplaces where workers may have been or are likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Among other actions, on March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP), effective immediately, prioritizing inspections for “high-hazard industries or activities” where there is a hazard for contracting COVID-19 at the workplace. The NEP, published alongside an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (ERP) is a result of President Biden’s inauguration day Executive Order in which he directed OSHA to focus its enforcement on COVID-19 efforts. President Biden’s executive order called for OSHA to consider implementing a potential nationwide Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The NEP and ERP suggest that an ETS may be issued in the future by stating that if an ETS is issued, its requirements will take precedence over OSHA’s currently-available standards.

The stated goal of the NEP is to “significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to SARS-CoV-2 by targeting industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures and therefore, controlling the health hazards associated with such exposures. This goal will be accomplished by a combination of inspection targeting, outreach to employers, and compliance assistance…”
Continue Reading OSHA issues National Emphasis Program and Enforcement Response Plan, targeting certain industries for inspections

[UPDATE: On March 12, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed the bills into law, providing for paid COVID-19 vaccination leave for New York employees, effective immediately.]

The New York State Legislature recently passed bills (Bill S2588A; A3354B) that would provide all public and private employees in New York with up to four hours of paid leave to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. The legislation is expected to be signed by Governor Cuomo shortly.

The proposed law provides that the paid vaccination leave may not be charged against any other leave that the employee is entitled to, such as any paid sick leave or leave pursuant to any collectively bargained agreement. An employee will be entitled to up to four hours for each COVID-19 vaccination through December 31, 2022.
Continue Reading Paid vaccination leave coming to New York

As we previously discussed, employers with fewer than 500 employees will no longer be legally required to provide employees with leaves of absence under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). As of January 1, 2021, covered employers may choose to voluntarily provide such leave through March 31, 2021, and continue to take tax credits for doing so.

Although FFCRA leave may now be an employer elective, covered employers in states and local jurisdictions that have passed their own COVID-19 leave laws may remain obligated to provide their eligible employees with COVID-19 leave. We previously discussed an expansion of Washington D.C.’s COVID-19 leave obligations through March 31, 2021. To a similar end, New York employers also have continuing COVID-19 leave obligations into 2021, and perhaps beyond.
Continue Reading NY employers’ continuing COVID-19 leave obligations…for the foreseeable future

As we explained in a recent post, as of January 1, 2021, COVID-19 leave is no longer mandated under the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), although covered employers who voluntarily provide paid leave outlined in the FFCRA may take advantage of the FFCRA tax credit through March 31, 2021. Notwithstanding this change