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