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Employment Law Notebook

HAPPY NEW YEAR! DON’T LET YOUR EMPLOYMENT POLICIES BRING YOU A YEAR OF COVID-19 LIABILITY

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost  two years since COVID-19 turned our lives upside down.  While it would be great to toast the new year with this madness behind us, constantly changing state and federal rules related to COVID-19 and the increased transmission of the virus requires employers to continue to be focused on the relationship between the virus, vaccines and their employees in 2022.

Vaccine mandates:

While we still have to wait for the U.S Supreme Court  to finally decide the fate of the federal vaccine mandates for employers with 100 or more employees and the one for health care workers (the Court is hearing arguments on January 7), employers with 100 or more employees cannot adopt a wait and see approach until the Supreme Court Rules. By January 10, OSHA is requiring employers with 100 or more employees to have made a good faith effort to ascertain vaccine status of all employees, create a roster of employees with their vaccination status, implement a written policy either mandating COVID-19 vaccination or giving employees the choice between mandatory vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing and worksite mask wearing, remove COVID-19 positive or untested employees from the workplace, implement face covering requirements, and share certain employee communications about vaccine information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is very unlikely the US Supreme Court will issue a decision before January 10. Employers who don’t comply with these rules could be fined $13,653 per violation.

Quarantine/Isolation Procedures:

On December 23 and December 27, The CDC changed its guidance for health care workers and the general public regarding quarantine/isolation procedures when individuals test positive or are exposed to COVID-19.  Policies for staff should be modified/implemented to comply with these requirements. This will likely affect employers' plans to return employees to the workplace as well as leave and attendance procedures. 

States Busy With COVID-19 Workplace Controls

Meanwhile many states have or are constantly tweeking or rolling out new laws related to COVID-19 affecting who pays for COVID-19 testing, vaccination, masking, paid time off for employees, etc.  For example, employers  with employees in New York state generally and in New York City specifically face new requirements on COVID-19 vaccination and masking that were implemented in December  with little time for employers to prepare.

Managing employee anxiety, dissention and emotions

As has been the case throughout this pandemic, it’s hard to have a conversation these days without COVID-19 coming up.  When employees have divergent attitudes about their risk tolerance,  opinions on on vaccination and others controlling what they perceive as personal choices, this can lead to uncomfortable and sometimes discriminatory comments at work.  Managers should be on the look out for these types of disputes and handle them with care.

This is not the time to go it alone. Contact your friendly employment law counsel to stay out of legal trouble, stay sane and keep your employees healthy and safe.