Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EEOC provides guidance for employer requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 04, 2021

Now that vaccinations against COVID-19 infections are becoming available, employer responses to the pandemic will include when to recommend, support, or even require employee vaccinations. While workplace safety considerations might support all these efforts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just issued a reminder that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 require employers to craft their vaccination policies in ways that won’t violate anti-discrimination provisions. The remainder of this note discusses EEOC guidance published on December 16, 2020.

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Tags: Health & Safety, EEOC, Coronavirus, CDC, Covid-19, ADA, Vaccine, Immunization, Vaccination

OSHA recommends employers consider whether COVID-19 risks affect workplace ventilation

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 22, 2020

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure workplace air quality, as part of the agency’s broad mission to protect workers’ safety and health. Instead of a single comprehensive standard, OSHA incorporates air-related issues into standards requiring employers to consider whether workplace conditions might require respiratory protections (which I discussed HERE), and additional standards addressing routine workplace air contaminants (which I discussed HERE), and special hazards of confined spaces (which I discussed HERE). OSHA also applies specific ventilation standards in workplaces that involve abrasive blasting; grinding, polishing, and buffing operations; and spray finishing operations.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Coronavirus, Covid-19

COVID masks may or may not be required by worker protection agencies

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Dec 21, 2020

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employees wear personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to help protect them against identified workplace hazards. This equipment may protect against physical hazards—hard hats, safety glasses, tinted goggles, steel-toed shoes—or may protect against health hazards—respirators, self-contained breathing apparatus, gloves. OSHA does not formally consider cloth facemasks to be PPE, but does consider them “source control” that may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus – which means that they do provide protection to co-workers. OSHA and most other health and safety agencies therefore do at least recommend masks, and some require them in specified settings. The remainder of this note discusses agencies’ formal provisions regarding masks.

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Tags: Health & Safety, Coronavirus, Covid-19, PPE

Can a Québec employer force employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Posted by BLG’s Labour and Employment Group on Wed, Dec 16, 2020

Since surfacing in Québec, COVID-19 has had its share of drawbacks for workers and employers, and continues to impose numerous human resource management and administration challenges. Employer obligations and responsibilities regarding occupational health and safety have increased significantly. These include stricter hygiene and maintenance measures in the workplace, social distancing, and wearing masks, among others.

The upsurge in COVID-19 cases seen recently is an unfortunate reminder of its high rate of contagion and its virulence among at risk populations. The global scientific community has been working hard to develop effective vaccines, and for many, such vaccines are the long-awaited solution. In this context, several legal issues arise. For example, could an employer require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employee Rights, Covid-19, Employment Law, Labour & Employment, Vaccine, Immunization, Quebec

Protecting against workplace violence during COVID

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 17, 2020

During the COIVD-19 pandemic, there have been many reports of angry arguments between people who don’t want to wear masks or practice social distance and retail staff members trying to enforce local requirements. Some of these confrontations escalate to violence. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide formal guidelines to retail businesses, offering ways for protecting workers by “Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses.” The remainder of this note describes CDC’s latest guidance. 

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Workplace violence, Coronavirus, CDC, Covid-19, CCOHS

Trump administration guidelines for easing enforcement

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 06, 2020

During 2020, the Trump Administration has seized on the economic disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic as the latest of its many rationales for easing environmental regulations. In May, the President issued an executive order (EO) directing agencies to “support the economic response to the COVID–19 outbreak” (EO 13924 “Regulatory Relief To Support Economic Recovery”; I discussed it HERE). That EO included directions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to receive reports from individual federal agencies about their regulatory and enforcement responses, and authorized OMB to issue guidance. On August 31, 2020, OMB issued a “Memorandum for the Deputy Secretaries of Executive Departments and Agencies – Implementation of Section 6 of Executive Order 13924” (Memorandum M-20-31; called “the Memo” below) offering this guidance. 

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Tags: Health & Safety, Coronavirus, Covid-19, OMB, Executive Order, Memorandum M-20-31, Economy, Administration Guidelines, EO 13924

CERB and EI changes: What employers and workers need to know

Posted by BLG’s Labour and Employment Group on Tue, Sep 22, 2020

On August 20, 2020, the federal government announced its transition from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to a simplified Employment Insurance (EI) program to provide income support to those unable to work due to COVID-19.

In addition to simplifying access to EI, the government will introduce three new temporary recovery benefits: the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Benefit.

Subject to parliamentary approval, these programs will be effective starting September 27 and available for one year.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employee Rights, Covid-19, Employment Law, Labour & Employment, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Employment Insurance, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

Protecting your workplace from wildfires

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Aug 26, 2020

Summer is wildfire season in many areas, although its importance to your workplace obviously varies. We worry more here in California than folks in New England -- as I started this note my home region around San Francisco Bay had the worst air quality on the planet  during a siege of wildfires from lightning strikes. If your workplace is a downtown high rise, wildfire risks are less than if it's in a suburban office park – and if you’re telecommuting during the COVID pandemic, it may depend less on your employer’s location than where you’ve set yourself up.

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Tags: OSHA, Covid-19, workplace safety, Wildfire, Cal-Fire, California, Summer

Virginia adopts first standard specifically requiring workplace protections against COVID

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Jul 22, 2020

In recent months, worker protection and public health agencies have issued increasingly stringent and detailed guidelines for employers to follow to reduce worker exposures to COVID-19. I’ve written about a number of these, including HERE and HERE. Over the same months, many workplaces have also been affected by state and local government mandates designed to protect public health in places the public (at least previously) frequent – these include temporary closures of many types of organizations, and restrictions such as masks at others.

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Tags: Health & Safety, Coronavirus, CDC, Safety and Health at Work, Covid-19, VOSH, DOLI, PPE, Virginia

OSHA issues new post-COVID back-to-work guidance

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 30, 2020

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance to assist businesses deemed “non-essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic as they reopen their workplaces. OSHA’s new “Guidance on Returning to Work” sets forth a number of basic principles that OSHA recommends guide employer actions, including specific examples. The document also reminds readers that responsibilities always apply under OSHA’s Employer’s General Duty Clause, references a number of existing OSHA standards that apply to re-opening activities and reopened workplaces, and identifies other sources of guidance and requirements.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, EEOC, Coronavirus, CDC, Covid-19, Back-to-Work