As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, public health and worker safety agencies have issued and re-issued directions to employers for copying with evolving situations. On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its benchmark guidance for management of workplace COVID-19 risks. The remainder of this note summarizes OSHA’s newly-revised “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.” (I wrote about the initial January 2021 version HERE).
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
One of the most talked about topics when it comes to the scheduled roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine this year is whether an employer is entitled to require its employees to receive the vaccine in order to remain at or return to the workplace.
It’s a multifaceted issue, and it deserves fulsome consideration when discussing the important role employers could play in the national vaccination campaign, which is a key component of the fight against the spread of COVID-19 within an employer’s workplace and more broadly. However, that is not the only interest at play. An employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace must be balanced with employees’ potentially competing interests, such as the fundamental freedom to make inherently personal choices about one’s own body. This can include competing rights relate to health or religious beliefs and trigger protection under human rights legislation.
After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are finally in distribution and beginning to affect health and safety measures underway by agencies, employers and the public. On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.” These new guidelines are directed to individuals, but employers should consider their implications when deciding what to tell their individual employees and customers how to approach the business. The short version: organizations shouldn’t ease up on protective measures undertaken in compliance with guidance from CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other agencies. I provide more detailed discussion in the remainder of this note.
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.Read More
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?Read More