D.C. Expands Sick Leave With COVID-19 Response Supplement Emergency Amendment Act

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On April 10, 2020, the District of Columbia passed the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (“the Act”).  Among other things, the Act amends the D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 by creating a new category of paid leave called “Declared Emergency Leave.” shutterstock_Washington DCThis is in addition to the March 17, 2020, amendment of the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (“D.C. FMLA”) that created “Declaration of Emergency” leave.  Under the Act, employers must now provide paid leave to employees for any covered reason provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  Notably, this leave appears to be in addition to: (1) leave provided by FFCRA; (2) leave provided by D.C. FMLA; and (3) leave provided by the employer’s policies.  The new law is currently in effect and will remain in effect for no longer than 90 days, until July 9, 2020.

With respect to coverage, companies employing between 50 and 499 people must provide Declared Emergency Leave to D.C. employees.  It is unclear, however, if the 50 to 499 employees must all work in D.C. to trigger the new law’s application, or whether the new law applies to any employee who works in D.C. so long as the employer employs between 50 and 499 employees nationwide.  Subsequent regulations may be issued to further clarify.  Additionally, there is an exemption from coverage for healthcare providers.  For purposes of Declared Emergency Leave, healthcare provider is defined as any doctor’s office, hospital, healthcare center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering healthcare instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home healthcare provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer or entity.  This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions.

An employee is eligible to take Declared Emergency Leave if Continue reading

[Webinar] Impact of the #MeToo Movement: Changes in Enforcement and State Law

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Kara M. Maciel and Lindsay A. DiSalvo will present a complimentary webinar regarding “Impact of the #MeToo Movement: Changes in Enforcement and State Law.”

Over the past three years, we have seen the continued momentum of the #MeToo shutterstock_metooMovement and its impacts – beyond the immediate and direct effects of the specific allegations – have taken shape. Back in 2017, the #MeToo Movement was invigorated by a slew of high-profile allegations of sexual harassment and assault and tens of thousands of people, largely women, voicing their own experiences on social media using the hashtag “Metoo.” In the wake of the prominence of the Movement and its influence on the discourse surrounding issues of harassment, the states and the federal government have taken action to tackle what they see as the underlying issues that foster harassment. And one of the main areas of focus has been preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the work environment.

Indeed, several states, such as New York and Illinois, have passed laws requiring employers to implement such things as sexual harassment prevention policies and training at their facilities – some of the laws even specifically describe what those policies and/or training’s must contain. Other states have also implemented such restrictions as bans on including sexual harassment claims in mandatory arbitration agreements. Simultaneously, we have seen an uptick in the number of sexual harassment charges filed and pursued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Thus, it is essential for employers to understand the legal requirements and restrictions surrounding this issue to ensure compliance with federal and state law.

Participants will learn about the following: Continue reading

BREAKING: OSHA Issues Enforcement Policy Relaxing Regulatory Compliance During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

The Coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for employers that are attempting to meet OSHA regulatory obligations – such as annual training, auditing, testing, medical surveillance requirements, and the like – without creating greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 for their employees.  This evening (April 16, 2020), OSHA issued a new Enforcement Memorandum acknowledging that reality.  The enforcement memo, entitled “Discretion in Enforcement when Considering an Employer’s Good Faith Efforts During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic,” provides enforcement relief for employers who exercise good faith in the context of this extraordinary health crisis.

In explaining the need for this enforcement relief, OSHA recognized that:

“Widespread business closures, restrictions on travel, limitations on group sizes, facility visitor prohibitions, and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place requirements” have strained the “availability of employees, consultants, or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services,” as well as the opportunity for “employee participation in training even when trainers are available.”  Similarly, “access to medical testing facilities may be limited or suspended.”

To address these very real challenges to achieving full compliance with various annual and other regulatory requirements, OSHA issued a temporary enforcement policy based on the agency’s enforcement discretion to relax enforcement of many existing regulatory obligations if complying with these obligations is not feasible or if doing so would pose an unreasonable risk of virus transmission among the employer’s workforce.  Today’s enforcement policy applies broadly to employers in all industry sectors, takes effect immediately, and will remain in effect indefinitely throughout the current public health crisis.

The heart of the new enforcement policy is this:

  • Where an employer is unable to comply with OSHA standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, assessments, inspections, or testing because of the Coronavirus pandemic, AND the employer has made good faith attempts to comply, OSHA “shall take such efforts into strong consideration in determining whether to cite a violation.”
  • But where the employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply or why trying to comply would be more hazardous, a citation may issue as appropriate.

As part of OSHA’s assessment whether an employer engaged in good faith compliance efforts, OSHA will evaluate whether the employer Continue reading

COVID-19 OSHA FAQs about Respirators, Face Masks, and Face Coverings

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

As concerns about the spread of COVID-19 grow, many employees working in essential businesses have sought to provide or require some form of respirator, face mask, or face covering for employees.  Now, the CDC and White House are recommending that everyone wear some form of face covering any time in public to help reduce community spread of COVID-19.  So, it is important to be aware of the OSHA guidelines and obligations regarding respirators and face coverings in the workplace.  Depending on the type of face mask used, and whether it is required by the employer or permitted for voluntary use, there are certain requirements that employers must follow under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.134 and perhaps by other regulatory requirements.

As a starting point, let’s level-set the type of equipment we are talking about.  N95 masks, although they are called masks and look like masks, are actually considered by OSHA to be respirators.  Of course, anything more substantial than an N95 mask, such as half or full face tight-fitting face pieces with a filtering medium, are also considered by OSHA to be respirators.  That type of equipment, whether it is required by the employer or permitted for voluntary use, triggers some requirements of OSHA’s respiratory protection standard that we will discuss below.  Simple paper or cloth masks, like dental or non-N95 surgical masks, on the other hand, are not considered to be respirators, and do not trigger any requirements under 1910.134.

OSHA’s respiratory protection standard provides that a respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee; i.e., if there are exposures to chemicals or other hazardous agents above permissible exposure limits.  If a respirator is necessary because of exposure levels or simply because an employer mandates employees wear respirators, the employer must establish a written respiratory protection program that includes numerous elements such as fit testing, medical evaluations, procedures for proper use, storage and cleaning, and training.

OSHA’s initial Guidance for COVID-19 in the Workplace described four exposure risk categories (lower, medium, high, and very high) that workplaces and job tasks fall into, and the safety precautions that should be considered for each risk level, including what personal protective equipment (“PPE”) may be appropriate.  The majority of workplaces, other than healthcare workers and those with regular close contact with known or suspected COVID-19 patients, fall into the lower or medium risk category.  As of today, neither OSHA nor the CDC has issued guidance indicating that N95 respirators, or any other device considered to be a respirator, is required in lower- and medium-risk workplaces to protect employees from exposures to COVID-19.

However, that does not answer the question about what, if any, regulatory requirements there are if employers permit employees to voluntarily use N95s or other negative pressure filtering facepieces.  OSHA most succinctly addressed which parts of 1910.134 apply to the voluntary use of N95 masks in a 2009 Interpretation Letter with this statement:

“If respiratory protection is not required and the employer did not advise the employee to use [an N95 dust mask], but the employee requested to use a dust mask, it would be considered voluntary use. Under these conditions, there would be no requirement to develop a written respiratory protection program; however, the employer would be responsible for providing the employee with a copy of Appendix D of 1910.134[, which outlines information for employees using respirators when not required under the standard].”

The voluntary use of N95 masks by employees does not require Continue reading

Bargaining in a Time of Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented response thereto by various layers of government has caused many, if not most businesses to rearrange their hours or operations, lay off employees or even to cease doing business altogether. Given this seemingly unprecedented situation, many unionized employers may wonder what duty they have to bargain over specific changes to their ways of doing business.NLRB Memo

General Counsel Peter Robb recently provided some helpful guidance summarizing prior NLRB case law on this timely topic. The first portion of Robb’s memo (GC Memo 20-04) summarizes various Board decisions touching on an employer’s duty to bargain during public emergency situations, such as hurricanes, 9/11 and other emergencies.

By way of background, because an employer’s decision to lay off bargaining unit employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining, an employer is generally obligated to bargain with an incumbent union with respect to both the decision to lay off and the effects of that decision. However, an exception to that rule exists if an employer can demonstrate that economic exigencies compel prompt action. Although the Board has consistently maintained a narrow view of this exception, unforeseen extraordinary events which have a major economic effect may fit within it.

For example, in Port Printing & Specialties, 351 NLRB 1269 (2007), the Board ruled Continue reading

COVID-19 FAQs for Employers – Answers to Frequently Asked Employment Law and OSHA Regulatory Questions

As employers around the country grapple with the employment law and workplace safety regulatory implications of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now called “COVID-19,” the Labor & Employment Law and OSHA specialist attorneys at Conn Maciel Carey LLP have been fielding countless questions and helping our clients and friends in industry manage this pandemic.

To aid employers, we have created an extensive index of frequently asked questions with our answers about HR, employment law, and OSHA regulatory related developments and guidance.  Here are the categories addressed in the FAQs tool:

COVID FAQs Image

As this situation continues to evolve, we will Continue reading

What Do State and Local Stay-At-Home/Shelter-In-Place Orders Mean For Employers?

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

COVIDGovernors across the nation have signed various “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders in an increased effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Many cities and counties have also signed such orders as well, including in states with no statewide order in place.  These orders vary in their scope in the restricted activities and affected industries but they typically address: (1) the continued operations of critical businesses; (2) restrictions on non-essential businesses; (3) the activities individuals may continue to perform; and (4) other limitations on gatherings.

Continue reading