Back in March 2021, when it wasn’t easy for many people to get an appointment for an inoculation against COVID-19, New York State created an incentive for employees to get vaccinated.  A new provision was added to the Labor Law, requiring employers to provide paid leave time to employees to obtain each dose. As we previously noted, this statute was intended to sunset on December 31, 2022. However, as this year’s busy legislative session wound down, a bill extending the provision was delivered to Governor Kathy Hochul, who signed off on a 12-month extension of the law’s effective date, through December 31, 2023. Thus, New York employers will be required to provide their employees up to four hours of paid time off for each COVID-19 shot through (at least) the end of next year.

Continue Reading New York State Tacks on an Extra Year to Its Paid Vaccination Leave Law

As explained in greater detail by our colleague Stuart M. Gerson, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two major, and quickly decided, rulings on January 13, 2022. After hearing oral arguments only six days earlier, the Court issued two unsigned decisions per curiam. A 5-4 decision in Biden v. Missouri dissolved a preliminary injunction against enforcement of an interim final rule (“Rule”) promulgated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), requiring recipients of federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to ensure that their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Continue Reading SCOTUS Permits CMS Health Care Vax Rule but Rejects OSHA Vax-or-Test ETS for Large Employers

Ready for the “new normal”? Starting January 15, 2022, Boston’s “B-Together” Vaccine Mandate (“the mandate”) will require certain indoor establishments to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry from employees, contractors, and customers.

  1. The mandate applies only to indoor portions of certain commercial food services, gym and fitness settings, and entertainment/recreation facilities in Boston

“Indoor food services” means indoor portions of food service establishments offering food and drink including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Fully enclosed “outdoor” areas are considered “indoor” under the policy. The mandate does not apply to open-air, outdoor areas, food service establishments offering food and/or drink exclusively for off-premises or outdoor consumption, or to food service establishments providing charitable food services, such as soup kitchens.

Continue Reading Five Fast Facts on Boston’s Indoor Vaccine Mandate

On December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an update to its isolation and quarantine guidance. Although the CDC’s update shortens both the isolation and quarantine periods, as described more fully below, the changes largely affect only asymptomatic individuals. Moreover, because local guidance may differ from the CDC’s recommendations, employers should keep in mind all applicable state and local requirements when deciding whether to amend their own rules.

Continue Reading CDC Shortens Recommended COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods

On Monday, December 20, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a “situational update,” declaring a state of emergency due to the “Winter 2022 Surge” in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta and Omicron variants. The District will combat the current rise in COVID-19 cases with a six-pronged approach outlined in an action plan (the “Plan”) published by the Mayor’s Office and implemented under Mayor’s Order 2021-147 (the “Order”).  The Plan includes expanding free testing programs, a new indoor mask mandate, and a vaccine mandate for city employees and contractors.

Expanded Testing

The District has been operating a program called “Test Yourself DC,” which provides free PCR testing kits for use at home. On December 20, 2021, nine new pick-up/drop-off sites were added to the program, making a total of 36 locations available. The Test Yourself locations are in addition to the eight public testing sites staffed by health professionals administering free PCR COVID-19 tests. Further, the program will be expanded to include “Test Yourself Express,” which will offer free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 testing kits at eight DC public libraries. District residents who provide proof of residency will be permitted to get two free rapid tests per day and must report their results via an online portal.

Continue Reading More Tests, Mandatory Masks, and Another Vaccine Mandate: The District of Columbia Steps Up Its Battle Plan

Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed HB 1-B, Ch. 2021-272, Laws of Fla. (the “Vaccination Exemption Law”), which prohibits every private employer from issuing COVID-19 vaccination mandates for its Florida employees without allowing employees to opt out for five specific exemptions: (i) medical reasons, including pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy, as determined by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant; (ii) religious reasons, based on a sincerely held belief; (iii) COVID-19 immunity, based on prior COVID-19 infection, as documented by a lab test; (iv) periodic testing, agreed to by the employee and at no cost to the employee; or (v) based on compliant use of employer-provided personal protective equipment (“PPE”), agreed to by the employee.  Employers that receive a “completed exemption statement” must allow the requesting employee to “opt out” of the employer’s vaccination requirements.[1]  Employers will be found to have violated the Vaccination Exemption Law by failing to provide for exemptions in their COVID-19 vaccination mandate and terminating the employee—which includes “the functional equivalent of termination,” as defined below.

On December 2, 2021, the Florida Department of Legal Affairs issued a Notice of Emergency Rule (the “Rule”), further defining key provisions of the Vaccination Exemption Law.  Moreover, this Department (headed by the Attorney General) has issued guidance in the form of FAQs (the “Guidance”), outlining the employee complaint procedure for potential employer violations of the Vaccination Exemption Law.

The Rule

Continue Reading Florida Issues Notice of Emergency Rule and Guidance on New Vaccination Exemption Law

As we previously reported, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042 (the Order), which mandated that employees of contractors and subcontractors performing work on federal contracts be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022.  Challengers from seven states—Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia (the Plaintiff States)—and various state agencies, filed suit against President Biden and his Administration, seeking injunctive relief against enforcement of the Order.  On December 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted the motion and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the vaccine mandate.

The Court’s Decision

Continue Reading Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors Enjoined Nationwide

As we previously reported, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) interim final rule (“the Rule”) requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for staff and others at Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers (i.e., the “vaccine mandate”) has been challenged in the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Missouri (“the Missouri Court”) and the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division (“the Louisiana Court”).  As of the date of this writing, both Courts have granted preliminary injunctions placing the Rule on hold.

On November 29, 2021, the Missouri Court granted a preliminary injunction of the Rule, which applies to the coalition of ten states [1] that filed the challenge there. The following day, the Louisiana Court entered a similar injunction, which applies to the remaining forty states.

The Decisions

Continue Reading CMS Interim Final Rule Stayed

*UPDATE, Nov. 11, 2021: Deadline for Compliance Extended to January 18, 2022, and Federal Guidance Updated. Stay tuned!

On November 1, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) issued new FAQs for federal contractors and subcontractors (“covered contractors”) that are subject to Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols

On Monday, October 11, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-40 (the “Order”) prohibiting vaccine mandates by any entity. The Order, which was effective upon issuance, states: “No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for