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 the evening of Wednesday, December 22, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will hold a special session on January 7, 2022, to hear oral argument in cases concerning whether two Biden administration vaccine mandates should be stayed. One is an interim final rule promulgated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”); the other is an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).  The CMS interim final rule, presently stayed in 24 states, would require COVID-19 vaccination for staff employed at Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and suppliers. The OSHA ETS, which requires businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus or otherwise to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, was allowed to take effect when a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, to which the consolidated challenges had been assigned by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, issued a ruling on December 17, 2021, lifting a stay that had been previously entered by the Fifth Circuit. Multiple private sector litigants and states immediately challenged the decision.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Grants Rare Hearing on Stays in Vaccine Mandate Cases

New York City’s private employer vaccine mandate became effective Monday. December 27, 2021 and, the City has updated its FAQs document and the Accommodations Guidance document (“Guidance”).

Guidance Updates: The Guidance was amended to reflect that the New York City Human Rights Law provides for accommodations for pregnancy and for victims of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking in addition to medical and religious reasons. The Guidance also clarifies that the examples for medical exemptions for vaccination were those that had been found worthy by the CDC and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Further, the Guidance modifies some language on the religious accommodation checklist around the types of information needed to support religious accommodation requests. As we previously shared, the checklist the City recommends that employers maintain and complete in connection with each religious accommodation request does not alleviate an employer’s need to analyze such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Continue Reading NYC Employers Take Note: NYC Updates Private Employer Vaccine Guidance

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

On December 13, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) announced new Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings (“CDPH Guidance”), implementing a mandatory mask mandate for individuals (employees and patrons) in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccination status, beginning on December 15, 2021 through at least January 15, 2022.  The CDPH Guidance requires that masks be worn by all individuals over the age of two, unless exempt for disability-related or medical condition-based reasons, and recommends the use of surgical masks or higher-level respirators.

FAQs issued by the CDPH specify that the CDPH Guidance applies to workplaces, and clarify that local public health regulations remain in effect for localities that have previously adopted face covering measures prior to issuance of the CDPH Guidance that apply regardless of vaccination status. That is, the CDPH Guidance only applies to local health jurisdictions that do not have existing indoor masking requirements.  Notably, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (“SFDPH”) has taken the position, in its updated Order and FAQs, that its own masking rules remain in place—including exemptions for “stable cohorts” with 100% vaccination rates, among other criteria.  Marin County and Contra Costa County have taken similar positions regarding the applicability of local health order mask exceptions.  It remains unclear whether local mask exceptions apply given the CDPH Guidance masking rules.

Continue Reading California Authorities Announce Changes to COVID-19-Related Requirements

On December 14, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance entitled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” Technical Assistance Questions & Answers (the “Guidance”). The most significant change is the addition of a long-awaited discussion of “long COVID,” which other federal agencies had identified as a disability in joint guidance issued back in July.

The Guidance now contains a new Section N, which addresses when COVID-19 can be considered a disability under each of the three standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), i.e., “actual disability,” “record of disability,” or “regarded as an individual with a disability.”  Regardless of which definition may apply, the Guidance stresses the usual ADA rubric—that employers must conduct a fact intensive, case-by-case analysis to determine if an applicant or employee with COVID-19 or “long COVID” has a covered disability under the ADA.

Continue Reading The EEOC Releases Guidance: What Employers Should Know About COVID-19

The Commissioner of the New York Department of Health has extended the designation of COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to public health under the NY HERO Act until January 15, 2022, at which point the designation will be reviewed. Accordingly, the airborne infectious disease exposure

As featured in #WorkforceWednesday This week, we look at the status of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine rules for employers and the COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New York State and City.

Continue Reading Video: Update on Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Rules and NY and NYC Vaccine Mandates – Employment Law This Week

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