As covered in our previous blog post, in January 2023, Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Gerard J. Neri, struck down a regulation adopted by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. The NYSDOH, the Commissioner of Health, Governor Hochul (collectively, Respondents) filed a Notice of Appeal, indicating their intention to appeal Judge Neri’s decision in its entirety. Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 27, 2023, Respondents moved for a stay of enforcement of Judge Neri’s Order during the pendency of their appeal.
On Jan. 13, 2023, Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Gerard J. Neri, struck down a regulation adopted by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. Judge Neri invalidated the Regulation on several grounds, holding that the NYSDOH exceeded its authority in implementing the Regulation and that the Regulation lacked a rational basis given the NYSDOH’s acknowledgement that the mandate does not prevent transmission.
With the onset of the COVID-19 XBB.1.5 variant, more employees are in need of time off from work this winter to recover from unfortunate illness. Below is a quick update for employers on the current state of COVID-19 paid leave laws available to employees:
In August 2021, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) implemented an emergency regulation – 10 N.Y.C.R.R. § 2.61 (the Regulation) – requiring covered healthcare entities to ensure that their “personnel” are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. The NYSDOH Commissioner permanently adopted the regulation in June 2022. Commonly referred to as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, the Regulation has been the subject of several legal challenges in both state and federal courts.
New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA or Act) provides covered employees with the right to use safe and sick leave as it accrues for a delineated list of circumstances. On Aug. 11, 2022, the New York City Council introduced a proposal to amend the ESSTA’s definition of “employee.” Under this proposal, certain independent contractors would qualify as employees and receive benefit coverage under the Act. The proposal would require hiring entities to engage in detailed analyses of individuals providing services to determine wither they are independent contractors or employees.
On Sept. 14, 2022, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued updated COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance, which effectively replaces the guidance from May 31, 2022. According to the September 14 guidance, the NYSDOH will now follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines on quarantine and isolation.
Last week, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that New York’s regulation establishing isolation and quarantine procedures related to COVID-19 and other highly communicable diseases is void and unenforceable.
In connection with Mental Health Awareness Month, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) has sought to assist employers in better understanding how to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as it relates to mental health conditions. Accordingly, on May 25, 2022, the USDOL issued new guidance (Guidance) and frequently asked questions (FAQs) on providing FMLA leave to employees to address their own mental health conditions or to care for a covered family member with a mental health condition.
On March 18, 2022, the NYS Department of Labor updated its NY HERO Act website to confirm that the NYS Commissioner of Health’s designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” ended on March 17, 2022.
On Feb. 15, 2022, the NYS Commissioner of Health extended the NY HERO Act designation for a fifth time through March 17, 2022. The Commissioner will review the CDC’s level of transmission of COVID-19 at that time and determine whether to continue the designation (extend further) or not. Based on the Commissioner’s designations, if the CDC’s level of transmission in New York continues to be “high” or “substantial,” it seems highly likely that the Commissioner will continue the designation.
The wait is over. On Jan.13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision to stay the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) vaccination or test emergency temporary standard (ETS), effectively blocking the enforcement of the ETS for the foreseeable future.
It seems that change is the only constant when it comes to OSHA’s Vax or Test Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Here is the current status:
The Supreme Court’s Decision is Pending
On Friday, Jan. 7, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the ETS at a special session of the Court.1 Challengers to the ETS requested that the Court issue a stay to stop the ETS before Jan. 10, stating that the mandate was overly broad and was a question that should be left to Congress or to be decided at the state-specific level. Though one cannot predict how the Court will rule, based on their line of questioning, a majority of the justices appeared to be skeptical of the ETS with Justice Alito quoting the late Justice Scalia when he described OSHA’s interpretation as “squeezing an elephant into a mousehole.” At the hearing, Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh focused on the Major Questions Doctrine.2 The justices also focused on whether OSHA had the authority to mandate a vaccine that impacts not only the workplace, but also employees’ lives outside the workplace, and is, to quote Chief Justice Roberts, an “out-in-the-world issue.” Additionally, the justices floated the idea of issuing a brief administrative stay until they could make a decision. Solicitor General Prelogar, appearing for OSHA, obviously disagreed and said that the Jan. 10 deadline did not pose a major burden on businesses, except for imposing mask requirements. The Court has announced that it will be issuing “one or more opinions” on Jan. 13. It is unclear if one of these opinions will be with respect to the ETS. We are awaiting the Court’s decision and will keep you informed.