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.
On Dec. 24, 2021, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued updated isolation and quarantine guidance for fully vaccinated healthcare and other essential workers infected with COVID-19, allowing them to return to work after five days of isolation, so long as each worker is asymptomatic, or their symptoms have mostly resolved.
On Dec. 22, 2021, New York published its final paid sick leave regulations. These regulations are identical to the proposed regulations, initially published on Dec. 9, 2020. New York Paid Sick Leave (PSL) requires employers to provide paid leave to employees relating to an employee’s or an employee’s family member’s medical needs, or for reasons relating to domestic violence and similar offenses. Since Jan. 1, 2021, employers have been required to provide this leave to all New York employees.
On Dec. 22, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) published long-awaited proposed regulations relating to the second half of the NY HERO Act relating to workplace safety committees.
By way of brief background, on May 5, 2021 the state signed the NY HERO Act into law. The NY HERO Act added two new sections to the New York Labor Law: (1) New York Labor Law Section 218-b, regarding occupational exposure to airborne infectious disease, which created certain obligations for private employers and protections for employees, including the requirement to adopt an “airborne disease exposure prevention plan”; and (2) New York Labor Law Section 27-d, dealing with employee rights to form workplace safety committees. The first part of the NY HERO Act (NYLL 218-b) went into effect on July 4, 2021. The second part of the NY HERO Act (NYLL 27-d) went into effect on Nov. 1, 2021.
It seems that new details about the status of OSHA’s Vax or Test Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) are emerging daily! On Dec. 22, 2021, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will expedite hearing arguments regarding the ETS at a special session of the Court on Jan. 7, 2022.1 This announcement comes on the heels of a rapid succession of litigation and court orders. In early November 2021, the Fifth Circuit had temporarily stayed implementation of the ETS, which was later lifted by the Sixth Circuit on Dec. 17. Almost immediately, plaintiffs challenging the ETS filed several requests with the Court asking the justices to order an emergency stay of the rule. Please review Bond’s Dec. 20, 2021 blog post for additional details.
On Dec. 15, 2021, the Acting NYS Commissioner of Health, Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H., announced the third extension of the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” through Jan. 15, 2022.
On Nov. 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring all employers with 100 or more employees, with a few exceptions, to mandate vaccination or test employees weekly for COVID-19. OSHA justified the ETS by citing a “grave danger” posed by the coronavirus. Covered employers are required to develop, implement and enforce either a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy or a policy requiring employees to choose to get vaccinated or to undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. In addition, the ETS requires employers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave for employees to recover from any side effects resulting from vaccination.
On Oct. 31, 2021, the NYS Commissioner of Health announced the further extension of the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” through Dec. 15, 2021.
On Sept. 30, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services published guidance, “HIPAA, COVID-19 Vaccination, and the Workplace,” (the Guidance) that details the ways in which the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) intersects with workplace and other third-party inquiries regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.