The Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act) requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Late last week, the agency responsible for administering the Act, the U. S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), issued a long-awaited emergency temporary standard (the Emergency Rule) effective for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. In what is being regarded as a victory for the business community, the Emergency Rule is limited in its scope and applies only to employers of workers who provide direct healthcare services or healthcare support services. In addition, retail pharmacies and non-hospital ambulatory care providers are excluded from coverage.
Continue Reading OSHA Issues COVID-Related Emergency Rule and Recommendations

On May 28, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on employer vaccination policies in the form of additional Q&As. Some of the Q&As relating to mandatory vaccination policies, accommodation, and confidentiality supplement and clarify EEOC guidance that was originally issued on these topics on December 16, 2020. Other Q&As are new as of May 28, 2021, including those relating to employer-provided incentives for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Guidance addresses COVID vaccine issues raised under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Title VII (including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act). The EEOC expressly states that it is “beyond the EEOC’s jurisdiction” to discuss the legal implications of Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) by the FDA, and whether or how that may affect employer-mandated vaccine policies. The EEOC directs readers to the FDA’s EUA page for more information about the legal implications of the FDA’s EUA for vaccines.

Key provisions of the Guidance are summarized below. All reference to vaccines or vaccinations in this publication refer to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Continue Reading EEOC Updates Vaccine Guidance: Accommodation, Confidentiality, Employer Incentives, and More

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was signed into law on March 11, 2021. One of the significant COVID-19 relief provisions in the bill includes a 100 percent COBRA premium subsidy so eligible individuals can continue getting health insurance for up to six months. The subsidy is available beginning April 1, 2021, and ends September 30, 2021 (the “Free COBRA Period”).
Continue Reading New COVID-19 Relief Package Provides Free COBRA Premiums Starting April 1: What Employers and Employees Need to Know

Many companies were caught off-guard in the spring when diagnoses of COVID-19 multiplied rapidly and forced businesses to close or drastically change their policies with little warning. Now companies that have reopened must prepare for the future. As we have seen in recent weeks, resurgences may occur at any time in different parts of the country. And epidemiologists have warned about a potential second wave of infections in the fall.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: Preparing for a Diagnosis or Resurgence in the Coming Months

In our last post, we discussed policy changes and new procedures that companies should consider as they reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given the increase in cases in many parts of the country. But companies cannot change policies in a vacuum: they must clearly and effectively communicate these changes to employees, customers, and the public. Clear, written policies will be ineffective if they are not communicated effectively.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: Communicating COVID-19 Policies to All Stakeholders

Business closures have been immensely difficult for companies of all sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But reopening is proving difficult, too, especially given the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. As cases have surged in recent weeks in new parts of the country, businesses have been forced to reassess their operational plans in both the near- and long-term. Owners and executives are paying close attention both to customer and employee safety. And businesses must be mindful of potential legal ramifications of their decisions.
Continue Reading Reopening and Readjusting: What Businesses Should Be Thinking About

Effective July 6, travelers coming into the City of Chicago from 15 designated high-risk states have been asked to quarantine for 14 days or risk incurring fines. With few exceptions to the order, employers will have to navigate the practical implications that are sure to arise as summer travel heats up.
Continue Reading Stay Home, Chicago: Emergency Order Requires Travelers from High-Risk States to Quarantine

The City of Chicago has enacted an anti-retaliation ordinance effective immediately aimed at protecting employees from retaliation if they refuse to work at an employer’s premises in compliance with a public health order issued by the City or the State of Illinois. The ordinance also protects employees from adverse employment actions if they do not report to work at the employer’s worksite due to direction from their healthcare provider to stay at home or to care for an individual who has been directed to stay at home.
Continue Reading Chicago’s Anti-Retaliation Ordinance Protects Some Employees from Reporting to Work

Thousands of businesses nationwide are trying to reopen after shutting their doors because of statewide stay at home orders due to COVID-19. Without question, this has created a significant burden on employers whose financial obligations – employee wages and benefits, rent and mortgage payments, among others – have not ceased despite economic uncertainty and decreased consumption across the board.
Continue Reading To Terminate or Not to Terminate? How PPP Loans Impact Termination Considerations for Employers Seeking Loan Forgiveness

Businesses across the country are facing challenges, including lawsuits, as they grapple with how COVID-19 has impacted their operations, work forces, and supply chains. The wave of litigation is rising, and it appears that no industry is immune. Schiff Hardin’s Coronavirus Task Force is publishing this series to identify of-the-moment issues and potential liabilities facing businesses as they begin to re-open, transform their processes, and adapt to the new reality.

As businesses start to reopen across the country, customer-facing companies should consider best practices to reduce the risks of customer and employee exposure to the novel coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19. The right approach will differ based on the type of business, the state and local government guidelines and orders in place, and the geographic region in which the business operates. A hair salon in New York City, for example, will need to take different precautions than an outdoor nursery in Anchorage. Companies should develop a thoughtful plan to reduce the chance of exposure to the virus at a business given the ever-evolving scientific understanding of the disease. Here are five ideas that businesses can use to help ensure that their customers and employees remain safe.
Continue Reading Five Approaches to Keep Customers and Employees Safe When Reopening