The Georgia Federal Court that imposed the injunction on the Federal contractor mandate clarified that it enjoined the vaccine requirement only and did not address the other provisions of the Safer Taskforce Guidance, which includes masking, physical distancing, travel, quarantine, and other workplace safety provisions (including the requirement that federal contractors covered by EO 14042 designate a coordinator to oversee compliance with these requirements). This means that Federal contactors must still comply with all other aspects of the Guidance.
LA Supreme Court Says Private Employers May Mandate Employee Vaccinations
In Hayes v. University Health Shreveport, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld a private employer’s COVID vaccine mandate. Relying on the state’s well-established employment-at-will doctrine, the court held that a private employer is entitled to set whatever conditions and terms of employment it wants, including a COVID vaccine mandate, provided those conditions and terms do not run afoul of federal and state laws.
The lawsuit was filed by several employees who challenged a mandatory COVID vaccine policy that required all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29, 2021, absent any religious or medical accommodation exemptions. Employees who failed to comply with the vaccine policy were subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to termination. The Louisiana Supreme Court said the employment-at-will doctrine allows employers to dismiss at-will employees at any time for any reason, unless it violates existing federal or state law. The ruling could be beneficial to private employers that seek to enforce mandatory vaccine policies in at-will employment states.
CA Supplemental Sick Leave Returns
Employers must now again provide COVID supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL), which expired on Sept. 30, 2021, the details of which have not yet been finalized. Under the previous SPSL, employers with 25 employees+ (counted nationwide) were required to pay their California employees with up to 80 hours of COVID-related paid leave through Sept. 30, 2021.
The new law would require California employers to provide up to 80 hours of COVID -related paid leave through Sept. 30, 2022, and it would be retroactive and apply to COVID-related leave from Jan. 1, 2022.
DC COVID Leave Poster Now Available
In November 2021 DC adopted emergency legislation extending the availability of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain COVID-19 related reasons under the DCFMLA.
On January 14, 2022, the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR), which enforces the DCFMLA, published an updated poster on DCFMLA COVID-19 leave. Employers with 20 or more employees in the District are required to post this poster in a conspicuous place in the workplace. We recommend that the poster also be posted electronically (e.g., on the employer’s intranet or in a shared folder) for employees who work remotely.
COVID Compensability Question Removed From Fact Sheet
On January 24, 2022, the USDOL removed Fact Sheet #84 which addressed the compensability of time spent undergoing COVID-19 health screenings, testing, and vaccinations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). While the USDOL did not provide an explanation, it likely removed this in light of SCOTUS’ ruling on the ETS.
Healthcare Mandate Deadline Extended
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that healthcare workers residing in any of the 24 states involved in the litigation, including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia will have until March 15, 2022 to comply with the vaccine mandate. Covered healthcare workers in the other 25 states and in DC still must meet the Feb. 28, 2022 deadline.
The remaining state, Texas, brought its own lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate, and the enforcement of the mandate remains stayed there.
Written by: Gordon M. Berger, Partner