Federal and State Changes to COVID Mandates and Work Rules
Over the past few weeks, there have been some significant changes regarding COVID-specific workplace rules on both the federal and state levels. Below is a brief summary, courtesy of IBEW 1245’s legal and bargaining teams:
Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate: On December 17, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Georgia District Court’s December 7, 2021 stay of the federal contractor vaccine mandate. This means that the federal government will not enforce the mandate for now. However, the federal government may appeal this decision to the Supreme Court, or continue to challenge the stay in the Eleventh Circuit.
OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard: On December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay on OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”). This action by the Sixth Circuit means that OSHA is no longer prevented from implementing and enforcing the standard. The ETS was originally set to take effect on December 5, 2021, with the testing and vaccination requirements to take effect on January 4, 2022. However, in light of the uncertainty created by the stay and its subsequent dissolution, OSHA has confirmed that it will not enforce any provision of the ETS before January 10, 2022, and will not enforce the COVID testing or vaccination requirements before February 9, 2022, so long as an employer is acting reasonably and in good faith to come into compliance with the ETS.
However, the Supreme Court may reenact the stay. Twenty-six trade groups filed an emergency application for an immediate stay of the ETS in the United States Supreme Court. Justice Brett Kavanaugh took up the request, and the Supreme Court is set to hear argument on the issue on January 7, 2022.
Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards: On December 16, 2021, Cal/OSHA adopted revisions to its own Emergency Temporary Standards (“Cal/OSHA ETS”). These updates will go into effect on January 14, 2022. Notable updates to the Cal/OSHA ETS include:
- Providing post COVID-19 exposure contact testing to all employees, regardless of vaccination status. Previously, symptomless, fully vaccinated employees did not need to be tested after workplace exposure to COVID-19.
- Symptomless, fully vaccinated employees must now mask and social distance from other employees for 14 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19. However, they do not need to be excluded from the workplace.
- Required COVID-19 testing may not be self-administered or self-read unless the employer or a telehealth proctor observes the test.
- Face coverings must pass a “light test” in order to be used – meaning that light cannot pass through the covering when it is held up to a light source.
- Unvaccinated employees exposed to COVID-19 who do not develop symptoms must be excluded from the workplace for 14 days following the exposure, subject to two exceptions. First, such employees may return to work after 10 days if they mask and social distance for the remaining four days. Second, such employees may return to work after 7 days if a test administered at least 5 days after the exposure comes back negative for COVID-19 and the employee masks and social distances until 14 days after the exposure.
The situation with COVID remains extremely fluid. The IBEW 1245 staff and our legal and bargaining teams are working diligently to stay abreast of all new developments so that we can protect and defend our members to the very best of our ability. We will keep updating you as the situation progresses. If you have any questions or concerns, you’re always welcome to reach out directly to your Business Rep. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We continue to encourage our members to take all the steps they can to protect themselves and those around them from the virus. Unfortunately, with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, it may be some time before we see any semblance of ‘normal’ in our workplaces, but we will get through this, and we’ll do it together.
–Bob Dean, IBEW 1245 Business Manager