The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its COVID-19 guidance regarding reporting employees’ inpatient hospitalization and fatalities resulting from work-related cases of the coronavirus. Employers must report a work-related COVID-19 employee death within eight hours of learning about it. Employers must also report in-patient hospitalizations related to workplace exposure if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident. According to OSHA, the employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19.
BANG ON THE DRUM
In June, a federal appeals court declined to force OSHA to issue temporary emergency workplace standards in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The court noted that OSHA is entitled to “considerable deference” when the agency made the determination that emergency standards were not necessary. OSHA urged workers to immediately report retaliation for reporting unsafe and unhealthy working condition related to the pandemic. However according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, OSHA has dismissed more than half of the complaints from workers who say they were retaliated against for raising coronavirus safety concerns.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT
California enacted legislation that enhances the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California’s (Cal/OSHA) enforcement of COVID-19 infection prevention requirements by allowing for Orders Prohibiting Use (OPU) and citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 to be issued more quickly. Under the new law, Cal/OSHA can issue an OPU to shut down an entire worksite or specific worksite that exposes employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19. The agency can also issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers 15-day notice before issuance. The changes become effective Jan. 1, 2021 until Jan. 1, 2023.
The law also requires employers to notify all employees who were at a worksite of all potential exposures to COVID-19 and provide them certain information regarding COVID-19-related benefits and options. This notification must also include the employer’s disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement and complete. Finally, the law also requires employers to notify the local public health agency of outbreaks. The California Dept. of Public Health defines an outbreak as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees who live in different households within a two-week period. This also becomes effective Jan. 1, 2021 until Jan. 1, 2023.
Going to Court
THE WOLVERINE STATE
The Michigan Supreme Court on Monday denied Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to delay the impact of removing her emergency powers. The Supreme Court previously ruled on Oct. 2 in a federal case that Whitmer didn’t have the authority under state law to continue a state of emergency without the support of the legislature. This effectively ended Whitmer’s executive orders. However, the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) revived some of the orders as emergency epidemic orders. Most of the orders are in effect until Oct. 30 but the MDHHS director will assess whether to extend or change the orders.
A panel of federal judges has decided against consolidating hundreds of lawsuits seeking coverage for coronavirus against major national insurers. The panel found that litigation will be quicker and more efficient to have the judges already hearing the cases decide if coverage exists rather than have one judge attempt to organize and resolve the core policy interpretation issues. It did consolidate 34 lawsuits against one regional insurer because they are grouped together in Midwestern states and can best be streamlined by proceeding before a single judge. In August, the judges on the U.S. Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation denied consolidation of all coronavirus-related business interruption claims industrywide.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Minnesota Legislature introduced companion bills in the House and Senate that would create a rebuttable presumption that the contraction of COVID-19 by teachers, school administrators, and employees providing school-related services is work-related. The legislature already enacted legislation that created a rebuttable presumption for health care workers, first responders, and day care workers diagnosed with COVID-19. The New Jersey Assembly introduced legislation that would create a rebuttable presumption that contracting COVID-19 by workers in warehouses or distribution centers is a work-related injury. The legislature also enacted legislation that created a rebuttable presumption for essential employees that is retroactive to March 9, 2020.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the level of hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year. Even more alarming, the proportion of American children who sometimes don’t have enough to eat is now as much as 14 times higher than it was last year. Congratulations to the World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security, on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.