One of the most common questions employers are asking at this point in time during the pandemic is this: “Can we require our employees to be vaccinated before allowing them to return to work?” The answer has been this: “it depends“, followed by an explanation of human rights’ considerations, privacy considerations, health and safety considerations, etc. On August 13, 2021, the federal government made an announcement that suggests the pendulum might be swinging towards a “yes” on that question. On August 17, 2021, the provincial government made an announcement that suggests the same swing.
As featured in #WorkforceWednesday: This week, we look at how the COVID-19 Delta variant is shifting employer vaccination policies and how that shift is conflicting with regulations in some states.
The Shift to Mandatory Vaccinations
The Delta variant of COVID-19 is fueling another new chapter of the pandemic: mandates. Recent federal and state action is driving a trend toward employers mandating vaccines. Read more about state action in California and New Jersey.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) took many by surprise on May 13, 2021, by announcing that masks would no longer be required for vaccinated individuals in most settings. Faced with the rapid spread of the Delta variant across the country, on July 27, 2021, the CDC once again modified its masking guidance and reopened the debate over workplace masking. Understanding the CDC’s guidance will help employers as they consider their options. Read more…
On June 21, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill requiring genetic counselors to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (“FLDOH”). The new law, known as the Genetic Counseling Workforce Act (“GCWA”), became effective on July 1, 2021. FLDOH has announced a 90 day enforcement moratorium to allow counselors time to become appropriately licensed in the State. Florida now joins a growing number of states that regulate the work of genetic counselors.
Podcast: How Can Companies in the Health Care and Life Sciences Industries Strengthen Their Cybersecurity Posture? – Diagnosing Health Care
In this episode of the Diagnosing Health Care Podcast: Although the COVID-19 pandemic exposed cybersecurity vulnerabilities across sectors, it has particularly challenged the resilience of information systems for health care and life sciences companies. Because ransomware attacks have the potential to cripple access to important data, expose patient health records, and shut down machinery and life-saving equipment, it’s no surprise that health care executives continue to lose sleep thinking about potential ransomware or other similar malicious attacks.
Since December 2020, employers have generally taken a “wait and see” approach to mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees. This measured approach recognized the potential impediments to vaccine mandates, including the legal authority to impose such a requirement, the vaccines’ Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status, and significantly, the consequences of employee dissent. Read more…
On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a coordinated law enforcement action against 14 telehealth executives, physicians, marketers, and healthcare business owners for their alleged fraudulent COVID-19 related Medicare claims resulting in over $143 million in false billing. This coordinated effort highlights the increased scrutiny telehealth providers are facing as rapid expansion efforts due to COVID-19 shape industry standards.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (“CECRA“) program expired on January 31, 2021,1 and the moratorium on eviction and distress rights of landlords against commercial tenants under the program along with it. However, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (“CERS“) program, enacted under Bill 229 on December 17, 2020, O Reg 763/202 also includes such a moratorium. A summary of CERS and the current moratorium is contained below:
NLRB’s Division of Advice Concludes That Employee’s COVID-19 Policy Complaints Are Not Protected Concerted Activity
On June 15, 2021, the Office of General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) released an Advice Memorandum, explaining that an Illinois pub did not commit an unfair labor practice when it fired an employee who had previously complained about the pub’s COVID-19 safety policies, because the employee’s complaints did not constitute “protected concerted activity,” as defined under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRA protects employees engaged in concerted activity, including participating in union activities and union organizing and other activities that the Board considers to be for their mutual aid and protection. Peter Sung Ohr, since his appointment as the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel following the discharge of his predecessor, Peter Robb, by President Joseph Biden, has taken a far broader view than his predecessors as to the types of subjects to which Section 7 of the NLRA’s protections apply. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, what constitutes concerted activity remains uncertain. The Advice Memorandum sheds light on how the Board may define concerted activity moving forward in the context of employee responses to COVID-19 workplace policies.
On June 12, 2021, a federal District Court in Texas soundly rejected an attempt by Houston medical workers to challenge the legality of their employer’s decision to require that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In the lawsuit, Bridges, et al. v. Houston Methodist Hospital et al., 117 hospital workers sued for an injunction to block the hospital’s mandatory vaccination policy as well as the termination of any employee unwilling to comply with the employer’s mandate that all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. More specifically, the employees asserted that the vaccine mandate would result in wrongful termination in violation of the public policy of the state of Texas and federal law.