Congress is currently battling over another coronavirus relief package and one of the main areas of contention is COVID-19 liability protections for businesses.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s federally and state-administered Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) programs across the country receive complaints every day related to COVID-19. OSHA tracks all valid complaints and referrals received since February 1, 2020, with the N-16-COVID-19 additional code, and reports the data daily online at https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/covid-19-data.
COVID-19 related complaints filed with OSHA are on the rise. Nexsen Pruet health care attorney Darra James Coleman offers guidance on what you need to know when facing an OSHA investigation in the video below.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Pub. L. No. 116-127, requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave under certain COVID-19-related circumstances via the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (up to $511 per day or $5,110 in the aggregate per employee) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (up to $200 a day or $10,000 in the aggregate).
As the number of new reported cases continues to climb in South Carolina, employers in all industries are confronted with COVID-19 related challenges. Employers look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for guidance on issues associated with the pandemic, as well as other regulatory authorities, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In response to the spread of COVID-19, Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, and other municipalities in the county have issued a “stay at home” order that goes into effect on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. The order will remain in force for three weeks and may be extended based on recommendations from public health officials.
On Tuesday, March 24th, the City of Charleston became the first city in South Carolina to enact an emergency “stay-at-home” ordinance that goes into effect on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. and scheduled to remain in place for two weeks. The ordinance is an effort to decrease proliferation of the COVID-19 virus. It applies only to the City and not to other unincorporated areas in Charleston County. A copy of the ordinance can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/453080699/Charleston-Shelter-in-Place-Ordinance-March-24.
On Jan. 31, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form, version date of “Rev. 10/21/2019,” that all employers must begin using on May 1, 2020.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a new webpage that links to resources on the agency’s site about workplace safety and health issues raised by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak.
Employers who seek highly skilled foreign professionals must use a variety of visas for their employees. One of those most frequently used is an H-1B visa, a temporary non-immigrant visa category that allows employers to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.
On January 7, 2020 OSHA used its Twitter account to remind covered employers to electronically submit the OSHA 300A summary for 2019 by no later than March 2, 2020. Covered employers for this purpose are those with establishments employing 250 or more workers and/or establishments employing 20 to 249 workers in certain industries with historically high rates of injury, including the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare industries.
When the Feds Come Knockin’
For many years, employers in the Carolinas have prohibited drugs in the workplace and tested applicants and employees for illegal substances, such as marijuana. Recently, Congress and many states have enacted new laws regarding marijuana, covering everything from cultivation to consumption, for both medical and recreational reasons. Many states have legalized marijuana, while others have taken a more conservative approach and allowed the use of cannabidiol (CBD) products derived from industrial hemp. Employers in the Carolinas must consider how the recent changes in the law will impact them and recognize that more changes are likely—including the possibility that medical marijuana may soon become legal. To learn more about marijuana in the workplace, read this this article in S.C. Lawyer magazine.
A new guidance letter from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states it is legal, but not necessarily advisable, for workers to use headphones to listen to music on a construction site even if the headphones are marketed as “OSHA approved.”