Employment Law Updates

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for the health care industry, with nonbinding guidance for other employers. According to OSHA, the standard aims to "protect health care and health care support service workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 in settings where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present." Covered health care employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace, and must also implement certain other measures to reduce workplace transmission of COVID-19, such as patient screening, increased cleaning and ensuring the use of personal protective equipment.

We have received numerous inquiries about the effect of Governor Northam’s May 14 Order which eases many Covid restrictions. There is much confusion about this issue. The Governor’s May 14 EO 79, which takes effect at midnight on May 28, focuses primarily on relaxing the mask requirements. In addition, however, the order, states:

In January, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule attempting to clarify the standard for classifying a worker as an independent contractor rather than employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act. That rule was promulgated under the previous presidential administration and was scheduled to go into effect in March. The rule focused on an “economic reality” test to determine whether the worker is economically dependent upon the employer for work or is actually in business for him/herself. The effect of the rule was to make it easier to classify a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee.

Under the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), starting April 1, 2021 the federal government will pay 100 percent of COBRA insurance premiums for eligible employees who lost their jobs and for their covered relatives through September 2021, allowing them to stay on their company-sponsored health plan. Employers will obtain the subsidy through a payroll tax credit against employers' quarterly taxes and will be responsible for paying health insurance carriers for the premiums. Both fully insured and self-insured group health plans subject to federal COBRA are eligible for the credit against their Medicare FICA payroll taxes and must provide the COBRA premium subsidy to assistance eligible individuals (AEIs) who have elected COBRA coverage.

The 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly produced an additional flurry of employment-related laws. The following are some of the more significant laws for many employers:

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