COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

January 27, 2022

U.S. Federal Updates

It appears that mandating COVID-19 vaccinations just isn’t going to meet legal muster, with the lone exception being the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate. Last week, a federal district court in Texas blocked the Biden administration’s mandate that federal workers get vaccinated.

The court that suspended Executive Order 14042 (required federal contractors and subcontractors to be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022), that we discussed here, has issued a new order stating that the suspension only applies to the vaccination mandate in the EO and not other safety requirements such as masking, physical distancing, travel, quarantine, and so forth.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that required employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing, effective January 26, 2022.

Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

The Job Accommodation Network, (aka JAN), has updated its publication entitled “Recognizing an ADA Accommodation Request During the Pandemic”. You can read more here.

U.S. State Updates

California

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave (Again)? Part II

Governor Newsom along with members of the California Senate have announced an agreement on a framework to ensure employees continue to have access to COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) through September 30, 2022. Nothing is final yet but here are the details as of now:

  • Applies to employers with 26 or more employees.
  • Proof of a positive COVID-19 test will be required to qualify.
  • Provides up to 2 weeks (80 hours) as follows:
    • The first 40 hours of SPSL are for those who are sick with COVID.
    • An employee would be able to receive an additional 40 hours of SPSL if they or a family member tests positive after the first 40 hours are exhausted.
  • SPSL cannot be used to get vaccinated or recover from vaccine side effects.
  • Will be retroactive to January 1, 2022 and not September 30, 2021, which was when the previous SPSL expired.
  • Will expire September 30, 2022.

We will keep you posted as to any changes to the proposed legislation as well as if and when it’s finalized and signed into law.

Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)

Cal-OSHA has updated its FAQs on the California COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). They now include information related to the ETS revisions that were adopted in December and became effective on January 14, 2022. There is a shorter set of FAQs that highlight the changes between the June 2021 ETS and the revised ETS from January 14, 2022 onward.

Employment Development Department (EDD)

As part of its efforts to combat the rampant fraud that has recently impacted the EDD, you may be asked to complete a document entitled “Request for Employment Information” (DE 2576). The EDD has been sending this document to employers as an additional step in confirming an employee’s identity.

Connecticut

As you know, the Connecticut Paid Leave (CTPL) program went into effect on January 1, 2022. The state sent an email stating that they have learned that employers have not been receiving email notifications on the status of their employees’ claims. They are working to fix the issue and, in the meantime, you can reach out to CTPL.benefits@ct.gov for details regarding an employee’s approved claim or you can ask your employee directly. If you email CTPL, be sure to include the employee’s name and claim number.

The Connecticut Department of Labor has authorized another temporary catch up period for employee contributions. Employers may deduct an additional 1% from employee wages (for a total of 1.5%) to recoup contributions that were not taken in 2021. The catch up period is effective now through March 31, 2022. If you decide to take the higher contribution, you’ll want to be sure to revert back to the .5% as of April 1, 2022.

Canada Federal Employment Benefits

There has been a lot of COVID legislation passed over the last year. We thought it would be a good idea to provide a summary of the Canada Employment Insurance (EI) Act pertaining to COVID-19 related benefits.

Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits

Employees may qualify for EI benefits if they are quarantined due to COVID-19 and can’t work as a result, or if they can’t work due to COVID-19 related sickness. Now, until September 24, 2022, employees only need to have 420 insurable hours (previously 600 hours) of work in the 52 weeks before the start of their claim or since the start of their last claim, whichever is shorter, in order to qualify for EI benefits. Note: this reduced qualification criteria applies to all EI claim types and not just sickness benefits. Sickness EI benefits provide up to 15 weeks of benefits, following a one week waiting period.

Employees who are required to care for a family member who is critically ill or requires end of life care due to COVID may qualify for Caregiver or Compassionate care leave benefits https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/caregiving.html.

COVID Recovery and Lockdown Benefits

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit provides $500 per week ($450 after taxes are withheld) for up to a maximum of 6 weeks when a worker is:

  • unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions; or,
  • undergoing treatments or has contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

This Recovery Sickness benefit is available until May 7, 2022.

The Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit (CRCB) is a family related benefit which provides $500 per week (or $450 after taxes) for up to 44 weeks per household for workers unable to work at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19. This Recovery Caregiver benefit is also available until May 7, 2022.

The Canada Lockdown Benefit applies if employees are prevented from working due to a provincial lockdown. The benefit provides $300 a week during a temporary local lockdown that occurs during the period of October 24, 2021, and May 7, 2022.

It is possible, depending on the employee’s circumstances and reason for needing leave, that an employee may qualify for more than one benefit at a time. If employees qualify for more than one benefit, they can choose which benefit they take and when, but benefits for one reason cannot be taken in the same week as one for another reason. For example, an employee may not take Lockdown Benefits in the same week as Recovery Sickness Benefits. If employees have questions, it would be a good idea for them to call the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at 1-800-959-8281 regarding Recovery and Lockdown benefits or Service Canada for EI related questions at 1-800-206-7218 to explore the best options for them.

Please note that the Recovery and Lockdown benefits do not provide job protection; they are income replacement benefits. Employees may have job protection provided by certain provincial laws, depending on their circumstances.

You may also like…
Massachusetts PFML Update

Massachusetts PFML Update

Was it too good to be true? In the newsletter we just sent last Friday, we mentioned that an amendment in the state’s...