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Summary of Answers at 8 on May 26th

Reminder that we have a “special” session upcoming:

EEO-1 Reporting
June 2nd at 8 a.m.

Stephanie Dillon will host a special one-hour presentation by Leigh Nason of Ogletree Deakins. Leigh Nason is a shareholder in the Columbia, South Carolina office of Ogletree Deakins and co-chairs the firm’s Affirmative Action/OFCCP Compliance Practice Group. There will be 15 minutes of Q&A time at the end of the session. Register here.

Legal Updates:

Executive Order 216 (unemployment):

Beginning on June 6th, all existing unemployment claimants will be required to make three employer contacts per week to satisfy work search requirements. One of these activities can be satisfied by an approved reemployment activity offered by NC Works or a partner. All existing claimants will be required over the next several weeks to register with a jobseeker account on NCWorks.gov. They are also reviewing a reemployment incentive program for jobless workers who find and maintain employment.    

OSHA guidance on recording adverse reactions from vaccines:

In a shift from previous guidance related to the recordability of adverse reactions from COVID-19 vaccines, OSHA has a new Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ) establishing that employers do not need to record adverse reactions from COVID-19 vaccines on their OSHA 300 Logs, at least through May of 2022, regardless of whether an employer requires, recommends, or incentivizes employees to receive the vaccine.

Navigating new guidance on masking:

The CDC announced new guidance last week as to what fully vaccinated people could do. Remember that “fully vaccinated” means two weeks after the final shot. They had already loosened their guidance for the most part, but they specifically mentioned businesses in this most recent guidance. The updates were that:

  • Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • Fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter.
  • We already know that fully vaccinated can generally skip quarantining and this guidance also made clear they can do the same for testing in most cases, according to the CDC, for close exposure as long as they have no symptoms.

Governor Cooper, soon after, announced that:

  • Most social distancing and masking requirements will be removed in North Carolina in most settings. 
  • Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated, will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters. (Schools/childcare/camps also have special rules.)
  • The NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can’t maintain six feet of distance.
  • Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances. 
  • The NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks. 

What does this mean for employers?

CDC and NC DHHS guidance is that unvaccinated people should continue to mask when they are inside or if they are outside and cannot maintain social distance. They continue to promote health screenings and temperature checks. Read more guidance here.

OSHA should have additional guidelines coming out by month’s end (currently they refer to the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people). Their current guidance advocates treating vaccinated and unvaccinated people the same; presumably the guidance will be clarified soon.

Employers should consider reviewing our COVID-19 Toolkit for additional advice on unmasking, vaccines and returning to the office. We offer ideas, communication options and also address legal concerns: (see overview materials – unmasking, re-opening and vaccination planning tools), but in general:

  • Consider waiting for OSHA guidance on how they interpret their own “treating vaccinated/unvaccinated equally” as it relates to mask wearing.
  • Educate your staff. Many people believe the Governor’s orders stated “businesses cannot require ANY EMPLOYEES to wear a mask.” You will need to explain that the CDC, OSHA and the NCDHHS (to include the Governor) feel that wearing a mask is key for unvaccinated workers and it is your job to create a safe work environment. Make it very clear that “everyone unmasked” is not an option for your company at this time. Remind them that as vaccination numbers rise, that could potentially change.
  • If your executive team has already stated their course and is not willing to shift, go ahead and say: “This is likely going to be our course, but talk with your executive team about alternatives and how they will handle those who feel that they cannot work in an unmasked site due to disabling mental or physical conditions.”
    • Split shifts
    • Split office space
    • Some private offices for those who are vaccinated (or not) and are nervous about others unmasking
    • Continued remote work
    • Reduced staff on site
    • Additional or continuing safety procedures such as health questionnaires
    • Slow return – just a day or so a week initially. This will help people grow slowly comfortable.
  • Get feedback – Poll all of your staff anonymously if possible. Are they vaccinated/not/planning to be/half-vaccinated? What is preventing them from being vaccinated? Would they like additional education about vaccine safety? Are they OK with unmasking? If they are not, why? Are they OK with continuing to wear a face covering if the vaccinated employees do not have to?
  • Once you know who may leave or grow less engaged due to your proposed course, consider alternatives or half-steps and continue to educate staff on your thoughts related to the process and related to vaccination. In addition, educate your staff on their responsibilities with regard to discussions surrounding the topic of masks and vaccination.

 

 

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