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Weekend Roundup: OSHA COVID-19 Worker Safety, Cal/OSHA Exclusion Pay, Job Growth

In today’s Weekend Roundup, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released guidelines for worker safety for COVID-19 protection programs. OSHA also updated COVID-19 paid-leave laws that will affect California employers, and job growth begins to bounce back slowly. Click the headlines below to learn more.

OSHA Issues Worker Safety Guidance for Coronavirus Protection Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued worker safety guidance for coronavirus protection programs on Jan. 29, requiring greater input from employees and enhanced mask protections.

“Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations and outlines existing safety and health standards.

The guidance emphasizes employees’ role and rights, said Eric Hobbs, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Milwaukee. He noted that employees should be:

  • Involved in the development of the employer’s COVID-19 prevention program.
  • Informed of the terms of the program and resources available to them.
  • Told the employer is obligated to not retaliate against them for bringing COVID-19-related concerns to the attention of the employer, media or the public.

“The guidance even says that an effective COVID-19 prevention program should include an ‘anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards,’” Hobbs said.

Understanding Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Exclusion-Pay Mandate

Some interesting and fast-moving developments regarding COVID-19 paid-leave laws will significantly affect California employers. The state’s supplemental paid-sick-leave mandate for large employers and the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act for smaller employers have both expired, but California employers must now reckon with new pay rules under the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued ETS regulations that require employers to exclude certain employees from the workplace until they can return safely. During this time, employers must provide paid, job-protected leave for the period the employees are excluded. The regulations require employers to pay (without any cap) for the time employees are excluded from the worksite.

Job Growth Begins to Bounce Back, Slowly

U.S. payrolls climbed out from a hole in January, as employers added 49,000 new jobs, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth had previously turned negative in December for the first time since May 2020, primarily due to restaurants and bars being affected by new pandemic-related restrictions and colder weather.

The country has recovered just over half of the 22 million jobs lost last spring, but the economic recovery has stalled in recent months.

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