Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Compliance Updates and Benefit News, Week of Nov. 3

Compliance Updates

Cal/OSHA Amends Notice and Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 - On Oct. 5, 2021, California approved Assembly Bill 654 (AB 654) to amend California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 notice and reporting regulations. The bill became effective upon adoption on Oct. 5, 2021. The bill requires employers to give notice of COVID-19 outbreaks to: Qualifying individuals or employees exposed to qualifying individuals within one business day; and Local public health agencies within 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later.

Vaccine Mandates And Vaccine Bans – Clues On Where This Ends And Making Decisions In The Interim - "Employers with 100 or more employees: While the implementation of federal policy via the OSHA ETS appears imminent, it is critical to understand that there will not be the possibility of federal preemption of state law vaccine bans until the OSHA ETS itself becomes effective and has the force of law. Once that occurs, and assuming legal challenges to OSHA’s ability to publish and enforce the ETS are rejected, federal preemption is a good bet here as well. However, unlike the executive order mandating vaccinations for all federal employees and employees of federal contractors, the OSHA ETS is expected to still allow for weekly negative COVID tests as an alternative to mandatory vaccination. That said, the Montana outright ban on vaccinations, as well as Texas’s ban on vaccination requirements for “any reason of personal conscience,” seems likely to interfere with OSHA’s exercise of authority governing workplace safety."

EEOC Updates Guidance on Religious Objections to Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates - On Oct. 25, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how employers should handle employee requests for religious exemptions from their COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

How Employers Can Handle Confidentiality and Privacy Concerns Related to Collecting COVID-19 Vaccine Information - “To many employers’ surprise, such records must be retained for the tenure of the employee – plus 30 years. This includes medical histories, medical examination results and opinions, diagnoses, progress notes and recommendations, first aid records, descriptions of treatments and prescriptions, and employee medical complaints. Some state laws also define medical records. For example…"

An Employer’s Guide to Navigating Third-Party Vaccine Mandates on Visitors, Vendors and More - “As employers implement their own internal COVID-19 protocols and procedures, many have the additional burden of complying with third-party vaccine policies or enforcing their own vaccine policies upon non-employees such as independent contractors, vendors or visitors.” 

COVID-19 Vaccination Religious Exemption Requests: 5 Key Takeaways From the EEOC’s Updated Technical Assistance - “On October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The updated and expanded COVID-19 technical assistance, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” adds a new section (section L) with information related to requests by applicants or employees seeking to be excused from COVID-19 vaccination requirements due to sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances.”

Benefit News

This couple retired in their 30s—now they live off the grid and spend $40,000 a year - "The couple formed a plan to cut their spending and save 70% of their combined income so they could quit their jobs and travel the country, living only off of the growth of their investment accounts. Steve and Courtney retired in 2016 and 2017, respectively, with a combined net worth of $870,000. Despite not adding a penny to their investments in the ensuing half-decade, they are now worth about $1.2 million and don’t plan to head back to the office any time soon."

Thousands Of State Workers Are Unvaccinated. California Isn’t Testing Half Of Them For COVID As Required - "Three months after Gov. Gavin Newsom required state workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing, his pledge that the California government would lead by example has not been fulfilled: Many public agencies face low vaccination rates, and most state-run workplaces have failed to test unvaccinated employees. At the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, for example, fewer than a third of employees have provided proof they are fully vaccinated, while 6,700 employees are either not vaccinated or have declined to provide their status. Cal Fire said it is testing just 75 employees."

Health & Wellness

Study links too much free time to lower sense of wellbeing - "After crowdsourcing opinions on which activities would be equated with leisure time and then calculating this time for participants, the team found that while subjective wellbeing rose with the amount of free time up to about two hours, it began to drop once it exceeded five hours."

Walking 7,000 steps a day can cut the risk of heart disease - "Taking 7,000 steps a day can keep a middle-aged person’s arteries healthy and reduce their risk of death by up to 70%, a new study concludes. The findings by researchers from across the United States suggest that this lower number is still enough to protect against serious heart complications, rather than the common recommendation of 10,000 steps per day."