COVID and Nonsubscribers: The Legal Parameters of Implementing COVID-related Policies and Procedures
TAN interviews attorney Donna Peavler of Peavler Briscoe regarding her presentation during Part I of the organization’s 2021 webinar series: An Employer Round Table.
Q: Now that a significant portion of the population is vaccinated, a lot of employers are evaluating whether — and how — to return employees to the workplace. A lot of them have a lot of questions, though, about what is legal and what is not. I’d like to talk to you about two policies some employers are considering and get your opinion on whether they are a requirement that an employer can legally mandate. Let’s start with masks. Can employers require employees to wear masks?
PEAVLER: Right now, that depends on whether the employer is a governmental or private employer. Gov. Abbott has precluded state-run agencies from implementing mask mandates, which means employers like hospitals, schools, etc., cannot require their employees to wear masks. But the governor’s ban on masks does not apply to private employers. So yes, private employers have a legal right to require workers to wear masks while on the job.
Q: Okay. So they can require masks. But should they?
PEAVLER: Of course, that’s a decision each employer will have to make based on its management’s political views and unique work conditions. So I can’t answer that, but I can suggest that when making the decision, the employer consider two things: whether social distancing can accomplish the same goal, and how mask-wearing is likely to affect morale. I don’t think it’s any big secret that people simply do not like wearing masks — me included!
Q: Another hot topic is vaccines. Can employers legally require employees to be vaccinated as a prerequisite to returning to the workplace?
PEAVLER: This, too, depends on whether the employer is a state-funded employer or private employer. But yes, private employers may legally require workers to be vaccinated before allowing them to return to work. And they can fire employees who refuse to follow that company policy, with one exception. There is a gray area regarding whether an employer may discipline a worker who has a medical condition that prevents the employee from getting a vaccine. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, so it’s possible an employer may have to make reasonable accommodations for such employees. This may include allowing those employees to work remotely. However, if reasonable accommodations are not available, an employer may have the right to terminate that employee. But this issue hasn’t been formally resolved yet, so it’s somewhat of a minefield right now.
Q: Let’s say an employer decides to implement a mandatory vaccination policy. Is it legal for the employer to require the employee to show proof that he or she has been vaccinated, or does that potentially violate HIPAA and raise privacy issues?
PEAVLER: For most employers, asking for proof of vaccination is permissible under both state and federal law. HIPAA is not implicated for two reasons. First, HIPAA only applies to health care providers, health plans, and other health care-related entities and their business associates — not private employers. Second, HIPAA only precludes disclosure of protected health care information without the patient’s consent. Once asked, it is up to the employee whether he or she wishes to provide information regarding his or her vaccination status. If the employee chooses to do so in order to comply with the employer’s policies, then the employee has “consented” to the disclosure. If the employee chooses not to, the employer may legally terminate the employee — or take other disciplinary action against the employee — for his or her failure to comply with company policy.
Q: Let’s stay on the vaccine subject for a moment. Do you recommend that employers require vaccines?
PEAVLER: Is this is a trick question? Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, as it will depend on a number of factors, including management’s political views. But if an employer is considering mandatory vaccines, I suggest that it consider three factors: (1) What percentage of the workforce will likely be noncompliant, and can the company still meet operational demands with that level of reduction in workforce? (2) Which particular employees/positions will likely be affected, and how important are those employees/positions to the company’s smooth operation? And (3) Are there sufficient replacements available in the job market, particularly considering the current shortage of labor?
Q: Are there other measures an employer can take short of requiring vaccines to encourage a higher level of vaccination among its workers?
PEAVLER: Absolutely. Thus far, I’ve seen employers adopt three different approaches, or even some combination of these three tactics. The “kind and gentle” approach is to simply offer incentives. For example, an employer wanting to try the incentive approach might offer monetary bonuses to those employees who are vaccinated, or additional time off, or gift cards. And the employer should make it easy for the employee to get the vaccine, by having someone offer the vaccines on-site or by allowing the employee “free” time off to get the vaccine and, if the employee suffers side effects, recover from his or her symptoms.
Q: That seems reasonable and has the benefit of not punishing noncompliant employees. But you mentioned three tactics. What are the other two?
PEAVLER: I’ve seen one employer adopt an approach to make it inconvenient and undesirable for unvaccinated employees. For example, that employer required unvaccinated employees to wear masks at all times, even when not around other employees and to submit to bi-weekly testing.
Q: That may push some toward vaccination. So what’s the third option?
PEAVLER: The third approach I’ve seen used is a tactic that singles-out the noncompliant employees and makes them feel excluded. When using this approach, the employer implements policies that make it clear who is and isn’t vaccinated, such as putting all unvaccinated people in a separate, less desirable workspace or branch office. The employer requires only the unvaccinated to wear masks, thus distinguishing them from compliant employees. And the employer offers social outings or lunches only to the vaccinated employees. Again, these are not approaches I am recommending one way or another, but simply situations I’ve aware some employers are implementing. Before employing any of these tactics, I recommend that an employer talk through the proposed strategy with its HR department and attorneys.
Q: It’s a tough time to be an employer, for sure. Let’s switch gears now and talk about another phenomenon brought on by COVID — a new population of remote workers. The increased number of remote workers raises a number of issues, such as how does the employer keep the worker safe, and is an injury at home an “occupational injury” that should be covered by nonsubscribers’ occupational injury benefit plans?
PEAVLER: Let me tackle that first question first. An employer’s duty is to provide a reasonably safe workplace. This is challenging for remote workers, because the employer does not have much control over the employee’s work environment. So the first thing we recommend is to define the workplace. Is the employee required to work from home, or may he or she work at a coffee shop or a vacation home? Once the workplace is defined, then the employer should institute training for remote workers on how to reduce the risk of injury. The biggest category of injuries we have seen from remote workers is trips and falls. To reduce this exposure, instruct employees to look for and identify potential trip and slip hazards in their workspace. Consider having them do an inventory and sign a form acknowledging their awareness of particular hazards. Not only will this raise their awareness and hopefully prevent injuries, but it will also help you defend a liability claim should they sue for such an injury, since under the Supreme Court’s decision in Austin v. Kroger, employers have no duty to prevent injuries from “known” or “open and obvious” hazards. For example, employers should specifically instruct employees to look for objects like electrical cords that cross walkways — and perhaps even offer to buy cord covers that keep them in place so they pose less of a trip hazard. Discuss ergonomics with the remote workers and consider offering allowances for them to buy comfortable chairs or risers for their monitors. I could go on and on, but those are a few examples of measures an employer can take to help keep its remote workers safe.
Q: Of course, we all know that even when proper measures are taken, accidents still happen. Are injuries suffered in a remote environment covered under most occupational injury benefit plans?
PEAVLER: That will depend on a number of factors, the most important being whether it was “in the course and scope of employment.” By defining permissible work areas and work hours, that helps narrow the time and places that would be considered “in the course and scope of employment.”
Q: What about tort liability for remote injuries? Since injured employees have a right to sue nonsubscribing employers, would they be likely to prevail on a slip-and-fall claim for a fall sustained at their remote location?
PEAVLER: Like most questions about liability, that will depend on the circumstances. But remember that to establish liability under a premises-liability theory, an injured worker must prove the employer had “notice” of the unreasonably dangerous condition. It’s unlikely an employer would know about a hazard that is unique to one employee’s workspace, so proving liability would definitely be an uphill battle for the employee.
Q: I know there are a lot more questions employees likely have about this new COVID world. Would you mind providing your email address and allowing individuals to ask you additional questions?
PEAVLER: No problem! My email address is email@example.com. I’m happy to answer any questions I can. Keep in mind, of course, that just like with everything I said today, each case and claim and situation is different, and if the employer has a specific question about a specific situation, they should probably seek legal advice that is tailored to that particular issue.
Q: Thank you. And with that, I’ll conclude our interview. I and everyone at TAN appreciates your continued support, and I appreciate your time here today.
PEAVLER: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Alliance of Nonsubscribers or any of its board members, associate members or employer members.
Part II of Webinar Series Scheduled for Sept. 15: COVID-19 Recovery and Reconditioning Program
Part II of TAN’s 2021 webinar series is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. CDT and will feature Corey Malone of Select Medical presenting on the company’s “COVID-19 Recovery and Reconditioning Program.”
COVID-19 side effects can linger long after initial recovery. This presentation will identify current trends in statistics and the need for specialized programs; identify and discuss the structure of the program, including patient safety considerations, evaluation components, treatment planning, goals and outcomes. Intervention standards and the process clinicians undergo to obtain clinical competence and expertise in treating individuals who are recovering from COVID-19 will also be reviewed.
The presentation is free to TAN members and invited guests and has been approved for 1 CEU for Texas adjusters. You may click here to register for the webinar.
AP-NORC and Gallup Polls Show Employee Opinions on Vaccinations, Mandates
According to a recent Gallup poll, U.S. workers hold strong opinions on employer vaccination requirements, with 52% saying they are in favor, 38% opposed and 10% neutral. An AP-NORC poll showed 50% of those surveyed supported requiring employees working in-person at their workplace to be fully vaccinated, compared to 26% who opposed and 23% who were neutral.
The Gallup results are based on Gallup’s COVID-19 tracking survey, which interviewed a representative sample of U.S. adults from July 19-26. The survey was conducted before the CDC issued new guidance in response to the spread of the coronavirus’ Delta variant in the U.S., and before the Pfizer vaccine had been given full approval by the FDA. The AP-NORC survey reflects results randomly drawn from a survey of adults 18 years old and older conducted between Aug. 12-16. The AP-NORC poll was also conducted before the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
Since May, the Gallup survey says the total percentage of employees who strongly favor or favor employer vaccination requirements is up from 46% to 52%. Over this time, the percentage opposed has held steady at 38%, while the percentage neutral has declined five points to 10%.
Since May, the Gallup survey reflects there has been a slight but statistically meaningful uptick in the percentage of employees who say they believe their employer will require vaccines, from 5% to 9%. This change has been accompanied by a decrease in the percentage who say their employer is encouraging but not requiring a COVID-19 vaccine.
The AP-NORC poll shows that 52% of those surveyed support requiring people working in-person at their workplace to wear masks, with 27% opposing.
A separate Gallup survey conducted in June of over 9,000 U.S. workers found employees who were working fully remotely or were hybrid workers (partially remote and partially on-site) were much more likely than fully on-site workers to favor employer vaccination requirements. Sixty-two percent of fully remote and 54% of hybrid workers were in favor of their employer requiring vaccines, compared with 41% of fully on-site workers. In fact, fully on-site workers were as likely to oppose vaccination requirements as to favor them (42% each), with more strongly opposed to them (33%) than strongly favoring them (28%).
According to the Gallup survey, as of late July, 66% of all U.S. workers reported they had been fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19, while another 8% planned to be. That leaves one in four employees who do not plan to get vaccinated.
The June Workforce survey by Gallup asked unvaccinated employees what would make them more likely to get vaccinated. Notably, 62% of these employees — equivalent to 20% of all employees — said nothing would change their mind, in line with the 18% of all U.S. adults who can be considered vaccine resistant. However, the June Workforce survey did identify some actions that could convince employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Chief among these are cash bonuses or incentives, which 24% of unvaccinated employees say would increase their likelihood to get vaccinated. Time off to get vaccinated and time off to recover from side effects were also among the most persuasive options. Few employees said that their company providing them with more information about the vaccine would encourage them to get one.
Based on the Gallup results, the incentives employees report would be persuasive to them, and the ones companies are currently offering do not align well. Employees most commonly say their organization is offering them information about where to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with 48% reporting this. At least four in 10 employees say their employers are offering time off to receive the vaccine or to recover from its side effects.
One in four workers say their employer is offering on-site vaccinations. Very few, 6%, say their employer is offering a cash incentive. Twenty-four percent of employees say their organization is not offering any of these inducements to get vaccinated.
AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (August 2021). “Half of workers favor vaccination requirements.” https://apnorc.org/projects/half-of-workers-favor-vaccination-requirements/
More Companies Mandating Vaccines for Workers
Some of the nation’s largest employers have begun requiring that workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, joining school districts, hospitals and governmental entities nationwide turning to mandates to fight the surge in coronavirus infections. However, some organizations worry requiring the vaccine will exacerbate what they say is an already tight labor market and give workers another reason to quit.
Among the larger employers to announce mandates are Tyson Foods, with 120,000 employees, and Microsoft, with 100,000 employees. Google and Facebook will also require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work in their office, and Disney will require all its employees who work on-site to be vaccinated. Other companies requiring worker vaccinations include United Airlines, Cisco Systems, Baylor Scott and White Health, Texas Health Resources, Bank of America, and Capital One.
President Joe Biden announced in July that all federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated or else submit to regular testing. That order affected more than 780,000 employees. On Aug. 23, the Pentagon announced it would require all 1.4 million active-duty military personnel to be vaccinated.
More organizations are likely to impose vaccine mandates in the wake of the Aug. 23 decision by the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Two large universities, the University of Minnesota and Louisiana State University, both announced immediately after the FDA approval that all students must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Several other universities had already imposed vaccine mandates, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Aug. 12 denied a request by students at Indiana University to block that school’s vaccine mandate.
Legally, companies are likely to be on solid ground if they mandate vaccines, but they should consult with their legal team in developing a plan to do so. Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers could require immunization, though companies that do could still face lawsuits.
Employers Considering Health Insurance Surcharge for Unvaccinated Workers
Employers previously have offered incentives such as gift cards, time off from work and cash to convince workers to get vaccinated, but Mercer says incentives could be joined by sticks. The concept is not new, as many health plans include penalties for tobacco users. Mercer says at least 20 large employers have asked about adding the vaccination surcharge.
Delta Airlines recently became one of the early adopters of the surcharge announcing its employees will have to pay a monthly $200 add-on for their company-sponsored healthcare plan if they choose to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Employers should consider several issues before implementing a surcharge, according to a recent online post from the Society for Human Resource Management. These include:
- Would the surcharge interact with other wellness incentives the employer offers?
- Would the surcharge apply only to employees who remain unvaccinated? What about spouses and dependents?
- How long would plan participants have to get fully vaccinated?
- What proof would be required to establish vaccination? What would the consequences be for submitting a fake card?
- What protections are in place to safekeep vaccination data and, in some cases, medical data supporting a reasonable alternative standard, all of which constitute protected health information under HIPAA?
- Would the Americans with Disabilities Act apply even if vaccination does not constitute a disability-related inquiry or a medical examination? In other words, what reasonable accommodations need to be made available, if any?
- Should the program also include vaccine boosters, if available?
U.S. Department of Labor Issues Updated Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated and Other At-Risk Workers from the Coronavirus
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from the coronavirus. The updated guidance reflects developments in science and data, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated COVID-19 guidance.
The updated guidance expands information on appropriate measures for protecting workers in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers, particularly for industries such as manufacturing; meat, seafood and poultry processing; high volume retail and grocery; and agricultural processing, where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and/or non-workers.
OSHA’s latest guidance:
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers.
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with coronavirus wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least 3-5 days after such contact.
- Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing.
OSHA continues to emphasize that vaccination is the optimal step to protect workers and encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to implement multi-layered approaches to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from the coronavirus.
As part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to review the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard every 30-days, OSHA also said that the safeguards set forth by the standard remain more important than ever. After reviewing the latest guidance, science and data, and consulting with the CDC and partners, OSHA has determined the requirements of the healthcare ETS remain necessary to address the grave danger of the coronavirus in healthcare. OSHA will continue to monitor and assess the need for changes in the healthcare ETS each month.
To view the full report on the update guidance click here.
Office Workers: High Expectations for Workplace Cleanliness as Workplaces Reopen
Essity, a major vendor of hygiene and health products and services, recently released a poll on the health practices of Americans and the expectations they have for cleaning and sanitation as offices reopen and on-site work resumes. Harris Poll conducted the survey online in May 2021, interviewing over 2,000 American adults, including 700 who worked in an office before the pandemic began.
The poll found that among office workers:
- 84% say they are confident their employer will enforce proper hygiene protocols at their workplace.
- 65% are concerned about how well cleanliness and hygiene are being maintained at their workplace as they begin returning from remote work.
- Nearly 60% have heightened expectations for workplace cleanliness as a result of the pandemic, want more frequent cleaning and sanitizing, and want employers and building managers to provide additional resources such as hand sanitizer stations.
Many office workers also said they wanted hands-free restroom fixtures, high-capacity towel dispensers in common areas, and better communication and signage on safety and cleanliness protocols.
On a more general level, 84% of all Americans say they plan to continue enhanced pandemic hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing and hand sanitizer use. By a wide margin, they support continuing enhanced cleaning and sanitizing in doctors’ offices and health care facilities, restaurants and hotels, fitness centers, retail stores, and entertainment facilities such as theaters.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance on cleaning and disinfecting offices and other commercial or public facilities, both for routine maintenance, limiting COVID-19 spread, and in response to an infected employee or customer using the facility. It covers:
- Preparing and implementing a cleaning plan for regular use.
- How frequently to clean a facility.
- When and where to take the extra step of disinfecting areas and surfaces.
- How to disinfect in a way that protects the health and safety of the cleaning crew.
The guidance also has information on cleaning and disinfecting specific surfaces like drapes and upholstered furniture, linens, electronics, and outdoor areas.
The CDC offers a wide range of information on maintaining healthy business operations and a safe work environment, including risk reduction practices in specific industries and strategies for coping with workplace fatigue and employee stress.
Current OSHA guidelines for mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace can be found here.
Study Examines Why Employees Come to Work When Sick
As COVID case numbers continue to escalate in Texas, a study from Texas State University attempts to determine why employees work while sick and potentially expose others to illness.
Dr. Elizabeth K. Eger, assistant professor for the Department of Communication Studies at Texas State and the lead researcher on the study, says that it is no longer considered acceptable to show up sick in a public place, yet some employees continue to work while sick.
The first phase of the study surveyed 129 respondents before the pandemic to determine why they showed up for work when ill. Phase two surveyed 100 participants this spring when the pandemic was going strong.
Eger said the study shows part-time employees often had to accrue sick leave before they could take time off, or in some cases didn’t receive any sick leave. That includes many workers who started working part-time during the pandemic to make ends meet.
The study also found many employees citing workplace culture for why they show up for work while ill. These employees reported colleagues complained about having to work extra when someone missed work because of illness, and they did not feel comfortable taking sick time.
How employers grouped sick time was another reason cited in the study. When companies group sick leave with vacation time and classify it as paid time off, employees often show up for work while sick in order to save the paid time off for vacations or other time off.
Use of Gabapentinoids for Pain Management for Work Injuries on Rise
Gabapentinoids are increasingly being prescribed off-label for pain management following work-related injuries, according to a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
This class of drugs includes gabapentin and pregabalin (brand names Neurontin and Lyrica) and accounted for the third-highest prescription payments among workers’ comp claims, according to the study, behind only dermatological and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The study examines their use for work-related injuries and illnesses in 28 states and determined that gabapentinoids were almost always dispensed for off-label uses in the workers’ compensation system. According to the study, 99% of workers with gabapentin and 96% of workers with pregabalin did not have a documented diagnosis for one of the FDA-approved conditions.
Off-label use of gabapentinoids is recommended on a limited trial basis for selected conditions with neuropathic features. However, one out of three workers with gabapentinoid prescriptions in workers’ compensation did not have a diagnosis for neuropathic pain conditions or FDA-approved indications, according to the study.
Workers with gabapentinoids often received opioids concomitantly, which increases the risk of respiratory depression resulting in overdose deaths. Nearly half of the workers with gabapentinoids simultaneously received an opioid prescription in Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Louisiana.
The study, Off-Label Use of Gabapentinoids for Work-Related Injuries, includes information for about 480,000 workers with prescriptions in 28 states who sustained injuries between Jan. 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019. The study examines prescription utilization of these workers in the first year following the injury through March 31, 2020.
The study is available for purchase here.
‘Vaccine Passports’ are Taking Off. How to Prove your Covid-19 Vaccination Status on your Phone
Vaccination against Covid-19 is increasingly becoming a ticket of entry into restaurants, gyms and indoor performances — or all of the above, if you’re a New York City resident. Click here for full article.
Covid-19 or the Common Cold? How to Tell if your Child Contracted Covid-19 as School Starts
Common colds share many symptoms of the coronavirus, so if your child becomes ill as the school year gets underway, it might be difficult to immediately tell whether it’s Covid-19, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Click here for full article.
If your Employer Fires you because you Won’t Get the COVID Vaccine, Don’t Expect to Collect Unemployment
Each day more employers are telling employees they need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to work in person or risk being fired. Click here for full article.
Signs That You May Have Had COVID-19: What Research Shows
More than 190 million people have developed COVID-19 since late 2019, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Many other people have likely had the disease but never received a confirmed test result. Click here for full article.
Experts Share Best Masking Tips to Protect Against COVID-19 Delta Variant
The contagious delta variant has complicated the country’s COVID-19 recovery, and health care experts are again suggesting Americans cover their faces. Click here for full article.
Do State Bans on Local Mask Mandates Apply to the Workplace?
Although many public health officials now recommend or require everyone to wear masks in public indoor spaces—whether or not they’re vaccinated against the coronavirus—some states have limited or banned mask mandates in certain circumstances. But employment law attorneys said such bans generally don’t affect private businesses. Click here for full article.
Universities Charge Unvaccinated Students “Covid Fee”
Unvaccinated students at West Virginia Wesleyan College will be required to pay a “Covid fee” this fall and students who are unvaccinated at Birmingham–Southern College in Alabama will be required to pay for weekly testing. Click here for full article.
Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace
This guidance is designed to help employers protect workers who are unvaccinated (including people who are not fully vaccinated) or otherwise at-risk (as defined in the text box below), including if they are immunocompromised, and also implement new guidance involving workers who are fully vaccinated but located in areas of substantial or high community transmission. Click here for full article.
Tax Credits for Paid Leave Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for Leave After March 31, 2021
These FAQs address the tax credits available under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “ARP”) by employers with fewer than 500 employees and certain governmental employers without regard to the number of employees (“Eligible Employers”) for qualified sick and family leave wages (“qualified leave wages”) paid with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021, as well as the equivalent credits available for certain self-employed individuals. Click here for full article.
State of Reform
Employers Considering Vaccine Mandates have More to Worry About than Worker Compensation Claims, Expert Says
Debates over COVID-19 vaccine mandates are intensifying in Florida nursing homes and other health care settings. Some employers, including several Medicaid plans, are using incentives such as gift cards to encourage vaccinations among members, in an attempt to reach the state goal of vaccinating 50% of beneficiaries age 50 and older, according to Health News Florida. Click here for full article.
Risk & Insurance
WCRI Update: No Delay in Workers’ Comp Medical Treatment During Height of Pandemic
A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute, entitled “The Early Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Treatment for Workers Compensation Non-COVID-19 Claims,” has found almost no delays in treatment during the first two quarters of the pandemic. Click here for full article.
From CVS to Goldman Sachs, FDA Move Prompts Vaccine Mandates
From Walt Disney World to Goldman Sachs, a flurry of private and public employers are requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the federal government gave full approval to the Pfizer shot. And the number is certain to grow much higher. Click here for full article.
Lessons from the Pandemic for Workers’ Compensation
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us tough lessons. We have learned the strengths and limitations of globalization, our public health systems, and our ability to respond during a crisis. Click here for full article.
Insurance Business America
Grieving Family Wins First Round of COVID-related Workers’ Comp Court Battle
The grieving family of a man who died from COVID-19 while working overseas last year has won what is likely to be the first round of a court battle over the New South Wales (NSW) workers’ compensation scheme. Click here for full article.
What Every Worker Needs to Know About Vaccine Mandates
As people start to return to office buildings after working remote for more than a year in some cases, more employers are taking steps to deter the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. One practice that has gained momentum is the requirement that workers either get vaccinated or submit to regular testing for COVID-19. Click here for full article.
Twin Cities Business
The Covid-19 Workers’ Comp Puzzle
If you think you were infected with Covid-19 in a Minnesota workplace, you were better off being a nurse than a meatpacker. Click here for full article.
Vaccine Mandates: What Employers Need to Know
Governments and private employers continue to grapple with how to achieve a safe workplace for their employees in light of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Due to recent and ongoing changes in the legal landscape, the trend toward vaccination is becoming somewhat clearer and many employers are implementing vaccination mandates to help reach the goal of a safe workplace, but questions and uncertainty, with some corresponding risk, remain. Click here for full article.
As Delta’s $200 Staff Surcharge Shows, Employers Face a Dilemma: Keeping Workers Safe — and Holding onto their Employees
Tracey Sylvester, the owner of EHS Pilates in San Francisco said customers and staff are asking she will require proof of vaccination. Click here for full article.
Minnesota Sees Dramatic Differences in Acceptance of Workers’ Comp Claims under State’s COVID-19 ‘Presumption’ Law
If you think you were infected with COVID-19 in a Minnesota workplace, you were better off being a nurse than a meatpacker. Click here for full article.
What Would Happen if Employers Forced Truckers to get Vaccinated?
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and it didn’t take long for President Joe Biden to urge employers to mandate vaccinations across their workforces. Click here for full article.
NCCI Releases Insights on This Year’s Hot Topics and Trending Issues, New State Workers Compensation Laws, and Other Relevant Activity
Public policymakers continue to address the challenges to workers compensation due to COVID-19, according to the 2021 Regulatory and Legislative Trends Report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Click here for full article.
Employers and Unions Should Discuss Vaccine Mandates
The courts seem to be holding that employers can require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, but things get more complicated when there is a labor union involved. Rather than avoid the issue, employers and unions should be talking about how to make a vaccine-for-all protocol work. Click here for full article.
Carrot vs. Stick: Employers Look For Sweet Spot Between Vaccine Mandates And Incentives
As employers consider whether to encourage staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, several companies are providing examples of how it can be done. Employers are using several different types of incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated. Some are using a carrot, others a stick. Click here for full article.
The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Government Mandates on COVID-19 Vaccines Regardless of Whether They have Full FDA Approval
Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced an executive order banning government COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas regardless of a vaccine’s approval status with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Click here for full article.
Lawmakers Pass COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Bills
The Virginia General Assembly passed multiple bills allowing health care workers and first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are disabled or die due to COVID-19. Click here for full article.
Some Companies are Mandating Vaccines — but not for Front-line Workers
Workers at places like Walmart and McDonald’s have been on the front lines of the pandemic for months. But when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine, their employers are treading lightly with just how far to push them. Click here for full article.
CWCI: Delta Variant Spurs New Wave of California Workers’ Comp COVID-19 Claims
After trending down over the first half of this year and falling to a 16-month low of just 676 claims in June, the monthly tally of new COVID-19 claims in the California workers’ compensation system spiked to 2,581 cases in July, just shy of the combined total of 2,635 COVID claims recorded for the prior three months. That translates to a nearly four-fold increase in one month, the biggest monthly gain since COVID-19 claim volume hit its peak in December 2020. Click here for full article.
Can I Ask my Employer to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations? Ask HR
Question: I work in a warehouse where COVID-19 vaccination is recommended, but not required. Several of my co-workers are not vaccinated. My company has taken measures to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on workplace safety. However, I work in fairly close proximity to others, so 6-foot spacing isn’t always observed. Can I request my employer mandate vaccination, demand hazard pay, or additional coverage if I contract coronavirus? Click here for full article.
Texas Summarizes Workers’ Comp Bills Passed in 2021
Several bills passed in the Texas Legislature this year impact the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. Below, the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) summarizes selected bills enacted by the 87th Legislature that affect workers’ compensation and may be relevant to individuals and entities that the regulates. Click here for full article.
EHS Daily Advisor
Are Off-Site Injuries Covered by Workers’ Comp in Oklahoma? It Depends
Austin Brown lived in Texas but temporarily relocated to Oklahoma to work on a construction project building a large wind farm near Ponca City. In addition to an hourly wage, he received $100 per day from general contractor Infrastructure & Energy Alternatives (IEA) to pay for meals, lodging, and other incidental expenses. Click here for full article.
California Workers’ Comp Written Premium Down 13%, Report Shows
California workers’ compensation written premium for the first quarter of 2021 was 13% below that for the first quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly experience report issued on Wednesday by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California. Click here for full article.
The Orange County Register
California’s Gig Worker Fight is Back in the Courts
The high-stakes conflict over whether those who drive for Uber, Lyft and other delivery and rideshare companies are employees or independent contractors entered a new phase last week in an Alameda County courtroom. Click here for full article.
NU Property Casualty 360
Workers’ Comp Rate Decrease Proposed in West Virginia
The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which serves as West Virginia’s rating and statistical agent, has filed a proposed workers’ compensation loss cost decrease of 7.9%. The premium reduction would be effective Nov. 1, 2021, resulting in a projected $15 million in savings to employers in the state, according to a release from the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner. Click here for full article.
The Bottom Line News
Kentucky Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Workers’ Compensation Savings for Businesses
Legislation providing huge savings to Kentucky businesses on their workers’ compensation costs was upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Click here for full article.
Occupational Health & Safety
Excelling at Safety Means Making Worker Well-Being a Priority on the Job Site
Some construction workers embody the “too tough to worry about it” mentality which includes an attitude that nothing terrible could happen to them. With this kind of demeanor, discussions of wellbeing can seem out of place. The common perception is that seasoned construction workers should be able to handle health and emotional issues, bravely soldiering on until the work has ended. Click here for full article.
Kentucky High Court Upholds Limits on Workers’ Comp Benefits
A Kentucky law passed to prevent duplicative benefits and reduce payments from the commonwealth’s workers’ compensation fund is constitutional, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Click here for full article.
Workers Compensation Insights for Remote Work
The health threat of COVID-19 is fading in the United States, but the pandemic will likely drive lasting change, including in how we work. Employers need to be ready to manage associated risks, including the prospect of compensable injuries occurring in employees’ homes. Click here for full article.
Insurance Business America
Contractors’ First-year Employees Pose Greatest Injury Risk – Report
Contractors’ first-year employees pose the greatest risk of injury on the job, accounting for a third of claims paid out, according to a new report by Amtrust Financial Services. Click here for full article.
Why Health Insurance & Workers’ Compensation Insurance Are Not True Insurance
Fully funded or level funded traditional health insurance provided by employers is not insurance except for people who buy their own insurance, i.e., the small business owner. To qualify as insurance, the insurance policy must insure the buyer’s assets. Click here for full article.
8 Tips to Ensure Your Workers’ Compensation Claim Gets Paid
If you get injured at the workplace, you’d be entitled to compensation benefits until you can resume your work. However, pursuing insurance companies to pay worker’s compensation claims can be an uphill task. Click here for full article.
The National Law Review
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Seeks Updated Safety Standards Regarding Faulty Equipment in the Workplace
More often than not, machine accidents are caused by either a lack of guards, barriers, and gates or by the removal of safety devices. These accidents can lead to amputations or even fatal injuries. While employers must do their due diligence by keeping their workers safe, many times the injuries are caused by faulty or incomplete equipment in the workplace. Click here for full article.
NU Property Casualty 360
Mitigating Workers’ Comp Costs with Proper Claim Handling
Preventing workplace accidents should be first and foremost on an employer’s agenda. However, what should an employer do when the inevitable workplace accident occurs? Click here for full article.
Traveling Through Time: A Worldwide Look at Industrial Safety
Defective equipment, use of improper material, job contamination, substandard or limited training, inexperience on the job, weather conditions, unmanaged stress, incomplete/improper procedures, etc., can all contribute to the detrimental outcome of work to the unprotected worker. Click here for full article.
These are the 8 Most Common Workplace Accidents
No matter where you’re employed, workplace accidents can happen. Whether an employee cuts their hand on a letter opener or falls off of a piece of heavy machinery, injuries can happen in any workplace across all industries. Here is a guide to the most common causes of workplace injuries, how they happen and how businesses need to handle them to keep their employees safe and productive. Click here for full article.
Trends in the Workers’ Compensation Industry
Insurance experts and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) predict the workers’ compensation system will remain strong and resilient despite the uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and early 2021. The COVID-19 losses to the industry were much lower than initially expected, and although net written premium decreased by 10% in 2020, other financial metrics such as operating margins and the industry reserve position remain favorable – some even at all-time highs. Click here for full article.
Use of Topical Analgesics for Treating Pain among Injured Workers Examined in New WCRI Study
As topical analgesics for treating injured workers have become a growing prescription cost driver, a new Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) study examines how often and what types are being dispensed, and if their prescribing is in line with guideline recommendations. Click here for full article.