Employment Law Alert – State Safety Board To Consider Whether To Continue COVID Work Rules

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On January 15, 2022, his first day in office, Governor Glenn Youngkin promulgated Executive Order 6 which directs the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (the Board) “to convene an emergency meeting of their (sic) membership to discuss whether there is a continued need for the Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19.” That meeting has just been scheduled for February 7, 2022, at 10:00 a.m.

First as an Emergency Temporary Standard under Governor Ralph Northam, and then as Final Permanent Standard (FPS) 16 VAC 25-220-10 et seq., the FPS has placed extensive requirements on Virginia employers including drafting and implementation of policies, mandatory reporting, and contact tracing, social distancing, and daily employee health screening, among others. Perhaps the most controversial requirement of the FPS is that during periods of substantial or high community transmission all employees working indoors, except those working alone in private offices, must wear a properly fitting face covering.

The FPS is extensive and imposes certain requirements on all employers and even more upon others in higher-risk industries. Many employers have found the FPS difficult to understand and apply. Violations are enforceable through Citations issued by Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH), a Division of the State’s Department of Labor and Industry. Citations issued by VOSH may include monetary penalties and deadlines for mandatory abatement.

We expect that all of the above requirements will be examined by the Board at the upcoming meeting. Public participation is invited for the February 7 meeting in Richmond. Virtual viewing is offered, and access instructions are available here. A Report from the Board to Governor Youngkin will follow within 30 days of the meeting and is expected to recommend changes and possibly rescind the FPS.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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