Quick Hit

Virginia became the first state to issue mandatory COVID-19 workplace safety rules when the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (“VSHCB”) approved an emergency temporary standard on July 15, 2020 by a 9-2 vote.  The final text has not yet been published but the mandatory requirements are expected to include obligations surrounding flexible sick leave policies, the promotion of social distancing, policies to identify workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, and policies to determine when workers known or suspected to have had COVID-19 are able to return to the workplace.

Key Takeaways

The majority of employers in Virginia will soon be required to follow an emergency temporary standard establishing workplace safety rules to limit the risks of COVID-19 exposure to workers.  Based on our review of draft regulations, the new standard is likely to come into effect in late July and will apply to most private employers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as to state and local employees.  It appears that employers who violate the new rules may be subject to significant fines.

When announcing these new mandatory rules, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said they were being enacted due to the absence of federal guidelines.  The Department of Labor and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have repeatedly said they do not intend to propose a nationwide rule regulating COVID-19 measures and protections in the workplace.  We’ve previously posted on OSHA’s comments on that position here.  Instead, OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance and indicated it will rely on the OSH Act’s general duty clause which requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards.  We’ve reported on this non-mandatory guidance from OSHA in several previous posts.

The Virginia emergency temporary standard will be the first to go beyond OSHA’s non-mandatory guidance and establish minimum virus protection requirements.  Oregon OSHA has similarly announced it is working to draft and adopt temporary COVID-19 rules with a target effective date of September 1.  No other states have passed similar standards, but some, such as Michigan, have issued executive orders aimed at the same workplace safety goals.

We will publish an updated post once the final rules are published.

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Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

Photo of Guy Brenner Guy Brenner

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group and is co-head of the Non-Compete & Trade Secrets Group. He has…

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group and is co-head of the Non-Compete & Trade Secrets Group. He has extensive experience representing employers in both single-plaintiff and class action matters, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He also regularly assists federal government contractors with the many special employment-related compliance challenges they face.

Guy represents employers in all aspects of employment and labor litigation and counseling, with an emphasis on non-compete and trade secrets issues, medical and disability leave matters, employee/independent contractor classification issues, and the investigation and litigation of whistleblower claims. He assists employers in negotiating and drafting executive agreements and employee mobility agreements, including non-competition, non-solicit and non-disclosure agreements, and also conducts and supervises internal investigations. He also regularly advises clients on pay equity matters, including privileged pay equity analyses.

Guy advises federal government contractors and subcontractors all aspects of Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations and requirements, including preparing affirmative action plans, responding to desk audits, and managing on-site audits.

Photo of Lexie Reynolds Lexie Reynolds

Lexie Reynolds is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department, and a member of the Employment Law Counseling & Training, Employment Litigation & Arbitration, and the Discriminatory, Harassment, and Title VII Practice Groups. Lexie’s practice covers a wide range of matters…

Lexie Reynolds is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department, and a member of the Employment Law Counseling & Training, Employment Litigation & Arbitration, and the Discriminatory, Harassment, and Title VII Practice Groups. Lexie’s practice covers a wide range of matters with a focus on internal corporate and government investigations. She has represented private and public companies, boards of directors and their committees, and individuals across many different industries including entertainment, financial services, and technology.

Lexie has advised and assisted clients in a variety of internal investigations as well as government enforcement actions involving the DOL, DOJ, and SEC. She has litigated matters at the administrative, state, and federal level, including a federal court trial. She has experience in matters involving Title VII discrimination, fraud, whistleblower activity, and retaliation.

Lexie is also dedicated to pro bono work and has represented individuals at the state administrative, federal court, and appellate levels including matters involving discrimination, veteran benefits, and immigration. Additionally, she has volunteered her time each year to mentor middle school students in a mock trial program aimed at developing public speaking, self-confidence, and awareness of legal rights.

While in law school, Lexie litigated criminal matters, representing juvenile and adult individuals in state court. Additionally, she interned at the Boston Juvenile Court and the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate.

Photo of Caroline Guensberg Caroline Guensberg

Caroline Guensberg earned her J.D. from George Washington University Law School, graduating with honors. While attending law school, Caroline was a notes editor of the Federal Circuit Bar Journal and had her note published in the journal. Caroline was also a member of…

Caroline Guensberg earned her J.D. from George Washington University Law School, graduating with honors. While attending law school, Caroline was a notes editor of the Federal Circuit Bar Journal and had her note published in the journal. Caroline was also a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board and served as a writing fellow and a dean’s fellow. In addition, Caroline worked as a legal intern for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Mine Safety Commission.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Caroline was a judicial clerk for the Connecticut Appellate Court. Caroline earned a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science from Wake Forest University.