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There is a lot to cover in this edition, but we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support for our business environment and your workforce. We hope you all have a peaceful and prosperous 2022.
OSHA Withdraws Most of ETS for Healthcare Workers
On about December 28, 2021, OSHA announced the withdrawal of most of the ETS aimed at healthcare workers. However, employers must still comply with recording COVID-19 logs and case reports regardless of work-related status. Additionally, OSHA strongly encourages healthcare entities to continue with compliance of the entire ETS to remain in compliance with the General Duty clause. As a refresher, the General Duty clause in part requires employers to provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees…” This includes respiratory protection, personal protective equipment (PPE), and protecting employees from hazards.
Also keep in mind that if the healthcare entity employees 100 or more employees, they still must comply with that portion of the ETS.
OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) Reinstated by 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals
On Friday Dec. 17, 2021 the 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals reinstated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) federal emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19. The 6th Circuit decision reverses the stay ordered in November by the 5th Circuit and allows OSHA to resume ETS implementation and enforcement nationwide. Click here to read a summary of the ETS.
It is anticipated that the 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals will provide further guidance early in January 2022.
The ETS establishes a mandatory vaccination policy requirement for private employers with 100 or more employees. ETS opponents have already filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the 6th Circuit’s decision.
OSHA Response and Guidance
OSHA has published the following guidance regarding the reinstatement:
To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS. To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. OSHA will work closely with the regulated community to provide compliance assistance.
Impact on Employers
The 6th Circuit’s decision suggests the ETS may survive its legal challenges. Employers subject to the ETS should monitor legal developments closely. They should also consider what measures they would need to adopt to be considered to have made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply if the Supreme Court upholds the ETS.
Important Dates to Keep In Mind
Jan. 10, 2022 – Planned enforcement deadline for most ETS requirements.
Feb. 9, 2022 – Planned enforcement deadline for ETS testing requirements.
EEOC Issues New Guidance on COVID-19 and ADA Disability
On Dec. 14, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued 14 new answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what employers may or may not do to comply with federal fair employment laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new FAQs specifically address the definition of “disability” and how to determine whether an individual with COVID-19 meets it under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA and COVID-19 Background
Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees may face liability if they take certain adverse employment actions against individuals who have been diagnosed with or are believed to have COVID-19. The ADA also requires these employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including any related to COVID-19. Smaller employers may be subject to similar rules under applicable state or local law.
The EEOC’s new FAQs clarify that COVID-19 may qualify an individual for ADA protection based on “actual” disability, a “record of” disability or being “regarded as” having a disability. Employers must perform an individualized assessment to determine whether a specific employee’s COVID-19 meets any of these definitions.
COVID-19 is an actual disability if it is a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The FAQs provide examples of situations in which an individual with COVID-19 would (and would not) meet this definition.
The FAQs also explain and provide examples illustrating how certain adverse employment actions may violate the ADA even if an individual only had COVID-19 in the past (“record of” disability) or is mistakenly believed to have COVID-19 (“regarded as” having a disability).
COVID-19 as a Disability
Determining whether COVID-19 is a disability is determined on a case-by-case basis and always requires an individualized assessment.
Understanding the Omicron Variant
A new variant of coronavirus is prompting renewed concern regarding the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) named the new variant “Omicron.” Omicron is labeled a “variant of concern,” the agency’s serious category for tracking. Such a designation is reserved for dangerous variants that may be more transmissible or virulent or could decrease the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments.
This article features Omicron information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Emergence of Omicron
On Nov. 24, 2021, a new coronavirus variant was reported to the WHO. This new variant was first detected in Botswana and South Africa.
On Dec. 1, 2021, the first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified. The CDC continues to collaborate with global public health and industry partners to learn about Omicron and monitor its course. At the time of publication, experts don’t yet know how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or how well available vaccines and medications work against it.
Despite the increased attention of Omicron, Delta remains the main variant circulating in the United States.
What Is Known About Omicron
The CDC shared the following information about the infection and spread of Omicron.
How easily does Omicron spread?
The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original coronavirus strain, but how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. The CDC expects that anyone with an Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
Will Omicron cause more severe illness?
More data is needed to know if Omicron infections, especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.
Will vaccines work against Omicron?
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and boosters.
Will treatments work against Omicron?
Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic makeup of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.
Tools to Fight Omicron
There are several tools available today in the United States to fight the Omicron variant. According to the CDC, the following tools can help reduce the spread of Omicron in our country:
While we learn more about the risk of Omicron, it’s essential to use all tools available to protect yourself and others.
CDC experts are working to gather data and virus samples that can be studied to answer important questions about the Omicron variant. Scientific experiments have already started, and the CDC will provide updates as soon as possible.
IRS Announces 2022 Standard Mileage Rates
On Dec. 17, 2021, the IRS issued the 2022 optional standard mileage rates, which are used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
The 2022 standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses. Taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for moving expenses, unless they are members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station.
Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.
Taxpayers can use the standard mileage rate but must opt to use it in the first year the car is available for business use. Then, in later years, they can choose either the standard mileage rate or actual expenses. Leased vehicles must use the standard mileage rate method for the entire lease period (including renewals) if the standard mileage rate is chosen.
Federal: Extension of Form I-9 Flexibility Into 2022
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) extended the Form I-9 compliance
flexibility until April 30, 2022, due to necessary COVID-19 precautions. This extension
continues to apply the guidance previously issued for employees hired on or after April 1,
2021, and who work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19-related precautions.
Those employees are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements for the
Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) until they are working non-remotely on a
regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or when the extension ends—whichever is earlier.
On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced its deferral of the
physical presence requirements for the Form I-9 to protect employees and employers from
COVID-19. However, this policy only applies to employers and workplaces that are
operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no
exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and
employment eligibility documentation for the form.
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State Compliance Update
Nothing to report for now…
1/31 – Deadline to Distribute Forms 1095-B and 1095-C
1/31 – Form 940 Filling Deadline
1/31 – Form 941 Filing Deadline (fourth quarter)
1/31 – Forms W2 and 1099-MISC Distribution Deadline
1/31 – Forms W3 Filing Deadline
2/1 – Deadline for posting OSHA Form 300A
2/28 – Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C Filing Deadline (paper filers)
3/31 – Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C Filing Deadline (electronic filers)
Lighthouse HR Support (LHRS) provides practical human resource information and guidance based upon our knowledge and experience in the industry and with our clients. LHRS services are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. LHRS services are designed to provide general information to human resources and/or business professionals regarding human resource concerns commonly encountered. Given the changing nature of federal, state and local legislation and the changing nature of court decisions, LHRS cannot and will not guarantee that the information is completely current or accurate. LHRS services do not include or constitute legal, business, international, regulatory, insurance, tax or financial advice. Use of our services, whether by phone, email or in person shall indicate your acceptance of this knowledge.