As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has promulgated new temporary measures that all employers within Virginia must adhere to in order to minimize the risk of contagion. The new law is expected to take effect on July 27, 2020, and all employers within the state must be in compliance of the general and risk-category specific employment standards.
As we continue to monitor the evolution of the law, we have done a more detailed description of a previous article we recently published, linked here: https://www.generalcounsellaw.com/virginia-is-the-first-state-to-mandate-emergency-covid-19-rules-for-employers/
Some of the general requirements that all employers must meet include training, providing PPE to employees, and establishing a reporting system. The training portion, which encompasses numerous topics, must be completed within thirty (30) days from the date of implementation of the law.
All employers must implement a Return-to-Work plan which should outline the procedures that will be followed if an employee who is suspected to have or is known to have COVID-19 wishes to return to work. This plan should outline the required guidelines published within the new regulation; these guidelines are meant to aid employers and employees determine when and under what criteria employees who are suspected to have or are known to have COVID-19 will be allowed to return to work. Employers must train their employees on this plan with thirty (30) days of implementation of the law, regardless of the risk category which the employer falls under.
There are five (5) categories of risk, and you, as an employer in Virginia fall within one of them. They are: “very high,” “high,” “medium (with 11 or more employees),” medium (with 10 or fewer employees),” and “lower.”
- Very High Category. Employers falling under this category are typically those where there is a high potentially for employee exposure to COVID-19. Most commonly, these will be jobs where the employee is exposed to aerosol generating procedures (e.g. intubations, dental procedures, invasive specimen collection, etc.), handling specimens from persons suspected or known to have COVID-19, and performing autopsies on bodies suspected or known to have had COVID-19.
- High Category. The major difference between “high” and “very high” is the level of exposure. Jobs falling within the “high” category put employees in a position of high potential for exposure to COVID-19 within six feet. The majority of jobs falling in this category are in the medical field, including mental health practitioners. Employees performing their duties within this category are repeatedly in close-contact with large numbers of people, such as doctors, dentists, pilots, flight attendants, etc.
- Medium Category. Jobs classified in this category are primarily those which require minimal contact with people who may or may not be known or suspected of having COVID-19 within six feet of distancing. Notably, this is where the majority of employers fall. Some examples are: restaurants, bars, construction (indoor and outdoor), educational facilities (daycare-higher level institutions), pharmacies, food banks, gyms, etc.Within this “medium” category, there is a distinction between employers with 11 or more employees, and those with 10 or less. The only difference between these categories is the requirement for an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Employers falling within the “medium” category, who employ 11 people or more, are required to create an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Employers falling within the “medium” category, who employ 10 people or less, do not have this requirement imposed on them.
- Lower Category. Jobs within this category have a minimal risk of exposure through the implementation of engineering, administrative, and social practices controls. Employers falling within this category are mainly offices, where there is minimal occupational contact with others.
For those employers who must create an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (very high, high, and moderate with 11 or more employees), the law provides them a sixty (60) day window from the date the law becomes effective. Further, these employers will have the same time frame to conduct employee training on the Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan which the employer institutes.