In July 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry voted to implement strict work-place standards in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Click here to view §16VAC25-220, Emergency Temporary Standard). These new standards are applicable to most employers, and all state-owned and operated businesses and offices. The measures were to take effect on July 27, 2020. Some of the measures include:
- Ranking and Applicability. The new mandate requires employers to self-rank within “very high,” “high,” “medium,” and “lower” exposure categories. Each category has criteria which each employer must analyze in order to determine which risk category they fall into. The new temporary regulations make clear that these standards are applicable to all employers, regardless of size or number of employees. Depending on the exposure category, however, there may be additional requirements that employers must meet.
- Preventative and Response Plans. All employers falling within the “very high” or “high” categories, must develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness Plan, which must be distributed to employees. Those employers who fall within the “medium” exposure category, and who employ 11 or more employees must also create and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness Plan. There is no such requirement for “medium” risk employers with ten or less employees; “lower” risk employers also do not have to implement this plan—regardless of number of employees.
- Preventative Measures. Though all employers are encouraged to provide their employees with PPE, some employers falling within certain risk categories are mandated to provide PPE and PPE training to their employees. Further, employers must establish and implement a system for self-assessment and screening for COVID-19 signs and symptoms and implement procedures that will prevent sick employees and other persons from infecting healthy employees. Employers must also comply with heightened requirements for air handling system (i.e. HVAC systems) maintenance.
- Training. Employers are required to train and inform employees on these new rules and regulations, as well as COVID-19 transmission, PPE usage, and more. Employers are mandated to post this information in the workplace as well.
- Return-to-Work Plans. Though teleworking (to the extent possible) is encouraged, employers are directed to draft and implement a return to work plan. This plan should be particularly aimed towards employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and are now seeking re-entry into employment. Employers should consider time, symptom, and test-based strategies, as well as local, state, and federal guidelines when drafting and implementing this plan.
- Retaliation Protection. Employers are forbidden from retaliating against an employee who files a complaint or expresses concern with—or relating to—the new COVID-19 rules and regulations.
Employers must comply with all new regulations, as failure to comply could result in fines of up to $130,000—depending on the severity of the violation.
We are actively monitoring the new mandate and any new standard. If you are an employer that would like to discuss how this mandate could impact you and your workers, or need help developing an Infectious Disease Preparedness Plan and/or Return to Work Plan, please give us a call at 703-556-0411 or e-mail at email@example.com.