As the COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted life, the business world faces a stark new reality. Executives have been forced to make difficult decisions about layoffs and furloughs, investor disclosures, and cybersecurity threats as employees work from home. At the same time, these executives must understand new government programs in the United States and abroad that have been enacted to support businesses, but that raise a host of questions. And many must assess how they will deal with future M&A activity, including unsolicited offers and activist investors drawn to depressed stock prices.

To help our clients better understand this new business and legal landscape, our lawyers have prepared an ongoing series of S&C Memos, Podcasts and Webinars that outline and explain important issues in the fields of Corporate, M&A, Financial Services and Labor and Employment. While the law and regulations continue to evolve, we will keep you updated on the latest developments.

Partner Contacts: Nicolas BourtinCatherine M. ClarkinJared M. FishmanJulia M. JordanMarc Treviño and Benjamin H. Weiner



 

RECENT CLIENT GUIDANCE
 

California Reenacts COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

February 9, 2022 – On February 9, 2022, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill No. 84, which provides COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to certain employees. California previously enacted COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave in September 2020 to fill gaps left by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. After this leave requirement expired on December 31, 2020, California reenacted COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave and broadened the circumstances under which an employer was required to provide leave. This law expired on September 30, 2021, since which time California employees have been left without access to COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave unless otherwise provided for under local regulations. 

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Barron’s Article, “What We Can Learn From Our Covid-Crisis Failures”

January 13, 2022 – Jay Clayton co-authored an article for Barron’s examining “What We Can Learn From Our Covid-Crisis Failures.” The article noted that now is the time for governments to learn from our successes and failures in responding to COVID. He notes that a fundamental role of government is to assess and improve risk-management practices, and provided four areas of focus.

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OSHA COVID-19 ETS – Legal Challenges 

Updated January 14, 2022 – On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States stayed implementation of the Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to comply with mandatory vaccination or weekly testing requirements. In a 6-3 decision finding that the parties opposing the ETS “are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate,” the Court explained that although Congress has given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) the authority to regulate occupational dangers “it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.” The stay of the ETS will remain in effect pending the Sixth Circuit’s review of the merits.
 
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented. Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, wrote a concurring opinion.

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OSHA COVID-19 ETS – Legal Challenges 

Updated December 21, 2021 – All legal challenges were consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on November 16, 2021. On November 23, 2021, the government filed a motion to dissolve the stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit of the Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”), and the Sixth Circuit set a briefing schedule for responses and reply briefs. On December 3, 2021, the Sixth Circuit issued an order resolving the various procedural motions.

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New York City Releases Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate 

December 17, 2021 – On December 13, 2021, New York City issued an order, effective December 27, 2021, requiring workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before entering the workplace. Workers will then have 45 days to show proof of their second dose (for two-dose vaccines). The order further requires businesses to maintain records of worker vaccination status, to file a certificate of affirmation, and to post that certificate in the workplace. On December 15, 2021, New York City released guidance, frequently asked questions, and an information flyer for businesses. This guidance is discussed in additional detail below.

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The EEOC Updates Guidance Clarifying Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations Are Permitted Under Federal Law, Subject to “Reasonable Accommodations” and “Direct Threat” Assessments, and Allowing Employers to Provide Employees with Incentives for Vaccinations

Updated December 17, 2021– On December 14, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its guidance on What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws (the “guidance”) to clarify under what circumstances COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The updated guidance has been incorporated into the below post.

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OSHA COVID-19 ETS – Sixth Circuit December 3, 2021 Order Confirming Briefing Schedule and Resolving Procedural Motions

December 6, 2021– On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing requirements. Our blog post on the ETS is here. As discussed below, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently issued an order resolving various procedural motions and clarifying its scheduling order regarding the legal challenges to the ETS, which requires all briefing to be complete on December 10, 2021

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Supreme Court Considers Emotional Distress Damages Under Title VI and Related Statutes in Cummings v. Premier Rehab

December 1, 2021– On November 30, 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C., U.S., No. 20-219, which raises the question of whether emotional distress damages are available under Title VI and federal statutes incorporating its remedies including the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The Justice Department filed a brief as amicus curiae in support of Petitioner, and Assistant to the Solicitor General Colleen Sinzdak participated in the oral argument. A summary of the parties’ arguments and possible implications follows.

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Updated: New York Imposes Employer Obligations to Provide Leave for COVID-19 Vaccinations

December 1, 2021– The New York State Department of Labor (“NYSDOL”) recently updated its Frequently Asked Questions guidance on New York’s COVID-19 Vaccine Leave Law to clarify that the law applies to any COVID-19 vaccination, including booster shots. This new guidance has been incorporated into this updated post.

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The EEOC Updates Guidance Clarifying Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations Are Permitted Under Federal Law, Subject to “Reasonable Accommodations” and “Direct Threat” Assessments, and Allowing Employers to Provide Employees with Incentives for Vaccinations
 

November 18, 2021 – On October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated and expanded its guidance on What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws (the “guidance”) to address questions about religious objections to employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements and how they interact with federal equal employment opportunity laws. The updated guidance has been incorporated into the below post.

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OSHA COVID-19 ETS – Requiring Vaccine or Weekly Testing

November 4, 2021
– On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing requirements. OSHA’s ETS was issued in response to President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan directing OSHA to develop an ETS “requir[ing] all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” The text of the rule was released on November 4, 2021 and will become effective upon being published in the Federal Register, which is anticipated as early as November 5, 2021. 

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CDC Issues COVID-19 Workplace Vaccination Program Guidance

October 20, 2021 Update
 –  On October 15, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance on workplace vaccination programs. The most significant updates are included below. The CDC updated its guidance on vaccine mandates to state that “[a]n employer may require that their employees be vaccinated,” and that “employers . . . may ask an employee about vaccination status without violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.”

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CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People

October 19, 2021 Update
 – On October 15, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance for fully vaccinated people to recommend, among other things, that fully vaccinated people get tested 5-7 days after close contact with a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The CDC also updated its “When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated” guidance to provide the same recommendation.

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New York HERO Act Requires Employers to Implement New Infectious Disease Plan

October 5, 2021 – The Commissioner of Health issued a revised designation that extends the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” under the HERO Act until October 31, 2021, at which time the Commissioner of Health will determine whether to continue this designation. This revised designation requires employers to continue to implement their airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans under the HERO Act through October 31, 2021.

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New York Updates Quarantine Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals
 
September 22, 2021 – On September 22, 2021, New York State updated its quarantine guidance for fully vaccinated individuals to state that, following exposure to COVID-19, “[f]ully vaccinated individuals should be tested for COVID-19 between the third and fifth day after exposure and must wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until receiving a negative test result.” The guidance continues to state that “[a]symptomatic individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.” Unvaccinated individuals must continue to quarantine for ten days after exposure, unless they have recovered from COVID-19 within the previous three months.  

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President Biden Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
 
September 10, 2021 – On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a sweeping mandate (the “Mandate”), to “ensure that we are using every available tool to combat COVID-19 . . . , while also . . . protecting our economy from lockdowns and damage.”


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OSHA Updates Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace to Reflect CDC Mask Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

August 13, 2021 Update – On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace (the “Guidance”). Among other things, the updated Guidance reflects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) Interim Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, which recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Our blog post on the CDC Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People can be found here. A detailed discussion of the Guidance follows.

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OSHA Updates Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

August 13, 2021 Update –  On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace (the “Guidance”). Among other things, the updated Guidance reflects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Our blog post on the updated Guidance is available here.

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Certain State and Local Governments Are Currently Reevaluating Their Guidance in Light of the CDC’s New COVID-19 Mask Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

August 4, 2021 Update – On August 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) revised its testing guidance, recommending that “[f]ully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should get tested 3–5 days after exposure and are to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result . . . , unless they live in an area of high transmission.” For areas with “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19, the CDC’s July 27, 2021 mask guidance (discussed below) recommends that vaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor settings regardless of whether the individual has been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. This new guidance changes the guidance that had been issued by the CDC on or about March 2, 2021, which stated that “[f]ully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be tested following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.”

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S&C Webinar – European M&A: Lessons from a Time of Turmoil

July 26, 2021 – S&C partners, Garth Bray, Vanessa Blackmore, Richard Pollack, Konstantin Technau and Olivier de Vilmorin spoke at a webinar hosted by S&C titled “European M&A Practice in a Changing Environment – Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Outbreak”.

Watch here
 
OSHA Issues Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

June 16, 2021 Update – On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace (the “Guidance”). Among other things, the updated Guidance provides that, unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure. Our blog post on the updated guidance is available here.

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COVID-19: New York Office Reopening Guidance

June 15, 2021 Update – The New York office reopening guidance became optional, because 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series.



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