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Medical Office Worker’s Acknowledgement of Decision to Decline COVID-19 Vaccination

It behooves you to ensure that medical office staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect not only themselves but also co-workers, patients and others at your facility. But what if workers neglect or just plain refuse to be vaccinated? There are two basic options: Option 1: Require medical office workers to be vaccinated Option 2: Encourage medical office workers to be vaccinated voluntarily If you select Option 2, require workers to sign a form acknowledging that they were offered the vaccine and voluntarily declined to accept it and list the reasons for doing so. Here’s a Model Policy you can adapt.

COMPLIANCE

Can you require medical office workers to get the COVID-19 vaccination?

Although it’s clearly a positive development for the world at large, the almost miraculous emergence of a vaccine for COVID-19 in less than a year poses legal challenges for employers in general and medical office staff and other healthcare providers in particular. The Question: Can employers require their workers to get the vaccine? Bottom Line on Top: The answer is probably but not 100 percent certainly YES. And even if a mandatory vaccine policy is justifiable, it’s also subject to strict restrictions. Legal justification for mandatory vaccination policies Even though the COVID-19 situation is new and unprecedented, we can still discern the boundaries with regard to employers’ rights to demand that workers get vaccinated. Specifically, we know that OSHA, courts and arbitrators have historically upheld mandatory flu vaccination policies (as… . . . read more.

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Model visitors’ waiver of COVID-19 infection liability form

As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, you run the risk of being sued by patients, vendors, guests and other visitors (“visitors”) who claim they contracted the virus at your office as a result of your inadequate safety measures. One way to limit liability is having visitors sign a form agreeing to waive their rights to sue you for COVID-19 infections before entering the office. Although there’s no guarantee that a court would enforce such a waiver, the Model Form below uses fairly conservative language that has been found to be enforceable in other situations. Caveat: The inclusion of the phrase purporting to insulate you against your own negligence in Sections 3 and 4 is fairly risky and you may want to talk to counsel about whether to use it… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Has OSHA done enough to enforce COVID-19 safety rules for medical offices?

Even after the election and swearing in of the new President, federal government response to the COVID-19 pandemic remains a politically charged issue. One area of contention involves whether OSHA has done enough to protect healthcare workers and other workers exposed to the virus. On Jan. 8, the agency issued a statistical report documenting its COVID-19 enforcement efforts starting with the beginning of the pandemic and running through Dec. 31, 2020. Employer liability for COVID-19 violations under OSHA laws Nobody disputes that under OSHA, medical offices and other employers have a duty to protect workers from risk of COVID-19 infection. What may be less clear, is the source of that duty. Neither the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Act) nor the regulations say anything about COVID-19 or, with a few… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

EEOC issues COVID-19 vaccine guidance

By Mike O’Brien bio On Dec. 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 guidance to include a section devoted to vaccinations. The EEOC’s guidance answers these and other COVID-19 vaccine questions: “Is asking or requiring an employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination a disability-related inquiry?” “If an employer requires vaccinations when they are available, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that he or she is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a disability?” “If an employer requires vaccinations when they are available, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that he or she is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a sincerely held religious practice or belief?” “What happens if an employer cannot… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Using waivers to avoid getting sued for COVID-19 infections

PLEASE READ NOTICE TO ALL ENTRANTS AND USERS OF THESE FACILITIES EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY – ASSUMPTION OF RISK THESE CONDITIONS WILL AFFECT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO SUE OR CLAIM COMPENSATION FOR AN INJURY OR ILLNESS In these times of pandemic, signs and forms like this purporting to shield the owner of a facility against liability have become a fixture in workplaces and other facilities. You might even be using them at your own office. The idea is to notify patients, vendors and other visitors (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to collectively as “visitors”) that they’re entering the facility at their own risk and in so doing, waiving their rights to sue the owner for any illness or injury they suffer while on the premises. Of course,… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

How HR regulations could change under Biden administration

By Mike O’Brien bio Employers may be wondering how a Biden administration will affect workplace laws. Prior to the election, Biden’s campaign website gives some clues as to his priorities in this area. Biden lists the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, forcing off-the-clock work, and misclassifying workers as problems resulting in billions of dollars a year in wage theft. To address those issues, he proposes a phased-in implementation of a $15 per hour federal minimum wage (including eliminating the tip credit). He also supports the adoption of a more stringent test for classifying workers as independent contractors, similar to the ABC test employed by California. This type of test would almost certainly result in many more workers being deemed employees and fewer being properly classified as independent… . . . read more.

Can we use a contact tracing app to protect our business and employees?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: Every morning we conduct wellness checks on our employees as they arrive at work, but worry that some employees don’t monitor physical distancing when not at work. We’re barely hanging on as a practice, but all it would take is one employee getting COVID and infecting our other employees to shut us down. We have heard apps can provide real-time contact tracing and wonder if we can require our employees to wear them even when not at work? Answer: Potentially. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers must act to reduce and manage COVID-19-related hazards in the workplace. Employers can view video surveillance that shows when employees clock in and out and reveal an employee’s interactions while at work. Employers can provide employees… . . . read more.

Do employers owe employees paid sick leave when they self-quarantine?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: After I spent a weekend bar hopping, I felt remorseful, and self-quarantined so I wouldn’t bring COVID into my workplace and make others ill. I also took a COVID test and luckily tested negative. Since my employer had moved everyone back on-site, I couldn’t work remotely and labeled my time off as sick leave. I just got my paycheck and apparently my employer has denied my sick leave. What’s my recourse? Answer: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows most private sector employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in five instances. A health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine; the employee is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms; the employee or someone the employee is caring for is under a… . . . read more.

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Model Substance Abuse and Fitness for Duty Policy

Workplace substance abuse remains a major challenge for workplaces. Although sound in principle, the traditional zero tolerance policy is ill-suited to the legal complexities of the modern world. This is especially true in states that have legalized marijuana. You can still take a clear and firm line on employee drug and alcohol abuse for the purpose of health and safety. But the policy also has to exhibit finesse and sensitivity to legal subtleties. One of the best ways to create an enforceable policy is to base it not on the legality of substance abuse but the undisputable fact that it renders employees unfit for duty to the detriment of safety. Here’s a Model Policy you can adapt.


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