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Volume XII, Number 184

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D.C. Court of Appeals Panel to Hear Argument for Reinstating Healthcare ETS

On April 4, 2022, a merits panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on a petition seeking to force OSHA to issue a permanent standard for healthcare occupational exposure to COVID-19 and to reinstate the Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard on Occupational Exposure (Healthcare ETS) to COVID-19 pending the permanent standard. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ referral of this matter to a merits panel was initiated by the Court’s own motion.

On December 27, 2021, OSHA announced the withdrawal of the Healthcare ETS and confirmed its intent to issue a permanent infectious disease standard. Less than two weeks later, on January 5, 2022, National Nurses United and several other labor unions filed an Emergency Petition for a Writ of Mandamus and Request for Expedited Briefing and Disposition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In re: National Nurses United, et al., No. 22-1002 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 5, 2022).

The unions argue that OSHA has failed to adequately protect nurses and other healthcare workers from COVID-19. OSHA filed its opposition to the petition on January 21, 2022, arguing, among other things, that OSHA was unable to finalize a permanent healthcare standard because it focused the agency’s resources on its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (which was also withdrawn). OSHA indicated it expects to complete rulemaking for a permanent healthcare standard within six-to-nine months.

The Healthcare ETS applied in settings where COVID-19 patients are treated, and it required healthcare employers with more than 10 employees to develop and implement written COVID-19 plans that included the following elements:

  • Assigning a designated safety coordinator;

  • Patient screening and management;

  • Policies and procedures to comply with CDC guidelines;

  • Facemask and PPE requirements;

  • Protections while using aerosol-generating procedures on persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19;

  • Physical distancing;

  • Solid barriers at employee work stations;

  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols;

  • HVAC system requirements;

  • Health screening and medical management requirements;

  • Paid leave for vaccinations, vaccination recovery, and medical removal from work due to COVID-19 infection or certain COVID-19 exposures;

  • Employee training;

  • Anti-retaliation protections;

  • Employee COVID-19 logs; and

  • Reporting work-related COVID-19 fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations.

OSHA has indicated its forthcoming permanent infectious disease standard will cover all industries and address airborne, droplet, and non-bloodborne contact diseases.

While OSHA has indicated it may use the now-withdrawn Healthcare ETS to support citations against healthcare employers under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, only the COVID-19 log and reporting provisions formally remain in effect.

Reinstatement of the Healthcare ETS would have a significant impact on covered employers, particularly as COVID-19 cases appear to be dropping throughout the country and more jurisdictions are loosening restrictions.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 52
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About this Author

Catherine A. Cano, Jackson Lewis, Federal Disability Lawyer, Retaliation Matters Attorney
Associate

Catherine A. Cano is an Associate in the Omaha, Nebraska, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management in all areas of labor and employment law. 

Ms. Cano helps clients navigate state, federal, and local leave and disability laws. Ms. Cano has experience in litigation and arbitration in several areas, including employment discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower claims, and non-competes and unfair competition. Ms. Cano’s practice also includes assisting clients involved in union organization campaigns, collective bargaining,...

402-391-1991
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