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Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon, partner and member of Balch & Bingham’s Labor & Employment Practice, recently sat down with Bloomberg to discuss the latest COVID-19 workplace health and safety guidance issued by the federal government.
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) followed suit on May 17 and advised employers to follow the new CDC mask guidance.
Speaking to Bloomberg reporter Bruce Rolfsen about these recent developments, Tashwanda noted that OSHA will face a hard time justifying its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard following the CDC’s decision last week to allow fully vaccinated people to not wear masks. In particular, any preventative practices employers would be required to follow under an OSHA standard are now very much in question.
“Simply put, if we remove the mask mandate, there’s not much left,” said Tashwanda. When it comes to vaccinations, Tashwanda told Bloomberg that OSHA might expect employers to track workers’ vaccination status and then track whether only fully vaccinated workers are wearing masks. However, given the stringent privacy implications that go hand-in-hand with medical records, employers need to take care when approaching these procedures.