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  • Justin Whittaker

Navigating New COVID Regulations in the Workplace

After over a year, we've gotten used to wearing masks, social distancing, and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, both as mandated by State and Federal law, as well as based on our own personal ethics. On May 13, 2021, the CDC abruptly announced a dramatic reduction of restrictions related to COVID-19 in businesses and workplaces. The CDC’s announcement raises important questions for businesses and employers related to their rights and obligations surrounding previously mandatory safety precautions as to their customers, vendors, and employees.

Similarly, with the wide availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations, in conjunction with the loosening of safety protocols, businesses and employers are in the difficult position of determining whether to make vaccines mandatory to enter their facilities.

Issues you may be thinking about:

Can I require my employees to be vaccinated?

Guidelines from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is rapidly evolving on this questions. Because requiring vaccinations doesn't likely constitute a "medical examination" under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), employers can likely require vaccinations, subject to the requirements of the ADA.

Can I require customers to wear masks and social distance, even if there are no government mandates?

At this time, employers and businesses in Ohio and Kentucky will be able to still require masks subject to certain exceptions.

Can I ask my contractors to be vaccinated?

Right now, we don't know. We don't have any guidance on 1099 contractors at this time.

Can I refuse service to non-vaccinated customers who also refuse to wear a mask?

There isn't much guidance on this, either, but expect guidance from state and federal authorities shortly.

These questions are directly related to an employers’ rights and duties under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and a slew of other equal opportunity employment laws and regulations. Guidance in this regard from the EEOC can be confusing and at times contradictory. Therefore, navigating this new minefield can be complicated, time-consuming, and stressful for business owners and employers.

At Whittaker Law, we have the skill and experience to advise our clients on how to safely and smartly implement policies that protect them, their customers, vendors, and employees. Give us a call at 513-259-3758 or fill out our contact form below.

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