Effective March 23, 2022, the Virginia DOLI withdrew its previously-issued Permanent COVID Standards. The DOLI replaced the Standards with the Guidance for Employers to Mitigate the Risk of COVID-19 to Workers (“Guidance”), which present less restrictive protocols for employers than the previous COVID Standards. The prior DOLI Standards included the requirements that employees wear a mask and socially distance. They also included the requirements that an employer report COVID-19 cases to the Virginia Department of Health and notify building owners of COVID infections, among other requirements. The new Guidance provides the following, less onerous general guidance:
- Facilitate employees getting vaccinated and boosted;
- Encourage any workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work and seek advice on testing and treatment from their physician;
- Require all workers infected with COVID-19 virus to stay home;
- Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate;
- Encourage good sanitary work habits such as frequent hand washing;
- Educate workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand;
- Operate and maintain ventilation systems in accordance with manufacturer specifications to achieve optimal performance;
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904; and
- Follow other applicable mandatory VOSH standards.
Although the new Guidance makes mask-wearing largely optional, it does counsel employers not to discriminate against employees for their choice to wear a mask. In addition, employees will still need to wear masks in federally-mandated environments and where required by law.
Under the new Guidance, employers must still comply with mandatory requirements that apply to their workplace or industry, and employers must continue to provide a workplace free from hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm under Va. Code 40.1-51.1.
Brendan F. Cassidy is an attorney at Praemia Law, PLLC. This article is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or regarded as legal advice. Please contact Brendan Cassidy at email@example.com or 703-399-3603 concerning particular facts and circumstances.