New OSHA Guidelines and Good News About Unemployment

OSHA released a new publication entitled Guidance on Returning to Work on June 17, 2020. The Guidance is an overview of guidelines pertaining to flexible workplaces, remote work, hygiene, social distancing, and other measures addressed by the individual states and CDC. The Guide does not contain any new information that has not already been issued by other agencies. However, it does clarify that if employers are keeping records of health screening or temperature checks, they may qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard. 29 CFR 1910.1020. This would then require that employers retain these records for the duration of the employee’s employment plus 30 years. However, temperature records do not qualify as medical records unless maintained by a physician, nurse, or other health care personnel or technician.

Finally, we have some promising news about unemployment. The U.S. economy showed positive job gains in June, adding 4.8 million jobs. Even better, the unemployment rate fell to approximately 11 percent from 16.4 percent in May.

States reported that about 1.4 million U.S. workers filed for new unemployment benefits during the week ending June 27. First-time claims have fallen for 13 straight weeks since hitting a record 6.8 million in late March. The total number of workers continuing to claim unemployment benefits held at 19 million last week after peaking at nearly 25 million in early May. Another 12.8 million people continue to claim unemployment under the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program providing jobless benefits to workers previously not eligible for unemployment. The federal program that provides the unemployed with an extra $600 per week is set to expire on July 31, 2020.

For employees who refuse to return to work, Ohio and Kentucky unemployment offices are requesting that this is reported so that benefits can be terminated, including the federal supplement. Further, if an employer received a PPP loan, an employee’s refusal should not reduce the amount of forgiveness. The employer must provide a written offer of employment and document the refusal by the employee with reason.

OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work