There seems to be no end in sight to the various concerns associated with COVID-19, and experts are hesitant to say when and if life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” As the pandemic persisted, companies large and small quickly realized that jobs we all assumed had to be done in an office, can in fact be done from the comfort of one’s home. #WFH is a trending social media hashtag standing for “work from home,” and posts using this hashtag range anywhere from how to dress comfortably while remaining professional when working from home to setting up the perfect home office. #WFH, however, is not just a social media trend, but a new normal for many Americans as employers were forced to allow their employees to work from home due to health concerns related to COVID-19. This gives rise to questions such as, what about safety and security concerns related to employer data? And, where do employees draw the line between work and home when working from home? While this may be uncharted territory, top researchers say that #WFH may be the next big thing for companies worldwide.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) recently announced alterations to its previous regulations which expanded family and medical leave provisions and paid sick leave of April’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). These revisions serve to clarify the responsibilities of employers and the rights of workers as they relate to the paid leave of FFCRA. These revisions come after a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York which invalidated portions of the initial regulations. The WHD’s revisions are an example of the lack of clarity and adequate response from regulations designed to protect workers during the current pandemic.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released new guidance for skilled nursing facilities (“SNFs”) as part of a larger rulemaking agenda for healthcare institutions in the throes of the current public health emergency with COVID-19. CMS has also detailed the fines for non-compliance with the new COVID-19 requirements for SNFs and other healthcare institutions such as hospitals and laboratories.
During February 2020, COVID-19 hit the United States and disrupted many lives all throughout the country. Many states shut down most businesses, stores, and restaurants except for all essential services. By March, schools were forced to create unconventional forms of teaching methods for the remainder of the school year such as e-learning and sending students lesson packets for the week. As the school year approaches, many school districts are still determining their instruction mode for the upcoming school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines to reopening schools and advised school districts to work closely with local and state health officials to determine the best practices for reopening.
The meat and poultry packing industry has recently fallen victim to the spread of COVID-19. Among fierce backlash over the federal government’s lack of action to protect meat packing facility workers, the CDC and OSHA released interim guidelines. These guidelines are to be followed by employers not only to keep workers safe, but to avoid a shortage of one of America’s most prized food sources: meat and poultry. The meat packing industry, as one of the most heavily-regulated industries in the United States, now faces increased regulation during a global pandemic.
Amid the epidemic levels of youth use of e-cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, released a policy on January 2, 2020, requiring enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to kids. According to the policy, the FDA intends to prioritize enforcement against fruit and mint flavored, cartridge-based electronic nicotine delivery system (“ENDS”). The FDA looks to regulate all ENDS products that manufactures have failed to make safe for use, as well as any ENDS product marketed for use by minors. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (“NYTS”), a survey conducted annually by the FDA in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows approximately 1.6 million youths were using ENDS products frequently, with nearly one million using e-cigarettes daily. The FDA’s enforcement policy is not a “ban” on flavored cartridges. If a company can demonstrate to the FDA that a specific product meets the applicable standard set forth by Congress, including considerations on how the marketing of the product may affect youth initiation and use, then the FDA could authorize that product for sale.
In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a new policy that provides for the release of a list of retailers that have received a food subject to recall. In the past, the FDA did not release such information because the agency deemed it confidential commercial information. The lack of information on the part of the FDA has been a huge detriment to the public. Prior to the new guidance, the public would only find out information about the particular food that was being recalled, not where this recalled food was available for purchase. The public was told just to stop purchasing that recalled food, whether it be romaine lettuce or beef, even if there were retailers who were selling non-contaminated products. This procedure not only hurts the public but also has a huge financial effect on those retailers who are not selling contaminated or recalled products. The FDA has effectuated a new guidance because they have found that such information is necessary to enforce a recall and to ensure public safety.
Despite the United States having one of the safest food supplies in the world, more than 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses and diseases each year, and more than 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from similar issues that are largely preventable. On January 04, 2011 President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”) into law. This enactment was called the “most sweeping reform” of U.S. Food Safety laws in more than seventy years. But seven years later, the act is still only partially enforced as the FDA has faced resistance from the government as well as a lack of funding. The FMSA was and is intended to enable the FDA to protect the health of the public by strengthening the food system in the United States. While change and reform in the industry are necessary, what good are new reforms if they will not be enforced for years to come?