On Friday February 4, 2022, a judge in Sangamon County, Illinois issued a ruling that prohibited mask mandates for school districts across the state. The ruling followed a lawsuit filed by parents from Peoria-area schools against 140 school districts, the governor, the Illinois State Board of Education superintendent, and the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. The lawsuit challenged mask mandates and other COVID-19 procedures implemented by Governor J.B Pritzker as COVID-19 grew rampant. The ruling exposes the difficulties in implementing and complying with COVID-19 safety measures as schools return back to in-person learning.
As COVID-19 is back on the rise throughout the United States and various vaccine trials are occurring, employers are beginning to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all their employees. While no vaccine has been approved yet, predictions point to a possible release by the end of the year. The vaccine is not expected to be readily available until mid-2021 for the general public, which makes it difficult for most employers to mandate vaccination at least until 2021. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has yet to release guidance on COVID-19 vaccine so it is best to consider guidelines discussing flu vaccines for now. Although there are necessary accommodations due to federal legislation, vaccine programs are permissible.
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 Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, public health partners throughout Illinois, and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), are responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 that was first identified in December 2019 during an outbreak in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, including the United States, since it was detected and was declared a public health emergency for the U.S. on January 31, 2020 to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to the threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced March 11, 2020 that the spread of coronavirus qualified as a global pandemic.