Monthly Archives: December 2021


By Sally A. Piefer

In early November, the Biden administration announced additional steps it was taking to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced a new emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) which it claimed would “protect more than 84 million workers from the spread of the coronavirus on the job.”

Under this ETS, employers with 100 or more employees (as of November 4, 2021) were directed to develop, implement, and enforce a written mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Alternatively, covered employers could adopt a written policy requiring employees to either choose to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work.

Within days after the ETS was released, lawsuits were filed in an effort to halt the rule from going into effect. Parts of the ETS required employers to take certain actions by early December, and the testing/vaccination portion of the rule was slated to go into effect on January 4, 2022. On November 6, 2021, the ETS was halted nation-wide by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. More lawsuits—both in favor and against the ETS—were filed across the country in an effort to gain an advantage in which federal Circuit Court would ultimately determine the ETS’s validity.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, was selected in the lottery. Many believed that based on the political makeup of that court, largely Republican-appointees, that the ETS might not survive the legal challenges.

The looming winter months, increased hospitalizations for COVID and the Omicron variant took the world by surprise in late November, and health experts opined that Omicron may spread even more quickly than the Delta variant.

Just a few days earlier, the Sixth Circuit determined the ETS’ fate would be decided by a 3-judge panel rather than a single judge. Sixteen active judges on the Sixth Circuit wrote opinions in favor and against this decision, and there was speculation in the legal community on who would sit on the 3-person panel for the Sixth Circuit and determine the ETS’ fate. Legal scholars surmised that based on the concurring and dissenting opinions filed regarding the decision to have a 3-judge panel, that the panel consisted of one judge appointed by the Obama administration, one judge appointed by the George W. Bush administration, and one judge appointed by the Trump administration.

The Biden administration asked the Court to dissolve the Fifth Circuit’s stay. Late on Friday, December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, in a largely unexpected move—and in a divided opinion—decided to lift the Fifth Circuit’s Order preventing the ETS from taking effect. The Court’s 56-page opinion explained, in part, that

Fundamentally, the ETS is an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our healthcare system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs….

The Court’s decision resulted in an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, where another lawsuit is already pending on the legitimacy of the vaccine mandate for health care workers. The question, of course, is whether the ETS will satisfy the “grave danger” requirement for OSHA to have avoided the normal rule-making process.

What now for employers?

When the ETS was halted by the Fifth Circuit, we encouraged employers to continue to plan as if the ETS would take effect, so that employers would not be blindsided if the ETS were allowed to stand. Employers will now, a week before the year-end holidays, need to make sure they are ready for the ETS requirements on January 10, 2022. OSHA has indicated it will not issue citations before January 10, 2022 so that employers can implement the requirements.

Employers who have not already continued to plan for the ETS are encouraged to immediately take the following steps:

  • Create a policy on vaccination or testing with mask wearing
  • If you will offer employees the option of weekly testing, decide who will bear the cost for testing, and provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from the side effects of the vaccine
  • Ascertain the vaccination status of each employee and obtain acceptable written proof of vaccination
  • Maintain records of the vaccination status for each employee
  • Provide materials encouraging vaccination to your employees and provide information about the ETS
  • Ensure that all employees who are not fully vaccinated wear face coverings when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes—and enforce this requirement
  • Require employees to immediately provide notice of a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis and ensure that any employee with a positive test is removed from the workplace pursuant to CDC guidelines
  • Report work-related COVID-19 fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations within 24 hours
  • Employers must be prepared to provide documentation of its written policy and the aggregate number of employees vaccinated within 4 business hours of a request by OSHA, and all other records requested by OSHA must be produced by the end of the business day following the request.

If you have questions or need assistance with policy development, please contact the Lindner & Marsack attorney with whom you regularly work. We will continue proving updates as we learn more about new directives, rules, or guidance.


Lindner & Marsack, S.C., announced today that Attorney Samuel Draver has joined the firm as an Associate on their Worker’s Compensation Defense team. Draver will split his time between the Milwaukee and Madison offices of Lindner & Marsack.

Prior to joining Lindner & Marsack, Draver worked for other Milwaukee law firms in the areas of worker’s compensation defense, labor law and personal injury.

“Sam will be a great asset to our widely recognized worker’s compensation defense practice,” says Firm President Oyvind Wistrom. “We continue build depth and experience on our team that translates to reliable results and consistent, trusted counsel for our clients.”

Draver received his law degree from Marquette University Law School in 2017 and his Bachelor of Arts in 2014, also from Marquette University. During law school, he served on the Student Bar Association Executive Board and interned with the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Draver is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Association of Worker’s Compensation Attorneys (WAWCA).


By: David Keating

On December 2, President Biden announced a nine-point action plan to combat COVID-19 as the United States heads into the winter months and with the emergence of a new variant, Omicron.  One of the actions announced calls for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury to issue guidance by January 15, 2022 to clarify that individuals who purchase over-the-counter COVID-19 at-home diagnostic tests may seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer at no cost to the health plan participant during the public health emergency.

The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary has renewed the public health emergency every three months since January 2020.  The current public health emergency expires on January 15, 2022.  Based on the deadline for the guidance and the wording of the action plan, it is certainly expected that the public health emergency will be extended into the foreseeable future.

Under the current guidance, over-the-counter at-home COVID tests are covered at no cost to the health plan participant only when ordered by an attending health care provider following a determination of medical necessity.  The forthcoming guidance will likely eliminate the involvement of a health care provider.

The action plan states that workplace screening will remain consistent with current guidance.  Under the current guidance, coverage for COVID testing without health plan participant cost-sharing is not required if the purpose is general workplace health and safety (such as return-to-work programs, public health surveillance, or any other employment-related reason not primarily intended for individualized diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19.  The action plan may indicate that coverage for at-home testing without health plan participant cost-sharing will still not be required if the test’s purpose is to allow employees to return to the workplace in accordance with an employer’s policy and/or OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard for employers with 100+ employees (which is currently stayed pending litigation).  If that is the case, it would seem that it would be extremely difficult to monitor from a practical standpoint.

The action plan leaves open many questions for employer health plans that the forthcoming guidance should answer.  For instance, may group health plans impose limits (such as number, frequency, or dollar caps) on coverage and reimbursement of at-home tests without participant cost-sharing?  Will the at-home test be fully covered at the point of sale or will the health plan participant need to submit claims for reimbursement?  Employers should closely watch for the guidance to determine what changes will be required to their health plans and the costs associated to those changes due to the expanded scope of required coverage.

Lindner & Marsack, S.C. represents employers in all areas of labor and employment law.  If you have any questions about the President’s action plan or any other labor or employment issue involving your business, please contact us at any time.


By: David Keating

Throughout the pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has continuously updated its COVID-19 Guidance to provide employers with assistance on issues arising under the antidiscrimination laws that it enforces.  Yesterday, the EEOC added a new section to clarify under what circumstances COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

EEOC’s new questions and answers focus broadly on COVID-19 and the definition of disability under Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act which both address employment discrimination.  The updates also provide examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or a post-COVID condition could be considered to have a disability under the laws the EEOC enforces.

Workers with disabilities stemming from COVID-19 are protected from employment discrimination and may be eligible reasonable accommodations.

As the EEOC notes, the key information includes:

  • In some cases, an applicant’s or employee’s COVID-19 may cause impairments that are themselves disabilities under the ADA, regardless of whether the initial case of COVID-19 itself constituted an actual disability.
  • An applicant or employee whose COVID-19 results in mild symptoms that resolve in a few weeks, with no other consequences, will not have an ADA disability that could make someone eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation.
  • Applicants or employees with disabilities are not automatically entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. They are entitled to a reasonable accommodation when their disability requires it, and the accommodation is not an undue hardship for the employer.  Employers, however, can choose to do more than the ADA requires.
  • An employer risks violating the ADA if it relies on myths, fears, or stereotypes about a condition and prevents an employee’s return to work once the employee is no longer infectious and, therefore, medically able to return without posing a direct threat to others.

Based on this new guidance, employers need to consider each situation on a case-by-case basis and avoid assuming that simply because the employee’s medical condition and/or need for an accommodation is caused by the COVID-19 virus that it falls outside the scope of the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need specific guidance on a particular situation.

Lindner & Marsack, S.C. represents employers in all areas of labor and employment law.  If you have any questions about the recent EEOC technical assistance or any other labor or employment issue involving your business, please contact us at any time.