The following information is from a “Monday Message” by the McDonald Hopkins Public Law Practice Group
September 13, 2021
To our friends, clients and colleagues in local and regional government, local and higher education, and the nonprofit sector, welcome to our latest Monday Message from the Public Law Group at McDonald Hopkins. In today’s email, assembled by attorneys Amanda Gordon and Kevin Butler, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.
In today’s edition:
- What employers need to know about the Biden COVID-19 Plan
- Ohio school boards grappling with quarantining obligations, statutes
- Gordon, McDonald Hopkins once again highlighted for erosion control work
- The markets are paying close attention to ESG in agricultural industry
- A welcome to new Public Law, Real Estate, Finance attorney Brian Simmons
The Biden COVID-19 plan: what all employers need to know
Late last week our veteran employment law colleagues Miriam Rosen and Julia Ross blogged on President Biden’s just-announced COVID-19 action plan, in a helpful post directed to employers. Read the post on the six-point plan here.
Of primary note to our Monday Message readers should be the portion of Biden’s proposal that would obligate employers with over 100 employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested frequently.
The plan proposes an order promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that covered employers must require full employee vaccination or negative employee test results at least once a week prior to coming to work. The order will also require covered employers to provide paid time off for the time employees must take to get vaccinated or to recover from post-vaccination symptoms.
The requirement will go into effect in the coming weeks after OSHA issues the order, known as an Emergency Temporary Standard. “This gives employers some time to prepare for this requirement by communicating with their employees and putting processes in place,” Rosen and Ross write. “Employers should expect the ETS to answer many of their practical questions about the new mandate, including who pays for testing and how medical and religious exemptions factor in.”
It is expected that the OSHA order will only apply to private, not public, employers. However, with violations expected to net employers fines of up to $14,000, all larger employers should take note and stay vigilant as the federal mandates take more shape. Read Miriam and Julia’s wisdom here, and please contact them for more.
Ohio school boards grappling with quarantining obligations, statutes
Our partner Amanda Gordon, a stalwart public finance attorney, moonlights as an elected school board member in her hometown. Today she offers insight on how school board members across the state have had to face often inconsistent guidance on whether and when K-12 school students and staff must quarantine on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As public school districts across the state have resumed in-person learning to begin the 2021-2022 school year, Gordon knows many are yet again facing challenges posed by COVID-19 quarantine rules and guidelines. In the infancy of the new school year, many in-person districts are finding that for every reported confirmed case of COVID-19 in their population an exponentially higher number (in some cases ten-fold) of students and staff are being subject to quarantine under current practices. An overwhelming majority of those quarantined have no symptoms and have not developed symptoms during their quarantine period.
“A great deal of confusion and conflicting information abounds with respect to the current quarantine protocols,” Amanda reports. Section 3707.08 of the Revised Code is the main authority under which health departments issue quarantine and isolation orders. While this section was modified slightly by the General Assembly in S.B. 22, the authority still remains. “What has become confusing,” she says, “is the opinion of some that the authority under sections of the Revised Code which allow a board of education to manage its own affairs and create policy to prevent communicable disease (such as Sections 3313.20, 3313.47 and 3313.67) somehow supersedes the authority of health departments under 3707.08.”
Conflicting opinions as to which authority prevails serve to inflame the situation as frustrations mount regarding the perceived overreach of the quarantine rules, according to Amanda, resulting in an unnecessary loss of in-person learning opportunities for students. “To add to the concern for local school boards, failure to follow quarantine orders of local health departments could jeopardize their immunity status and could even lead to a loss of liability insurance coverage for those districts in those situations,” she says.
As school districts seek clarity from the legal perspective, many initiatives are underway to examine the results of the current quarantine rules in effort to determine adjustments that can and should be made to achieve the intended purpose of quarantine and address the spread of COVID-19 – while still maintaining a student’s ability to stay in school. This remains a fluid situation, and Amanda and our group will continue to provide information as it develops. With years of professional advice and counsel informed by her own personal experiences, she is in a unique position to advise school districts and other educational and public entities as they continue to deal with the pandemic and interpret these evolving regulations. Contact Amanda for assistance to your entity.
Gordon, McDonald Hopkins once again highlighted for erosion control work
Amanda Gordon was featured in a recent Spectrum News1 feature on her and McDonald Hopkins’ innovating work assisting communities respond to their residents’ concerns over the loss of land along the Lake Erie shoreline. The story highlights Gordon’s efforts to counsel Euclid and 12 Lake County communities as they develop the first erosion control special improvement district, a statutory vehicle that we’re using all across the Lake Erie shoreline and now along Ohio inland waterways.
The erosion control special improvement district gives owners “access to favorable financing through the issuance of tax exempt bonds, and it also allows them to spread the payments out and get them collected through special assessments on their taxes,” Amanda is quoted as saying. Read more about our cutting-edge work in this area here.
Markets paying close attention to ESG in agricultural industry
With an increased emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles growing across all industries, driven by demands from internal and external stakeholders, as well as the desire to compete for top talent in a competitive market, companies are recognizing they must start making ESG initiatives a top priority.
In the agricultural industry, animal welfare is a central, developing ESG tenant to which investors are more closely paying attention – and, therefore, companies are starting to address. Recognizing animal welfare as a practical business matter and also an ethical focus for consumers, large food companies such as Tyson are highlighting animal welfare practices and its importance in the value supply chain.
Mike Wise shares what he learned during a recent visit to Cain Farms in Belmont County, Ohio, and looks at capital opportunities available for projects that increase animal wellness along with farm productivity in his recent blog on mcdonaldhopkins.com.
A welcome to new Public Law, Real Estate, Finance attorney Brian Simmons
Today we’re pleased to welcome our newest colleague, Brian R.E. Simmons, to the firm’s Business Department and our Public Law and Real Estate teams. Brian maintains a diverse practice with particular strengths in real estate transactional and financing work, and he’ll complement the broad practice strengths within our group, which provides full-service capabilities to the businesses, nonprofits, individuals and local, state and federal government entities we represent. Reach out to Brian for assistance, and please join us in welcoming him.
Feel free to contact any member of the McDonald Hopkins Public Law team if you have questions or need assistance on any of the matters we’ve covered above or with your legal needs in general.
Teresa Metcalf Beasley
Chair, Public Law
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