Oregon’s Governor Brown Announces End of COVID-19 Restrictions
July 01, 2021
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NOTE: This article was updated on June 30, 2021.
On June 25, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order No. 21-15 (the “Recovery Order”), which will remove the vast majority of Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions as of Wednesday, June 30, 2021. cancels. The recovery order removes the nationwide mask mandate, as well as requirements for indoor physical distancing, capacity limits, and vaccine verification. The recovery order also removes certain restrictions that apply to daycare and all levels of educational institutions. However, indoor masking and physical distancing requirements remain to the extent required by current federal guidelines, including for healthcare facilities, public transportation and correctional facilities.
Importantly, the Recovery Order expands Governor Brown’s emergency powers, which she believes are “necessary for Oregon to access federal and state funds, ensure adequate health and vaccination resources, and maintain flexibility.” Governor Brown said the extension will help Oregon businesses and individuals continue to recover from the pandemic and will not be used to impose new restrictions.
Of course, employers can still introduce stricter occupational safety requirements, including continued use of masks and social distancing. Also, as the United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated, employers can generally require that employees be vaccinated on site unless prohibited by local law or unless the employee is entitled to one because of a disability or a genuine religious belief Exercise or observe reasonable precaution. Employers are under no obligation to maintain signage related to COVID-19 issues and safety and, unless otherwise stated, can continue to operate as usual.
Oregon OSHA followed Governor Brown’s direction by revising its current COVID-19 workplace rules on June 30, 2021 to remove masking and physical distancing requirements for positive COVID-19 tests and quarantine procedures.
While the recovery order’s lifting of the Oregon pandemic restrictions is welcome news, some employees may be reluctant to return to work without masks, physical distancing, and other restrictions. After June 30, 2021, Oregon employers will not need to make reasonable arrangements for employees who feel uncomfortable about returning to work simply because of a general COVID-19 concern. If a worker is required to be physically present at the workplace, the employer is free to make it clear to the worker that complaints or fears due to COVID-19 are not a valid reason to stay home. However, employers must continue efforts to provide adequate support to those unable to return to work because of a disability. Employers should also be aware that employees may be entitled to vacation leave under federal, state, or local law.
The recovery order does not affect areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, such as: For example, federal OSHA health and safety regulations, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines, or public transportation protocols. For example, the Transportation Security Administration’s order requiring face-covering on public transportation does not expire until September 13, 2021, while the CDC has not indicated when its guidelines for health facilities and correctional institutions – guidelines Oregon follows in those settings – stay up to date.
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. Expert advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.
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