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Virginia Becomes the Latest State to Require COVID-19 Training

Virginia Becomes the Latest State to Require COVID-19 Training

  • Virginia has enacted a detailed set of regulations called an “Emergency Temporary Standard” to stop the spread of COVID-19, including significant training obligations for many Virginia employers.
  • Emergency Temporary Standard’s training requirement aims to educate employees on the hazards and characteristics of COVID-19.
  • Failing to comply with the training obligation could cause employers to incur a fine of up to $130,000.

On July 17, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor enacted an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Emergency Temporary Standard carries the force of law and creates several new obligations for employers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia’s rules are “first-in-the-nation” (although several other states have similar training mandates in place) and were enacted “in the absence of federal guidelines.” Northam had previously approved authority for the Department of Labor to act on special regulations to stop the spread of COVID-19. The ETS contains the latest rules employers must follow to keep their business activities and avoid a potentially heavy fine.

Training Requirements

Section 80 of the ETS is entitled “Training” and requires employers with hazards or job tasks classified from “medium” to “very high” risk of COVID-19 exposure to provide training to all employees working at the place of employment on the “hazards and characteristics” of COVID-19. The ETS states that the training shall aim to enable all employees to recognize the signs, symptoms, and hazards of COVID-19 and to train employees to follow procedures to minimize those hazards. Employers have 60 days from the effective date of the ETS (expected the week of July 27, 2020) to meet their training obligation.

The Virginia ETS requires the following specific information to be included in the training program:

  • The requirements of the ETS;
  • The mandatory and non-mandatory recommendations in CDC guidelines and Virginia requirements the employer is complying with;
  • The characteristics and methods of transmission of COVID-19;
  • The signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 disease;
  • Risk factors of severe COVID-19 illness with underlying health conditions;
  • Awareness of the ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 persons to transmit the virus;
  • Safe and healthy work practices, including but not limited to:
    • Physical distancing
    • Disinfection procedures
    • Disinfecting frequency
    • Ventilation
    • Noncontact methods of greeting
  • The proper use and limitations of Personal Protective Equipment
  • The illegality of discrimination is based on:
    • Exercising the employee’s health and safety rights under the law
    • Voluntarily providing one’s PPE
    • Raising a concern about infection control at their worksite
    • Refusing to enter a work location the employee feels is unsafe
  • The employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plan.

Administrative Requirements

The ETS also requires employers to verify compliance with the training requirement by preparing a written certification record for those employees exposed to hazards or job tasks classified as “very high risk,” “high risk,” or “medium risk.” In addition to the employees’ signature, the certification must be maintained by the employer and must include:

  • The date of the training;
  • The person (or entity) who conducted (or provided) the training;
  • Information about the training received at a previous employer.

According to the ETS, employees must be retrained when workplace changes or inadequacies in knowledge (among other conditions) reveal themselves. Notably, the Emergency Temporary Standard does not state when and how often the retraining shall occur, should these conditions present.

While not required to receive training, those employees in “low risk” classifications are required to receive notice of the hazards and risks of COVID-19 either orally or in writing. While training (at least beyond the employer is not required of these employees per the ETS, all employees would benefit from the activity to keep the workforce on an equal educational standard regarding this critical topic.

Risks of Non-Compliance

Syntrio’s COVID-19 training course is intended to meet the needs of employers in all states with training requirements associated with reopening or maintenance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post reported on July 15, 2020, that employers could face fines of up to $130,000 if the rules promulgated by the Emergency Temporary Standard are not met. For this reason, your organization must contact Syntrio today for help completing your training obligation.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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