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Apr 20, 2023

WASHINGTON: End of COVID-19 National Emergency ends HELSA duties

COVID-19Leave LawsSafety and Health 

On April 10, 2023, most COVID-19 (coronavirus) obligations for Washington employers were extinguished when President Biden signed legislation (H.J. Res. 7) that immediately terminated the national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington’s Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) required employers to (1) report outbreaks to Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH); (2) accommodate employees at high risk of illness; and (3) notify employees of workplace exposure to an infectious or contagious disease (such as COVID-19) that was the subject of a public health emergency declared by the President or governor that covered every county in the state of Washington. Since the national emergency has been removed (and the governor’s declaration ended on October 31, 2022), the HELSA obligations have evaporated for Washington employees.

We previously reported that President Biden intended to end the “national emergency” described above (previously declared by President Trump) and “national public health emergency” (previously declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Trump) on May 11, 2023. The new legislation changed the end date for the “national emergency” to April 10. The “national public health emergency” is still in effect until May 11, but doesn’t affect HELSA’s applicability since it was declared by a federal agency rather than the President.

You’re still required to provide a safe and healthy worksite and take steps to reasonably protect workers. You must continue to keep workers known or suspected to have COVID-19 out of the workplace for at least 5 days per appropriate requirements, allow employees to wear a mask (if they choose to do so), educate workers about COVID-19 prevention, provide hand-washing facilities and supplies, and assess COVID-19 hazards. In addition, you must still allow eligible employees to take time off related to COVID-19 if their need for leave qualifies under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or under Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML) and any available paid leave under the Washington Paid Sick Leave law and Washington Family Care Act.

Also, operators of temporary worker housing (TWH) in the agriculture industry should keep in mind that the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and Department of Health (DOH) are working on permanent rules for COVID-19 protections. In the meantime, see DOH’s webpage, “Temporary Worker Housing Rule Revisions,” which includes a link to Temporary Worker Housing COVID-19 Guidance.

Tips: See our updated Legal Guide, At a Glance: COVID-19 Compliance in Washington, which highlights the recent changes. For questions, reach out to your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.