Proposed COVID-19 OSHA Rules Will Apply to Law Firms

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing a temporary rule that would require all employers to implement risk-reducing COVID measures, including social distancing, barriers, face coverings, cleaning, and information sharing.

The temporary rule has a planned effective date of Monday, September 14 and would eventually become permanent. View the rulemaking timeline here.

Summary of Key Provisions

Key provisions applicable to law firms include:

Six-foot distancing between all individuals in the workplace

  • Both the work activities and the workplace must be designed to eliminate the need for any worker to be within 6-feet of another individual in order to fulfill their duties.
  • To the extent that the employer can demonstrate that such separation is not practical, the employer must ensure that face coverings are worn and that as much distance as practical is maintained.
  • The 6-foot distancing requirement can also be met with an impermeable barrier that creates a “droplet buffer” of at least 6-feet in distance as measured between the mouths of the affected individuals (the droplet buffer is effectively the distance a string would travel if it were held in the mouths of the two individuals – the rule draft provides several examples of such calculations).

Mandatory Face Coverings

Everyone in the workplace or other premises subject to the employer’s control must wear face coverings (masks, cloth coverings, or face shields) whenever the 6-foot distancing requirement cannot be consistently assured.

  • Face coverings must be worn by employees and other individuals whenever customers, contractors, or other visitors are present and a strict separation cannot be maintained through barriers that physically prevent individuals from approaching within 6 feet of one another.
  • Face coverings must be worn by employees when the work requires them to be within 6 feet of one or more individuals for more than 5 minutes either in a singular instance or in all cases when work requires such contact more than 30 minutes total in the course of a single working day.
  • Face coverings must be worn by employees working in office settings when not at their desk or seated in a conference room in addition to whenever 6-foot distancing cannot be reliably maintained between individuals (for example, face coverings must be worn in corridors, restrooms, elevators, and stairwells).

Cleaning of High-Contact Surfaces

All employers must ensure that all high-contact surfaces used by multiple employees (door handles, telephones, computers, drinking fountains, etc.) are thoroughly cleaned at the beginning of each shift.

  • All shared equipment and high-touch surfaces must be cleaned before use by another employee.
  • The employer must ensure that employees have the supplies necessary and are able to use proper hand hygiene before and after using shared equipment or tools and before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, or smoking.

Social Distancing and Enforcement Officer

Employers with at least 25 employees at any time must designate one or more employees who will be responsible to assist the employer in identifying appropriate social distancing, proper face covering use, and sanitation measures and ensure such policies and procedures are implemented.

Building Owners/Operators

Building operators must ensure that the building layout allows appropriate social distancing and must ensure that the basic requirements of this rule are posted (and enforced to the degree reasonably possible) in any common areas, including shared entrances, waiting rooms, corridors, restrooms, and elevators.

Required OSHA Posting, Information, and Employee Training

Employers must provide information and training to their employees:

  • Employers must post the “COVID-19 Hazards Poster,” which will be provided by Oregon OSHA.
  • Employers must notify their employees about the social distancing requirements and how they will be implemented in the workplace, and employers must provide an opportunity for employee feedback about those practices (through the Social Distancing Officer and through either the Safety Committee, an interactive safety meeting, or both). Such notification must be conducted in a manner and language understood by the affected workers.
  • Employers must provide an explanation of the employer’s policies and procedures for employees to report signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Such explanations must be conducted in a manner and language understood by the affected workers.

Medical Removal of Symptomatic Employees

Employers will also be required to address the medical removal of employees with symptoms, undergoing testing, or otherwise requiring isolation:

  • Employers must provide information about any paid leave to which employees would be entitled by company policy as well as under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA).
  • Whenever a medical provider or public health official recommends isolation or quarantine, the worker(s) must be reassigned to duties that do not involve in-person contact. Such reassignment must continue until the need no longer exists, based on guidance from the medical provider or involved public health officials.
  • To the degree reassignment is not possible, the employer must allow workers to use leave to which they are entitled under the FFCRA. If the employer is not covered by the FFCRA or has previously opted out of the paid sick leave provisions of the FFCRA, then the employer must provide up to two weeks of paid reassignment leave in addition to whatever benefits to which the worker would otherwise be entitled. (There are two exceptions to this requirement.)
  • Employees who are reassigned for medical removal reasons are entitled to return to their previous job duties without any adverse action as a result of the medical removal.

Public Comments

Oregon OSHA is accepting public comments on the proposal through Monday, September 7. Send comments via email to tech.web@oregon.gov. The full text of the draft rule may be found here. Background documents are available on the rulemaking overview page.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

eCourt Notices: Forwarding is Up to You – Oregon eCourt Week

Transitioning to Oregon eCourt requires many adjustments – as evidenced by this week’s posts. Among the most significant: how law offices will process court notices for various events, including hearing dates, trial dates, or entry of judgments.

eCourt Notices are Delivered Only to the Filing Attorney

Unlike PACER, where filers can specify multiple e-mail addresses to receive electronic court notices, the Oregon system restricts delivery to the filing attorney. Notices are sent to the filing attorney’s official e-mail address on file with the Oregon State Bar. Alternate e-mail addresses, including generic docketing accounts like docketing@abclawfirm.com are not permitted. Because notices are delivered to the filing attorney only, staff members or other attorneys in the office are not included in the Oregon eCourt notice system.

eService Accommodates as Many Parties as Needed

Unlike the notice system, there is no limit to the number of parties or lawyers that can be included in eService. Consent to eService is on a case by case basis. When you e-file into a case you are consenting to eService on that case. Parties and attorneys are responsible for adding themselves as a service contact in the eService system and updating their information as necessary. The system does not pull contact information from the Oregon State Bar database as it does for delivery of eNotices.

Registering Multiple Users Permitted

Law firms may register as many individual Oregon eCourt users as they desire. If a firm has 10 litigators and 5 staff who file in Oregon eCourt, all 15 may be added to the system. A firm account must be created first. Individual users may self-register only if permitted by the Firm Administrator. See the user guides available here.

How to Share eCourt Notices with Staff or Other Attorneys

If you want to share eCourt notices with staff or other attorneys in the firm, you will need to create auto-forward rules. This is easily done if you are using a desktop e-mail program like Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird.

If you are using Web-based mail, it may or may not be possible. Auto-forwarding of eCourt notices requires the ability to selectively filter messages by sender. In this case, the goal is to forward messages sent from the court @ojd.state.or.us and from the Tyler Technologies File and Serve system @tylerhost.net.

Gmail permits forwarding of messages using filters (as do all the e-mail programs listed above). Yahoo! mail users can elect to forward all Yahoo! mail to another address, but they cannot selectively filter messages from specific senders. Filtering in Yahoo! is limited to moving messages from one folder to another.

Click on any of the following links to set up filtered auto-forwarding:

As an example, here are step-by-step instructions for creating a rule in Outlook 2010 to mark all messages from @ojd.state.or.us as important and auto forward copies to specific people (staff or other lawyers).  Repeat the steps described in this document to create a second rule for messages received from @tylerhost.net. eCourt notices are sent from both domains.

How to Create a Safety Net if you are a Solo Practitioner

If you are solo practitioner with no support staff, you may want to auto-forward eCourt notices to a secondary e-mail address as a backup. (Gmail can filter e-mail and send alerts to your phone.) Remember, you can also login to Oregon eCourt and look at court dates and case information online. eFiling data can be exported to Microsoft Excel.

Don’t Miss a Court Notice – Achieve Inbox Zero

If you achieve “Inbox Zero” you are far less likely to miss a court notice. Use Dee Crocker’s DAFT approach to keep your Inbox empty [Defer, Act, File, or Toss]:

Defer
If you don’t have time to reply or act on an e-mail, create a task from the message and schedule it for a later time.

Act
If you can respond to an e-mail in less than five minutes, do so.

File
File messages that don’t require a response when they arrive. Move messages to appropriate folders in your Inbox or better yet save them directly to the client’s folder on your computer or network. You can download electronic filing assistants to make this process easier.

Toss
Toss (trash) unneeded messages immediately.

Keep Other Best Practices in Mind

For complete guidelines on how to handle client e-mail see these articles:

Be particularly careful about junk mail or spam filters that may catch eCourt notices and learn about common eCourt mistakes. See Zero Tolerance for e-Filing Error: Avoid Committing Malpractice, with a Few Clicks of Your Mouse. Consider ordering the free PLF CLE, “Survival Tips for Organizing Your E-Mail and Practicing in eCourt,” available on the PLF Web site.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis