Biden’s and OSHA’s Vaccine
Mandate for Employers
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new six-point action plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The action plan is comprehensive, so we’re focusing on employers and what you need to know right now, although more information is expected to come from OSHA soon. These orders will impact federal workers, employers of 100 or more workers, and some healthcare workers.
Large, Private Employer Vaccine Mandate Coming from OSHA
President Biden has directed the Department of Labor’s OSHA to issue a vaccine-related standard. The federal agency will publish an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring all private employers with 100 or more workers to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or implement weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated workers. Employers will also have to give employees paid time off to receive their vaccination or because of side effects experienced from a vaccination.
Employers that don’t comply with the standard may receive fines of up to $14,000 for each violation.
The timing of the ETS is unknown. There is speculation it will take less time than the last COVID-19 ETS, which took the agency six months to draft, publish, and take effect. Until it’s published and further details are provided, potentially impacted employers should consider the following:
- Who needs to be involved in making decisions on how to comply with a vaccine ETS? How will you communicate any changes to your employees?
- Have you reviewed your current vaccine-related and COVID-19 testing policies and procedures?
- How will you track testing and vaccination status among your employees? If it involves medical information, who will handle that private information? How will you keep it confidential?
- Do you have a budget set aside for testing employees?
- How will you provide paid time off for vaccination and any related side effects of the vaccination?
- Does your accommodation policy cover employee vaccine exemption requests based on religion and disability?
- Are your vaccination policies compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements?
- Have you secured reputable legal counsel?
Once the ETS is published in the Federal Register, the Secretary of Labor has six months from the date of publication to issue a permanent standard.
We’ll continue to monitor this issue and update this section with more details when OSHA makes it available.
Vaccine Mandate for Federal Works and Federal Contractors
President Biden also signed an Executive Order to mandate vaccinations for all federal employees and federal contractors without an option for COVID-19 testing. These individuals have 75 days from the date the order was signed (September 9, 2021) to comply. There are exemptions for workers with disabilities and certain religious beliefs. If an exemption isn’t filed and a worker isn’t vaccinated by the compliance date, they will be terminated from employment.
Consistent with federal guidance, masks and social distancing requirements will still be enforced in federal buildings, on federal lands, military bases, and overseas locations.
Healthcare Staff Receiving Medicare or Medicaid Reimbursement Must Vaccinate
Healthcare workers in settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement must receive vaccinations. These settings include hospitals, dialysis centers, ambulatory surgery settings, and home health agencies.
This order builds on a previous requirement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for nursing facilities. It will impact nursing home workers, hospital staff, and include clinical staff, volunteers, residents, and individuals not directly involved in patient care.
Additional requirements were issued for entertainment venues mandating event attendees show proof of vaccination or undergo COVID-19 testing in order to enter the venue. Another order states that anyone using public transportation must wear a mask or receive a double fine. Additionally, in the next three months, retailers must start offering home test COVID-19 kits.
Following approval and a rollout schedule from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, booster shots are expected to become available sometime this fall. It is anticipated that boosters will first be made available to those individuals who first received their vaccinations in the beginning of 2021.
This material is for general information only and should not be considered as a substitute for legal, medical, tax and/or actuarial advice. Contact the appropriate professional counsel for such matters. These materials are not exhaustive and are subject to possible changes in applicable laws, rules, and regulations and their interpretations.