On September 9, 2021, President Biden released his six-pronged “Path Out Of The Pandemic” COVID-19 action plan. The purpose of the action plan is to increase the number of vaccinated workers in the United States by using regulatory powers and other actions to increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements by making those requirements ubiquitous in the workplace.
Among other steps outlined in President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, his administration is requiring most federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as provided in President Biden’s “Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees,” which was also issued on September 9, 2021.
Most importantly for private employers, President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan states that the “Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” In order to effect President Biden’s expanded vaccination goals, “OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)” that will likely be issued in the coming weeks. We are still awaiting OSHA’s ETS, but expect those regulations to be published shortly.
According to President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, nearly 80 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated, but who have not yet gotten their first shot, will be directly impacted by OSHA’s ETS. Although not addressed in the action plan, OSHA’s ETS is expected to have carve out exceptions for workers who have legitimate medical or religious objections to receiving the vaccination and the process employers are expected to follow in evaluating the exemption requests.
According to President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, OSHA’s ETS will also require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for an employee to get vaccinated or to recover if they have a negative reaction after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
Questions and challenges remain, including how the 100-employee threshold will be counted, the effects of vaccination requirements on employee morale and retention, and how OSHA’s ETS will be enforced. Nonetheless, it is clear that employers and employees alike should prepare for a new workplace courtesy of the pandemic.
For employers, please contact the attorneys at Freeburg & Granieri, APC to discuss how we can help your organization properly navigate the laws and requirements surrounding workplace vaccine mandates and the reasonable accommodation process for employees who request an exemption from the mandate.
The attorneys at Freeburg & Granieri, APC can also assist employers draft mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies and stay abreast of any new developments regarding OSHA’s forthcoming ETS.
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