- Post by Kristopher J. Lopez
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced several new proposals for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, including new mandates for certain private employers.
To this end, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (part of the United States Department of Labor) is now developing an emergency temporary standard for private employers with 100 or more employees, mandating that their workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. This is expected to look like a vaccine mandate; it will require weekly testing for workers unable to get the vaccine due to a medical or religious exemption, but it will not have an option for those who do not want vaccination for purely personal reasons.
The upcoming standard will also require large employers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and to recover from any post-vaccination symptoms. Employers that do not comply with the vaccine mandate or paid-time-off requirement for testing can be fined up to $14,000 per violation – even a handful of violations will add up!
The new standards are expected in the coming weeks, but neither the President nor OSHA have provided an estimated date. It is also unclear how a small agency like OSHA will enforce this requirement, which will impact over 80 million employees. Nonetheless, large employers should begin to consider how they will respond to the upcoming mandate to avoid being caught off-guard.
Information on the Presidential action, including its Path Out of the Pandemic plan, can be viewed here. OSHA will continue to provide COVID-19 news and information, including updates on existing and emerging standards here.