Now that the official OSHA rules are law, here is what you need to know.
By: Peter J. Lamont
In September, we posted about President Biden's "Path Out of the Pandemic" plan, which involved mandating that businesses with 100 employees or more require every employee to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. Today, the President's plan took effect. Here is what it means for employers and their employees.
The mandate, which affects tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees, sets a deadline of January 4, 2022, for all employees working for those companies to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If an employee chooses not to get vaccinated, they will be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
More specifically, workers will need to receive one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine by January 4. Unvaccinated employees must obtain weekly negative tests and must wear face masks on the job. Any employee who tests positive must be removed from the workplace.
While the President's mandate will impact more than 84 million employees of large and mid-size businesses, even stricter rules apply to employees in nursing homes, care facilities, and hospitals that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. Workers employed by these medical facilities must be fully vaccinated and will not have the option of weekly testing.
All unvaccinated workers must begin wearing masks by Dec. 5 and provide a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis beginning Jan. 4.
Employers must pay employees for the time it takes to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects that prevent them from working.
Companies are not required to pay for or provide the tests unless they are otherwise required to by state or local laws or in labor union contracts.
As for the Employer's obligations to pay employees to get vaccinated,
Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") will require businesses to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccines and sick leave to recover from side effects that prevent them from working. The requirements for masks and paid time off for shots will start on December 5. It is noteworthy that since vaccines are free, OSHA does not require companies to provide or pay for tests.
According to the OSHA, companies who fail to comply with the mandate could face penalties of approximately $14,000 per violation. While the penalties are severe, it is unclear how OSHA will enforce the rules. According to the Associated Press, a senior administration official said the agency would target companies if it receives complaints.
The release of the final mandate rules resulted from weeks of regulatory meetings between OSHA, business groups, labor unions, and more. The regulations are, according to President Biden, an aggressive effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, it is expected that the President will face challenges from various states and businesses. Many large companies are concerned that the vaccine mandate will result in the further thinning of the workforce.
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