On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that federal government workers and contractors will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that soon this requirement will be extended to employers with 100 or more employees. This development is expected to impact more than 80 million workers in private sector businesses.
The announcement came as part of a new COVID-19 action plan titled “Path out of the Pandemic”, together with the signing of two executive orders designed to promote further vaccinations and testing protocols in the workplace. The executive orders address the mandates applicable within the federal government: one requiring that all federal executive branch workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and the other binding millions of federal contractors and subcontractors to the same requirement through forthcoming contract language. Each executive order is subject to legal exceptions that allow people with disabilities or religious-based reasons to claim an exemption to the mandate.
As for the private sector, President Biden’s announcement directs the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop emergency rules that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure either: (1) their workforce is fully vaccinated, or (2) any unvaccinated workers produce a negative COVID-19 test result on a weekly basis before coming to work. The emergency rules are also expected to require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes workers to get vaccinated and/or recover from their vaccination.
It is not known exactly when the new emergency rules will be released, but a senior OSHA official estimated that the process could be completed within weeks. Thus, covered employers may wish to prepare new policies and protocols for complying with the law as soon as possible. Our Labor and Employment Group is available to help businesses navigate the relevant legal and regulatory framework in the weeks and months ahead.