Employment LawScene Alert: OSHA Issues Details of Vaccine Mandate

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released the Emergency Temporary Standard regarding COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing, which has commonly been referred to as the Vaccine Mandate. It will officially be published on November 5, 2021. Announced by President Biden in September, the Vaccine Mandate requires all employers with more than 100 employees to either require that employees be fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to submit to weekly COVID-19 tests, both of which are subject to reasonable accommodations for disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs. The Vaccine Mandate does not apply to individual employees who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present, employees while they are working from home, or employees who work exclusively outdoors. Although the majority of the Vaccine Mandate officially goes into effect on January 4, 2022, employers need to start preparing immediately in order to be in full compliance by that date, including establishing and implementing the required written policies. Certain provisions, including the fact that employers must offer paid time-off for employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations and recover from any side-effects and must require unvaccinated employees to wear masks, go into effect on December 5, 2021.

For employees who opt to utilize the testing requirement, employers must keep records of each test unvaccinated employees take. If an employee is not vaccinated and does not receive a weekly test or if the employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must remove that employee from the workplace. A covered employer may require employees to pay for their own COVID-19 testing.

In order to assess whether or not an employer has 100 employees, employers are required to count all full-time and part-time employees at all of their locations, whether or not they work at the company’s facility or remotely. Employers are not required to count independent contractors or leased employees, such as those from staffing agencies. Additionally, franchisees may count their employees separately from the franchisor and from other franchisees. Here are some examples provided in the ETS:

  • If an employer has 75 part-time employees and 25 full-time employees, the employer would be within the scope of this ETS because it has 100 employees.
  • If an employer has 102 employees and only 3 ever report to an office location, that employer would be covered.
  • If a single corporation has 50 small locations (e.g., kiosks, concession stands) with at least 100 total employees in its combined locations, that employer would be covered even if some of the locations have no more than one or two employees assigned to work there.
  • If a host employer has 80 permanent employees and 30 temporary employees supplied by a staffing agency, the host employer would not count the staffing agency employees for coverage purposes and therefore would not be covered. (So long as the staffing agency has at least 100 employees, however, the staffing agency would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the ETS for the jointly employed workers.)
  • Generally, in a traditional franchisor-franchisee relationship, if the franchisor has more than 100 employees but each individual franchisee has fewer than 100 employees, the franchisor would be covered by this ETS but the individual franchises would not be covered.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued its own emergency rule requiring healthcare workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, but its rule does not allow for a weekly testing option. In the event of an overlap between the CMS rule and the OSHA rule, the CMS rule will govern. Additionally, in any overlap between the OSHA rule and the requirement that federal contractors be vaccinated, the federal requirement will govern.

The Vaccine Mandate, which has already received significant pushback from certain lawmakers, attorneys general, and business groups, is likely to be challenged in court, and it could be enjoined prior to its effective date. However, employers should not rely on that possibility and should begin preparing now. As always, O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing S.C. is here for you and will keep you updated on developments on the Vaccine Mandate as they happen. We encourage you to reach out to our labor and employment law team with any questions, concerns, or legal issues you may have, including those regarding COVID-19 and related issues.

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