Employee vaccination requirements face immediate challenges

Vaccine [Credit: BaLL LunLa/Shutterstock.com]
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency temporary standard follows through on a mandate set forth in a set of executive orders by President Biden in September. Photo Credit: BaLL LunLa/Shutterstock.com

Twenty-six states have sued the federal government regarding its vaccination and testing requirements for employees with 100 more employees, citing governmental overreach.

U.S. companies with 100 or more employees must make sure their workforce is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or see that they test negative for the virus at least once per week, according to rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Thursday.

OSHA's emergency temporary standard follows through on a mandate set forth in a set of executive orders by President Biden in September. The rules affect more than 80 million workers in the U.S., and OSHA estimates it will result in about 23 million people becoming vaccinated who have not already.

"Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic," Biden said. "While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good."

The states' suits were filed in the 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th and D.C. Circuits. Federal law requires the cases to be consolidated and heard by a single federal appeals court. That court is chosen by lottery, which will take place around Nov. 16. The 5th Circuit last week issued a stay on the OSHA rule, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 4. Legal experts say companies should continue preparations toward the rule; however, the legal battle could continue to the Supreme Court if injunctions from lower courts fail.

The vaccination requirement will have implications for corporate travel. While the emergency standard does not apply to employees working from home or who do not otherwise report to a workplace where other employees are present, they would have to provide negative test documentation if reporting to an office, even for a simple task such as attending a meeting or printing documents, according to Keith Wilkes, labor and employment partner and shareholder at national law firm Hall Estill.

"Covered employers have a long laundry list of legal requirements to accomplish and prepare for in the next four weeks, [including] implementing a mandatory mask policy for employees who are not fully vaccinated by Dec. 5, 2021, and begin requiring unvaccinated employees to wear face masks in the workplace," according to Wilkes.

Employers are not required to cover employee testing costs, per the standard.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also issued a rule on Thursday requiring U.S. healthcare workers to be vaccinated. Companies that contract with the federal government -- which include the major U.S. airlines -- already are facing an employee vaccination requirement with the deadline of Dec. 8.

Source: Business Travel News


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