On September 9, 2021 President Biden issued a series of Executive Orders that expanded mandatory vaccination requirements for COVID-19 and will apply to over 100 million U.S. workers. This includes vaccine mandates for federal workers and contractors, employers in the healthcare sector, and all employers with over 100 employees. The federal government will implement this mandate through new OSHA rules.
The Executive Orders provide a broad outline of what employers (and employees) can expect including:
- Employers with over 100 employees will need to implement policies requiring employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccines or undergo weekly testing for the virus;
- Failure to comply with the mandate will result in significant fines for employers, potentially up to $14,000 per violation;
- Employers will be required to pay for weekly testing (for unvaccinated employees), although the Administration has indicated that such costs may be passed on to employees; and
- Employees will be entitled to paid time off to obtain vaccinations.
These Executive Orders leave many questions unanswered for now. What steps will employers need to take to verify employee vaccine status? Will the large employer mandate apply to local governments and governmental entities? Will the mandate apply to employees who work exclusively from home? How will any cost-shifting provisions for COVID-19 testing impact state law requirements concerning employees wage payments? Will the religious and medical exemptions in the new OSHA Rules impact how employers need to review such requests?