To address the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Delta variant surge, President Biden announced yesterday that he will implement sweeping new requirements to increase vaccination rates across the country. Among the changes:
- OSHA is developing a new emergency rule directing all businesses with 100 or more employees to require their employees be (1) vaccinated or (2) tested for COVID-19 at least once a week. Additionally, those businesses will be required to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated or recover from vaccination-related side effects. This requirement alone is estimated to impact over 80 million workers in the United States. It will not go into effect until OSHA issues its rule.
- All federal government employees must be vaccinated (with no testing alternative). The White House has said this requirement will take effect in “about 75 days.”
- All employees of contractors that do business with the federal government must be vaccinated (with no testing alternative). This requirement will only apply to new contracts that are entered into on or after October 15, 2021, and contracts that are extended or renewed after that date (with limited exceptions for contracts that are “solicited” before the effective date and entered into afterward). The “Safer Federal Workforce Task Force” has been ordered to issue further guidance on the specific requirements for contractors by September 24. The requirement applies to a host of contracts or “contract-like instruments,” including those for services and construction.
- Employees at health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must be vaccinated (with no testing alternative). This requirement will not go into effect until a rule is issued, likely in October.
Businesses that do not comply with the applicable requirements could face substantial fines, up to nearly $14,000 per violation. Notwithstanding the new mandates, employers must still provide reasonable accommodations to individuals who have a medical exemption or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated. The Oregon Health Authority has released forms for religious and medical exemptions which employers could use for this purpose.