President Biden announces COVID-19 Mandate for Federal Employees and Large Employers
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced the most sweeping COVID-19 vaccination requirements to date. The President issued an Executive Order mandating that all federal employees be vaccinated or risk progressive discipline and/or the loss of their job. The President also directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a rule requiring all employers with at least 100 employees to require vaccinations. These measures will likely impact as many as 100 million Americans.
The Executive Order, requires COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees. The Order requires each federal agency to issue guidance within seven days of the Order on the implementation of the requirement. The Order also aimed to apply to health care providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid, for all federal employees and contractors and for the staffs of Head Start programs, Department of Defense Schools, and other federal contractors.
OSHA Emergency Rule
The President also asked OSHA to develop a rule that requires all employers with at least 100 employees to require its entire workforce is fully vaccinated or required unvaccinated workers to be tested at least once a week. OSHA will be releasing an emergency rule, otherwise known as an Emergency Temporary Standard, to institute the vaccine requirement at first. Employers that fail to comply could face fines up to $14,000 per violation.
The Order specifically states that it will “require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.” This language indicates that individual employees, can still be exempted from the vaccination requirement if they have a qualified disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or a sincerely held religious belief under Title VII and the request for an exemption does not constitute an undue burden on the employer. This language also suggests that the OSHA emergency rule will likely contain similar exemptions. For more information on exemptions to vaccination requirements, see our article on Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements for Employees.
If you are an employer that receives federal funds or has more than 100 employees, the mandatory vaccination requirement will likely impact you. We will monitor any proposed rules that are issued to carry out the Order. It is also anticipated that there will be immediate legal challenges to the Executive Order and the OSHA rule that will be issued, so the state of the law will likely remain fluid.
The employment law attorneys at Kopka Pinkus Dolin are closely monitoring these developments and the issuance of any new guidelines or orders and can assist you with navigating these evolving legal requirements.