On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new COVID-19 Action Plan. The Plan states the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule (also known as temporary standard or regulation) requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations. For any workers not vaccinated, they must produce a negative test result at least weekly before coming to work.
This proposed regulation (still under development) would be the strongest step the federal government has taken to regulate vaccination programs among private employers and would affect large swaths of South Carolina companies, many of whom have been hesitant to institute such a policy due to labor supply concerns. Certainly, some businesses will welcome the regulation as it provides legal cover to institute a mandatory policy.
A few other notes:
- The rule will require employers to provide paid time off to employees to become vaccinated and if they are ill due to the vaccination. It is unclear whether or not the paid time off will be reimbursed or will be an employer cost.
- The announcement does not address disability and religious accommodations, but surely the rule will deal with those issues.
- The temporary standard will surely face legal challenge, and so its future is uncertain at this point.
- According to sources cited online, if businesses don't comply, the government will "take enforcement actions," which could include "substantial fines up to nearly $14,000 per violation,” according to officials.
- Officials said the standard was a "minimum," and some companies may choose to go further, including mandating the vaccine instead of offering a test-out alternative.
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