OSHA has been directed by President Biden to develop a new rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or getting tested weekly before coming to work.
The directive is part of President Biden’s new plan to combat the coronavirus, which is still raging across the U.S. in the form of the Delta variant.
OSHA would issue a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) to implement the requirement, which would impact more than 80 million workers in private sector businesses, according to the White House’s “Path out of the pandemic” action plan.
In a speech Sept. 9, President Biden pointed out that the “unvaccinated minority ‘can cause a lot of damage, and they are,'” the Associated Press states.
Critics of this part of the plan point to the certainty that there will be legal challenges ahead for this ETS.
Some experts feel the president already had the legal authority to impose vaccine requirements on private employers through OSHA, according to The New York Times.
Robert I. Field, a Drexel University law professor, told the Times OSHA had the authority to protect workers by requiring vaccinations.
Another law professor, Lawrence O. Gostin, of Georgetown University, said the president’s plan is built “on extremely strong legal ground.”
Mandate for federal workers
Another part of the president’s plan involves a vaccine mandate for all federal workers and contractors.
The president signed an executive order requiring:
- employees of the federal government to be vaccinated, and
- federal government agencies to ensure “to the extent allowed by law, contracts and contract-like instruments incorporate a clause that ‘shall specify that the contractor or subcontractor shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force,'” according to Government Executive.
This applies to any new contracts, solicitations, extensions, renewals and exercises of an option for an existing agreement.
Guidance on this order is expected to be released sometime by Sept. 24.
Some other requirements
Other workplace elements of the plan include:
- Vaccine mandates for about 17 million health care workers in hospitals, clinics and other facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments
- Masks are required for interstate travel and must continue to be worn in federal buildings, and
- The Transportation Security Administration will double fines on airline, train and other travelers who refuse to wear masks.