U.S. Employers Required to Enforce COVID-19 Vaccinations or Testing
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect more than 84 million workers from the spread of the coronavirus on the job.
Under this standard, covered employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.
The ETS is effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and testing requirements within 60 days.
OSHA estimates that this rule will save thousands of lives and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations due to workplace exposure to COVID-19 throughout the ETS.
According to the U.S. CDC, the 7-day moving average of daily new cases (68,793) decreased 7.4% compared with the previous 7-day moving average.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
The temporary emergency standard covers employers with 100 or more employees – firm or company-wide – and provides options for compliance. The ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
Employers may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements, or other collectively negotiated agreements.
However, the ETS does not require employers to pay for testing or face coverings.
The ETS also requires employers to do the following:
- Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
- Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet the required criteria.
- Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within seven days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
- Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
The ETS will cover two-thirds of the nation’s private-sector workforce. In the 26 states and two territories with OSHA State Plans, the ETS will also protect public sector workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and school staff.
The ETS also serves as a proposal for normal rulemaking for a final standard.
OSHA is seeking comment on all aspects of this ETS and whether the agency should adopt it as a final standard.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces.
OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance.
OSHA offers robust compliance assistance to help businesses implement the standard, including a webinar, frequently asked questions, and other compliance materials.
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