President Biden recently shared his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum, including the plan to task the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with drafting a rule to require vaccinations in the workforce known as the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The ETS would require employers with over 100 employees to either ensure vaccination of all employees OR require unvaccinated employees to be tested at least weekly. Employers would also be required to provide paid time off for vaccination or related illness.
Western Growers (WG) does not believe employers should be put in a place to act as enforcement agents of the federal government, and there are several complicating factors in such a mandate. Last week, WG sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Agriculture expressing how there is no justification for forcing employers to act as public health agents of the federal government.
“We strongly believe every individual has the right to choose whether and when to be vaccinated, with the benefit of their physician’s advice, their own personal health considerations, and their religious beliefs. We also believe that private employers have the right to mandate that their employees be vaccinated, and where such a mandate is issued, employees can choose to be vaccinated or seek employment elsewhere. However, we strongly believe that it is beyond OSHA’s purview to mandate that every employer with more than 100 employees require workers to be vaccinated or test weekly as a condition of continued employment,” said WG President and CEO Dave Puglia in the letter.
The letter also stressed the need for more flexibility from the federal government and a better understanding moving forward. The fresh produce sector has been proactive from the outset of the pandemic in taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID and has seen substantial success in protecting employees, and any mandates should reflect differing needs and requirements among different industries and sectors.
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