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September 10, 2021

New OSHA Vaccine Mandate Directive

A new directive from the White House has the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tasked with implementing a new emergency rule mandating that employers with 100+ employees require their workforce to be vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to produce negative COVID-19 tests on a weekly basis. Building on earlier vaccination-related mandates – requiring all federal workers to be vaccinated and initiating mandatory vaccinations for employees of federal contractors – President Biden continues to push forward his pandemic recovery battle plan.

Implemented as an emergency temporary standard (ETS), the newly adopted process will likely be expedited without a public comment period. Penalties of up to $14,000 per violation have been authorized, as well as the directive that employers must compensate employees for time spent getting vaccinated. Nonetheless, many questions remain unanswered such as who will bear the cost of weekly testing costs and whether testing-related time (e.g., traveling to/from testing sites, waiting/testing) is compensable. As always, employers will still be required to engage with employees requesting accommodation from vaccination mandates on the basis of a disability or sincerely held religious belief.

The U.S. Department of Labor has yet to announce its timeline for OSHA’s release of the new ETS.

Members with questions about these new requirements or existing COVID-19 mandates should contact Western Growers.