Vaccine Mandate Halted Again: The Ups and Downs of the COVID-19 Vaccine-or-Test Rule for Large Employers
As of January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court has halted the Biden Administration’s proposed vaccine-or-test Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would have gone into effect in early 2022. Due to this development, most employers with more than 100 employees are no longer required to comply with the ETS mandate.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can no longer enforce a workplace vaccine mandate or require unvaccinated employees to produce a weekly negative COVID-19 test, employers should continue to comply with all other federal, state, and local requirements.
Moving forward, it is now left up to each employer’s discretion on whether to implement a workplace vaccine policy.
Exceptions to the Blocked Mandate
The vaccine mandate still stands for certain healthcare workers employed at hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities that receive federal funding and accept Medicare or Medicaid payments. The mandate does allow for some religious and medical exemptions.
If you are in one of 22 states that have an OSHA State Plan, be aware of their own state requirements (https://www.osha.gov/stateplans/).
Background on the Proposed Vaccine-or-Test Mandate
President Biden announced in September 2021 that by December 6, 2021, federal contractors, healthcare workers, and employers with greater than 100 employees would be required to enforce a workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandate or submit unvaccinated workers to weekly COVID-19 testing and the requirement to wear protective face coverings. Enforced federally through OSHA, the mandate would have also required employers to provide paid time off (PTO) for workers to receive their shots and/or to recover from vaccine-related side effects.
However, on November 6, 2021, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporary hold on the OSHA ETS. Then, in another turn of events, by mid-December Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had reversed the hold and permitted OSHA to move forward with the mandate, with the compliance deadline extended to January 10, 2022. The January 13, 2022 update reversed course and blocked the mandate once again.
The many employment law challenges of the past two years have been trying on HR departments and businesses without dedicated HR professionals. Abacus Payroll is here to provide you with HR resources that help your small business stay compliant with the many state and federal changes. For more information, visit www.abacuspay.com/hr.
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