On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced new approaches to combating COVID-19. One of the most significant aspects of these plans includes coronavirus vaccine mandates.
So.. what does the new plan require, and what does it mean for both employees and employers? The short answer: it requires about 100 million American workers to either get a COVID-19 vaccine, or get tested at least weekly. If a person or business refuses to comply, they will face disciplinary action.
What This Means For Employers and Workers
The vaccine mandate focuses on four groups of workers and employers.
First, there are private employers with 100 or more employees. They must require their workers to get the coronavirus vaccine, or test them for the virus at least once a week. Failure to do so could result in significant fines.
Second is the focus on federal employees and federal contractors. Roughly 90% of federal workers will be required to get vaccinated. Also, for covered government workers, there will no longer be an option to opt-out of the vaccination requirement by getting regularly tested and social distancing.
Third is the teachers and staff from various federal education-related programs. This includes Head Start, Early Head Start, and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education and Department of Defense. They will all be required to get the vaccine.
Lastly, health care workers at facilities that receive either Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement will be required to get the vaccine.
Note: All workers subject to the requirements listed above are still eligible for religious or medical exemptions as recognized by law.
How Will The Mandate Get Implemented?
The Biden administration plans to implement these changes through the use of executive orders, as well as using the rulemaking authority of federal agencies.
The specifics as to how these new requirements will be imposed and enforced have yet to be determined.
As for agency rulemaking authority, there are at least two agencies at play here. The first is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They will begin the rulemaking process to enforce the new vaccination requirement on Head Start and Early Head Start teachers and staff.
This second is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is in the process of creating an emergency temporary standard. OSHA’s authorization to create an emergency temporary standard can apply when there is a threat to worker safety that poses a grave danger and is due to a toxic substance or new hazard (such as a viral pandemic).
As for how these requirements will be enforced, that is yet to be determined.
The Fact of the Matter
The White House has taken a major step in attempting to increase vaccination rates across the country. These new mandates would require around two-thirds of working Americans to get vaccinated (if they are not already), or face consequences. How the inevitable legal challenges and employee resistance efforts play out remains to be seen.