On Thursday, the Biden administration announced two vaccination requirements that will affect 100 million American workers and their organizations.
The first rule, which takes effect on January 4th, mandates organizations with 100 or more employees to verify that their personnel are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or that they test COVID-19 negative at least once a week. The second mandates vaccination of health-care employees by the same deadline, with no testing option.
Importantly, according to labor and employment expert Keith Wilkes, the vaccine mandate does not apply to employees who “do not report to a workplace where other coworkers or customers are present, or who work exclusively from home.”
If an unvaccinated employee has been teleworking for two weeks or more and must report to their office where other employees will be present, they must show documentation of a negative COVID test taken within the previous seven days. Employers have 60 days to comply with the laws, but they must first complete a long list of legal and reporting obligations.
Employers must establish a compliant written vaccination policy, determine each employee’s vaccination status, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination, support employees who still require vaccination, create and enforce mask policies for those who are unvaccinated, and make certain records available to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
They will also be forced to notify their employees on their policies, vaccination efficacy, safety, and benefits, as well as the criminal penalties for willfully supplying misleading information, according to Wilkes.
The government is depending on businesses to enforce the majority of the laws. Only a few thousand OSHA employees work across the country, and their primary responsibility is to investigate reports of noncompliance. Employers who are found guilty of breaking the laws face fines of up to $13,653 per major infringement and up to ten times that amount if they violate the guidelines repeatedly.
Twenty-one states have opted out of OSHA’s governance in favour of OSHA-approved home office / workplace safety enforcement entities. Within the following 30 days, those states must establish vaccine-requirement laws that are at least as effective as the federal mandate.
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