Biden Asks OSHA to Mandate Vaccines at Businesses With 100 or More WorkersSeptember 10, 2021
New federal safety regulations that call for businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations against the coronavirus will affirm mandates already in place at many companies and give cover to employers that had yet to decide.
The proposed rules, which President Biden announced on Thursday, will require workers to be inoculated or face weekly testing and will mandate that the businesses offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. They are the government’s biggest push yet to draw employers into a campaign to vaccinate the country.
Some 80 million workers will be affected. The requirements will be imposed by the Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is drafting an emergency temporary standard to carry out the mandate, according to the White House.
“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this — United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and even Fox News,” Mr. Biden said during a speech Thursday.
The move, though, is sure to face political pushback and litigation. And it faces considerable challenges, like establishing a way to gather and store the vaccination information, as well as a process for exemptions. The president did not specify penalties for flouting the requirements.
Lawyers said Thursday that it was not immediately clear whether the rule would apply to all employees or only those who work in company offices or facilities.
The Biden administration also intends to require vaccination for federal workers and contractors, as well as for 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Mr. Biden pleaded for more businesses to help the effort to increase vaccinations. “To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas, to concert venues, to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry,” he said.
OSHA oversees workplace safety, which the agency is likely to contend extends to vaccine mandates. The agency has issued other guidelines for pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment, provide adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.
“I think that the Department of Labor probably is in good stead to be able to justify its mandate for health and safety reasons for the workers,” said Steve Bell, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney who specializes in labor and employment.
“They’ve got a broad pretty solid basis for saying: ‘We’re here to protect the workers, and this is part of our purview, and we think that this is something that will protect employees,’” he said.
OSHA has the authority to quickly issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, if it can show that workers are exposed to a grave danger and that the rule is necessary to address that danger. The rule must also…