OSHA Releases Rule for COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement at Work

November 10, 2021

A much-anticipated emergency temporary standard (ETS)  issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Nov. 5 laid out the groundwork for companies opening back up in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The rules, although temporary, provide a process for employers with more than 100 people on staff to keep their business open during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the workplace vaccine requirement is facing numerous legal challenges:

  • President Biden’s workplace vaccine requirements were halted on Saturday, Nov. 6 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, pending review. 
  • President Biden’s administration released a statement to businesses that regulations for vaccination or mask wearing for all staff should move ahead, even though the court ordered a pause for review.
  • President Biden’s administration asked the court to lift the pause on Monday night, citing public health as the reason for the requirements.
  • Gov. Tom Wolf announced intentions to lift the current mask mandate for school students, effective Jan. 2022. 
  • The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down the state law on Wednesday, commenting that Acting Public Health Secretary, Allison Beam, did not have the right to enact the rule. 
  • More than half of the country’s state attorneys general have filed challenges to  President Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements at the U.S. appeals court level.

With all of these legal moves happening almost simultaneously, the rollout of the vaccination requirement remains questionable. However, the ETS provides a structure for companies to follow. Here are a few of the critical points in the ETS:

  •  Dec. 5, 2021 – Unvaccinated workers are required to begin wearing masks.
  • Jan. 4, 2022- All businesses with 100 or more employees have to have their workforce fully vaccinated from COVID-19 or unvaccinated workers need to be tested regularly.

There are exceptions to what businesses are covered under the OSHA emergency standard. Federal employees, federal contractors, healthcare support services, and healthcare workers are all operating under different requirements already.

Those who will need to implement the plan:

  • Businesses with at least 100 employees, either at one site or company-wide, with those working from home included in the number of staff, as well as those working part-time, and those who are employed by staffing companies but work onsite.
  • Anyone who works for a private employer with over 100 employees. Exceptions include those who work completely alone, those who work entirely from home, and employees who work only outdoors.

The ETS requires all private businesses with over 100 employees to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy that requires vaccination of all employees, except those who are medically contraindicated, have medical issues that require a delay in vaccination, or those who have religious beliefs or a disability that requires reasonable accommodations.

Another approach the ETS offers is for employers to create a policy that proposes the option of vaccination or mask-wearing with weekly testing.

The implementation of these new policies during the coronavirus pandemic may create turmoil in the workplace. The Media employment lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help navigate this complex, evolving issue. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, the firm serves clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County. Call 610-565-3701 or complete an online form to schedule an initial consultation today.