OSHA to issue ETS mandating vaccines at businesses with 100 or more workers
President Joe Biden‘s call for an employer vaccine mandate has put short-staffed OSHA in a tight spot. The agency is to issue within weeks of the September White House announcement an emergency temporary standard that fulfills Biden’s directive for all companies with 100 or more workers to ensure employees are fully vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19 on a weekly basis. The president also is directing OSHA to require businesses subject to the rule to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects.The White House anticipates the ETS will apply to more than 80 million private-sector workers.
The ETS will undergo an expedited review process before taking effect and won’t involve getting public comment. It will be the second OSHA Covid-19 emergency rulemaking this year. The first one took the agency nearly five months to complete, missing Biden’s initial deadline by more than three months.
The scope of the forthcoming ETS is much wider, but the agency can use the earlier emergency rule as a template; it requires health-care employers to fashion plans to protect workers from on-the-job Covid-19 infection, according to Bloomberg Law.
When enforcing the rule, OSHA could fine noncomplying businesses up to $14,000 per violation, the senior official said on a call for reporters.
Agency headcount shrunk by 12.5% from September 2016 to June 2021—2,058 employees then, versus 1,801 as of June, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management. While that tally mostly reflects workers employed in field offices who aren’t involved in writing regulations, the drop-off was even more acute among staff in the agency’s headquarters; headcount there declined by 26%—to 260 workers, from 352—during the same period.
24 state attorneys general demand Biden drop vaccine mandate
According to a release, the attorneys general warned that legal action will follow if the president follows through with his plan that will require businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for their workers or regular COVID-19 testing.
In a letter written Sept. 16, the attorneys general told President Biden that his plan is “disastrous and counterproductive.” They claim the mandate will only further divide hearts and minds over vaccination, and prompt some employees to leave the job market, which already is suffering labor shortages.
Calling the mandate an illegal “public health disaster,” the attorneys general said they will seek every available legal option to ensure states can take varying approaches to dealing with the virus, which they say is an action protected by the Constitution.