On September 9, 2021, President Biden released an executive order requiring all federal employees to get the Coronavirus vaccination, without the ability to opt-out by getting regularly tested. Federal employees now have until November 22 to get fully vaccinated and be in compliance with the new mandate or face discipline, possibility including termination. In addition to this order, President Biden released yet another order that applies the same guidelines for vaccination for those who contract to do business with the federal government.
President Biden also has proposed new plans requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to require their workforce become fully vaccinated or be tested for the virus at least once a week. This proposed plan will be released and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This plan is projected to affect over 80 million workers across the nation. Under this new standard, a private employer will have to give their employees paid time off to get their vaccinations or likewise recover from any side effects. The private employers who refuse to comply with the new standard will face enormous fines (up to $14,000 per violation). As this new standard is set to be released and take effect in the coming month or so, many have voiced concerns on how such a policy will be enforced. Many of the specifics of the standard remain unknown, such as the ability for opting out via testing, timelines for compliance, how fines will be imposed, and how OSHA (a relatively small agency) will enforce this sweeping mandate.
It is yet to be seen how these new federal mandates will affect employers’ meet and confer obligations. As the law stands right now, employers can unilaterally decide to implement vaccine mandates, but must meet and confer with unions over the impacts and effects of such decisions. The increasing number of federal, state, and local mandates may give more authority to employers to impose such mandates. However, employee organizations should always demand to meet and confer over the effects such mandates have on their members’ working conditions. (See previous blog post with list of negotiable impacts and effects.)