What this means for you…
Many workers throughout California are seeking answers regarding the Coronavirus vaccine mandates. Let's take a look at where we are and what to expect.
There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on lives and businesses—not only across the U.S. but across the world. As of this writing in the U.S. alone, the death toll is climbing toward 750,000 with more than 45 million cases reported. Worldwide, the death toll is nearing 5 million with more than 242 million cases reported. Closer to home in California, we've lost more than 70,000 souls from almost 5 million cases. The numbers don't lie: the Coronavirus continues to grip society.
That's why the Biden administration and the U.S. government are implementing vaccine mandates in both the public and private sectors of American business. In September of 2021, President Biden, by Executive Order, mandated that all federal employees (including remote workers and contractors) must be fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus by November 22. These employees do not have the option to test weekly as an alternative to the vaccine.
President Biden then directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—a federal agency tasked with creating workplace safety measures for American labor—to write the rules for companies with 100 or more employees to mandate that their workers either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or, for unvaccinated workers, to get tested at least once a week. When this federal mandate is issued it will be implemented under what is called the "emergency temporary standard." This mandate will affect more than 130,000 businesses and some 80 million workers across the country—approximately two-thirds of the private sector workforce.
Please note that a U.S. appeals court on November 12, 2021 upheld its original decision to put on hold the presidential vaccine mandate order for private companies employing more than 100 workers. As the courts sort out the issues and arguments regarding the mandate, the Biden administration has reset the vaccination deadline as January 4, 2022.
Many large companies, including 3M and Procter & Gamble as well as major airlines such as American, JetBlue, and United have enforced their own vaccination mandates since President Biden's announcement last month. “Every day, we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements, and the mounting data shows that they work,” Biden said on October 14: "Businesses and organizations that are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20% or more to well over 90%. Let's be clear, vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us."
Biden's plan for private companies (Department of Labor's OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard) differs from the federal employee mandate. First of all, the rules apply only to private businesses with 100 or more employees. Secondly, if an employee cares to opt out of the vaccine protocol, their option is to be tested at least once a week and these employees must wear face coverings.
It's important to note that employers impacted by the mandate will have to give workers paid time off in order to get vaccinated or recover from any side effects of the vaccine. Employers that don't comply with the vaccine mandate or paid-time-off requirements could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. According to a report by CNBC, "OSHA will likely give companies time to comply with the new mandate before broad enforcement begins."
Employees who refuse to comply with the requirements of the mandate should prepare for their employer's response, which could include termination.
Please keep in mind that aside from all federal mandates, in California any employer—even those with less than 100 employees—can still require vaccination compliance as a condition of employment. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), exemptions to the vaccine requirement will be considered for individuals with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. For individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit them from being vaccinated, their rights are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you believe you fall into one of these two categories, you may want to seek legal advice about securing a "reasonable accommodation." One of our legal experts can assist.
OSHA offers guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; their findings on the ongoing need for Coronavirus safety protocols and the vaccine mandate is based on the latest direction and assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)—guidelines on how to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in healthcare.
How LFECR Can Help
As the vaccine mandate requirements roll out, if you believe you're being treated unfairly in your workplace, please contact the employment law experts at Lawyers for Employee & Consumer Rights. Take advantage of our free consultation. We fight for workers' rights.