OSHA To Release a Vaccination Mandate for Employers

Several members of the National Council on Farmer Cooperatives and NMPF met with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Oct. 18 to discuss a pending standard which will require employers with over 100 employees to ensure the workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a negative weekly COVID-19 test.

This action is one part in President Biden’s overall multi-prong plan to vaccinate the unvaccinated. Specifically, the plans states:

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.

The president also announced the standard will require employers to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they experience post-vaccine symptoms.

The coalition that met with OMB raised numerous concerns about the mandate while making it clear it will continue to advocate for vaccinations. Still, key questions include whether there will be enough tests to handle the demand. If there are insufficient tests to meet demand, the coalition is concerned the program will fail, further disrupting an already fragile supply chain. NMPF suggested that the White House should consider invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), as it did several times in the past year to address other COVID related issues, to ensure availability of affordable rapid COVID-19 tests.

The group also raised concerns about record-keeping, time-off requirements and potential suspension of the ETS if it creates supply chain disruption, particularly for workers deemed essential by DHS-CISA in its Critical Infrastructure Workers v 4.0 NMPF helped develop in 2020.

The ETS was never a proposed rule, and the details are largely unknown, and stakeholders had very little opportunity to comment on it. The ETS standard is expected to be released this week.