November 4, 2021
- Employers with 100 or more employees will need to implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for their employees — and offer a weekly testing alternative to those who refuse or are unable to receive a vaccine — presumably by Jan. 4, 2022, according to an emergency temporary standard issued Thursday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- In determining whether they meet the 100-employees threshold, employers must include all employees across all of their U.S. locations, regardless of employees’ vaccination status or where they perform their work, per the ETS. Part-time employees do count towards the company total, but independent contractors do not. Additional sections of the ETS detail how the threshold should be determined in situations involving franchisees, multi-employer workplaces and staffing agencies.
- All covered employers are required by the ETS to bear the cost of providing up to four hours of paid time and reasonable paid sick leave needed to support vaccination, but where an employee chooses to remain unvaccinated, the ETS does not require employers to pay for the costs associated with regular COVID-19 testing or the use of face coverings. Some employees may be entitled to reasonable accommodation from their employer, absent undue hardship, due to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief. Stakeholders have until 30 days after the date of the rule’s publication to submit public comments.
The new rules come at a time when many colleges and universities already have vaccination and testing policies in place, Liz Clark, vice president for policy and research at the National Association of College and University Business Officers, said in an email.
Large research universities that draw federal research dollars have already been making plans to adhere to another federal vaccine mandate. It requires employees at federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.
But the new OSHA rules out Thursday are of particular importance to a slice of colleges less likely to be covered by the federal contractor mandate — private colleges with 100 or more workers.
“That’s basically the vast majority of private colleges and universities that aren’t covered by the federal contractor requirement,” said Steven Bloom, assistant vice president of government relations at the American Council on Education.
Thursday’s ETS is a monumental — if expected — development for workplaces throughout the U.S. But expect news on the ETS to move fast as states file legal challenges against the Biden administration.