When the White House released its COVID-19 Action Plan on September 10th, it placed a great deal of pressure on employers of 100 or more. In the weeks that have followed, OSHA has worked on rules while some public entities around the country have been preparing lawsuits. The OSHA emergency rule could affect as many as 80 million Americans and will require large employers to provide paid time off for workers not only to get vaccinated but to recover from any negative side effects relating to the vaccine. Failure to comply could result in fines up to $14,000 per employee.
The HIPAA Journal points out that while employers are within their rights to terminate employees for refusing vaccination, EEOC requires that reasonable accommodations be made in accordance with state laws if a genuine medical or religious exemption exists. Weekly testing will be required for those who cannot be vaccinated and because these tests will not be paid for by the government, employers will need to determine if employees will have to bear the entire cost or if some form of cost sharing can be provided.
Even though details of government requirements are still forthcoming, companies with 100 or more employees should begin tracking immunizations and weekly testing as soon as possible. Vaccinated individuals should be able to access their immunization records from the provider or pharmacy that administered the vaccine. Your recordkeeping should allow for updates as some decide to get vaccinated or perhaps as others receive a second Pfizer or Moderna dose.
OSHA is expected to issue a temporary emergency standard for reporting of immunizations and testing and the CDC website should provide up to date information. Getting the information needed to meet reporting requirements will require everyone’s help and understanding. Employers are advised to communicate your compliance strategy to employees in writing and to make every effort to make it as easy and convenient as possible for employees to find answers to important questions.