The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended the enforcement of the vaccination mandate that was announced earlier in the month for private companies.
Nearly thirty-six objections were filed against the mandate by state governments and business organizations. Yesterday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was chosen to examine the challenges together, but it is not known when the case will be heard.
Federal mandates would require that more than 84,000,000 U.S. workers get Covid-19 vaccines by Jan. 4, or they risk losing their jobs. Although most Americans aged 12 or more have had at least one shot, there has been substantial worker opposition to blanket vaccinations.
The mandate was announced Nov. 4. It would apply to private businesses with more than 100 employees. The rule was announced by President Joe Biden in September. OSHA, the Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wrote it under emergency authority because of the ongoing public health crisis.
Opponents claim it is an abuse of power by the executive, while supporters argue that the limited circumstances of the pandemic justify the broad rule.
How Would the OSHA Vaccine Mandate Work?
Workers at companies employing 100 or more people would be subject to the vaccine requirement. Employers with 100 or more employees must offer paid time to workers who are vaccinated and workers recovering from side effects.
The mandate stated that workers who are not fully vaccinated before Jan. 4, would have to submit negative results at least once a week; beginning Dec. 5, all unvaccinated workers will need to wear a mask on the Jobsite.
Workers who refuse to be vaccinated would have to pay for weekly testing and masks. Each company could offer employees the opportunity to test weekly instead of getting vaccinated.
Some companies have already decided to go ahead with a mandate for vaccines without any masking exception.
A similar rule was released on the same day. Employees at health care facilities that are part of Medicare or Medicaid–the majority, according to a White House memo–don’t have the option of submitting weekly tests instead of getting vaccinated. You’ll lose your job if you don’t get vaccinated. This court order doesn’t affect the rule that applies to these facilities.
Employers who fail to comply with the new rule could be subject to fines up to $14,000 for each violation. However, it is not clear how OSHA intended to enforce the mandate.
The White House has not yet commented on the suspension order.
“The new OSHA rule establishes a floor for safety – not a ceiling,” wrote Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients in a USA Today op-ed on Nov. 4. “Many businesses have already agreed to institute a full vaccination requirement without a testing option.”
Although this was not the first national vaccine mandate, it is the first to include private companies. In September, Biden signed an executive directive that required federal workers as well as contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Federal workers must have been fully vaccinated before Nov. 22. Federal contractors must have their vaccines by Jan. 18.
Federal employees and contractors who don’t follow the rules and have no religious or medical exemption can be terminated.
Vaccine Mandate is Highly Divisive
Republican governors and business groups are the main reason for the suspension of the mandate. They claim that the mandate is detrimental to commerce and goes beyond the purview of the federal government.
The National Retail Federation referred to the rule as “burdensome” for its members during the holiday season. David French, senior vice-president of government relations, stated that the rule should not cause disruption to the economy or exacerbate the preexisting workforce shortage. He also noted that saddle retailers are already taking significant steps to ensure their customers and employees are safe, and the rule does not have to be burdensome.
70% of Americans are fully immunized and large corporations have made it mandatory for employees to be vaccinated. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 20 states have some form of vaccine mandate. Most lawsuits against mandates at the local and state level have failed.
The fate of the federal mandate challenge could hinge on the selection of liberal- or conservative-leaning judge for the panel to hear the case.
Evidence is beginning to show that employees are effective at getting inoculated. For example, 85% of the New York City police department employees who were required to be vaccinated by the deadline on Nov. 1 had already complied.