President Biden Unveils Sweeping Vaccine Mandate

September 10, 2021
On Thursday, President Biden announced the most sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate to date, which may affect as many as 80 million American workers. This new, expansive mandate calls for vaccine requirements for federal contractors, private-sector employees and healthcare workers alike. The new vaccine requirement is part of a 6-part “action plan” announced by President Biden to increase vaccination rates, improve access to testing and COVID-19 treatments, and further protect vaccinated Americans.

OSHA to Mandate Vaccinations or Weekly Testing for Companies With 100+ Employees

Specifically, the President has directed OSHA to issue an emergency rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or, if not, to obtain a negative test at least weekly. This will affect approximately 80 million employees in the American workforce. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to introduce the vaccine requirement. Employers that do not comply may be penalized with fines of up to $14,000. The new rule will also require these large employers to provide paid time off for employees to receive the vaccination.

Vaccine Requirements for Healthcare Providers

The President also announced vaccination requirements for health care providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid, for all federal employees and contractors (without an alternative weekly testing option), and for staffs of Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and the Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools.

Workers will be considered vaccinated if they receive a single Johnson & Johnson dose or two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Plans for booster shots are underway as well and may be available as soon as the end of September.

Legal Challenges to Vaccine Mandates Expected

We expect that there will be many legal challenges to this rule, alleging, among other things, constitutional issues and a lack of authority for OSHA to extend its reach in this way. It is further unclear when the rule will be released or will become effective. At this time, employers are not required to take immediate action but should monitor developments.

KJK is closely following this issue and will provide ongoing updates regarding this rule along with further analysis.

If you have questions or would like to discuss further, please contact Rob Gilmore at rsg@kjk.com or 216.736.7240 or Kirsten Mooney at kbm@kjk.com or 216.736.7239, or reach out to any of our Labor & Employment professionals.