On September 13, President Biden issued an executive order that calls for private employers with 100 or more employees to obtain proof of vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID 19 test, from their workers. This measure is part of President Biden’s six-part “Action Plan” which is designed to combat the spread of the Delta variant and further maximize public safety.
In addition to private employers with at least 100 workers, this new plan also encompasses healthcare facilities which receive either Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements, certain schools, and also federal employees and contractors. The Biden plan does not make any accommodation or reference to those individuals with natural immunity following COVID-19 illness, which according to several robust studies provides far greater protection against re-acquiring the illness.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has spoken out publicly against Biden’s vaccine mandate, and has even threatened to impose fines on counties and cities which follow through with a vaccine requirement. In this post, we’re going to summarize the current state of the vaccine mandate, as well as DeSantis’ response to this order.
OSHA & the New Vaccination Requirement
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has been tasked with developing a system to ensure compliance with the Biden administration’s new program. In the short-term, OSHA will develop a system which becomes part of an “Emergency Temporary Standard,” or ETS, which will ensure compliance for the immediate future. After a six month period, this ETS will need to be replaced with a permanent system.
OSHA representatives have come forward and given some clarification about how the requirement will operate. The requirement will not apply to remote workers who remain outside of the workplace entirely. But it will apply to workers who operate outside of a primary work space, but still work around other employees. What’s more, the 100 employee threshold will include workers at satellite offices; so the threshold applies to the total number of employees company-wide.
Governor DeSantis: Vaccine Mandates Won’t Happen in Florida
Florida Governor DeSantis has spoken out against the Biden administration’s new requirement, and has even stated that he will impose fines on county and city entities which follow through with a vaccine requirement. According to Governor DeSantis, the Biden order violates Florida state law.
He has said that any government entity which imposes the vaccine requirement will face a $5,000 fine for every violation. If you consider the number of government entities throughout the State of Florida, and the number of employees, municipalities and counties that defy the Governor’s directives could ultimately be subject to millions of dollars in fines.
Business Considerations Regarding the Mandate
Companies should well be concerned about the potential costs and impact on operations from the potential implementation of OSHA’s COVID-19 rule.
As mentioned above, Florida businesses can expect Governor DeSantis to push back against the Biden mandate and implement his own protections for Florida businesses. For instance, before the vaccine mandate issue arose, Governor DeSantis implemented an executive order which forbade mask mandates in public schools and implemented monoclonal antibody distribution sites throughout the state to provide additional treatments for Florida residents exposed to COVID-19 during the height of the Delta-variant spike.
So, while it remains to be seen just exactly what vaccine mandate guidelines will govern Florida’s businesses, it is good practice that companies consider firming up their compliance infrastructure by revising policies and procedures, administration, and compliance tracking. Notwithstanding the final provisions of the OSHA rules governing larger companies, the foregoing steps should already have been taken or should be underway for companies whose ownership and management have decided to require employee vaccination and/or periodic testing.
As always, companies should consult with experienced business counsel for help navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 compliance landscape.
Contact The Frazer Firm for More Information
If you would like to learn more about steps your business can take to ensure compliance with regulatory and legal requirements and protect against potential liabilities, contact the experienced business attorneys at The Frazer Firm today.
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