OSHA Issues COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard
The following is an important update to our September 13, October 5, and October 15, 2021
alerts that discussed federal vaccine mandates.
On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued the long awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) which requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are either fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19.
Below are some of the key provisions of the ETS:
- Employees must be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing
- Employers are required to have a written vaccination policy
- Employers do not have to pay for testing unless required by other laws, regulations, or collective bargaining agreements or other collectively negotiated agreements
- Employers must provide a reasonable amount of time to each employee for vaccination and reasonable time and paid sick leave to each employee for side effects experienced following vaccination
- Employers must ensure that all unvaccinated employees are wearing masks with a few exceptions such as “when the employee is alone in a room with floor to ceiling walls and/or windows and a closed door, and for a limited time while an employee is eating or drinking at the workplace”
- The ETS does not apply to employees working from home or employees who work exclusively outdoors
- Employers must report to OSHA:
- Each work-related COVID-19 fatality within eight hours of the employer learning about the fatality and
- Each work-related COVID-19 in-patient hospitalization within 24 hours of the employer learning about the in-patient hospitalization
- The ETS acknowledges that employers will still have to consider requests for accommodations from employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs
- It is stated that this ETS preempts all state and local workplace requirements that “relate” to issues addressed by the ETS unless these requirements are OSHA approved and under the authority of a Federally-approved State Plan
Guidance on Employer Coverage
The preamble to the ETS states that employers are covered for the entire term of the ETS once they reach the 100 employee threshold. In other words, if an employer has 101 employees on November 5, 2021, but in January 2022 loses three employees, falling below the 100 employee threshold, they will still be subject to the ETS during the entire term of the ETS. The ETS further explains that:
- Franchisors and franchisees are considered separate entities;
- Related entities are considered a single employer if they handle safety matters as one company;
- On multi-employer worksites, each company represented only need count its own employees, not the total number of workers at each site; and
- Staffing agency employees are considered employees of only the staffing agency, even if they work at a host employer location and the staffing agency and host employer would otherwise be considered joint employers by OSHA
Due to the complex nature of the ETS and the varying state rules which might be implicated, determining how to comply with the ETS and developing policies in response to the ETS can be challenging. The Porter Hedges Employment Team is ready to provide any necessary assistance with developing policies required by the ETS or any questions that may arise about this ETS.
We will continue to keep you informed as more information becomes available around this issue as well as any others related to the broader implications of the federal vaccine mandate.
Porter Hedges Alerts and News
On September 13, 2021, Porter Hedges published its first email alert in a series of upcoming articles discussing federal requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and testing in the workplace – U.S. Department of Labor Issues Vaccine Mandate – What’s Next for Employers? We addressed one of the Action Plan’s six prongs: OSHA’s forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard that will require all private sector companies with 100 or more employees to require their employees be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19. Porter Hedges presented a webinar on the same issue. To receive a recording of the webinar, please contact us.
On October 5, 2021, Porter Hedges published its second email alert in the series – Vaccination Mandates for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. The alert addressed a second prong of the Action Plan: The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s Guidance, under Executive Order 14042, that requires employees of workplace locations with individuals working on or in connection with a covered Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021.
On October 15, 2021, Porter Hedges published its third email alert in the series – Legal Implications of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Ban on Vaccine Mandates. The alert addressed Executive Order No. GA-40 prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any entity in Texas.