UPDATED: OSHA Mandate-or-Testing Rule
OSHA Formally Withdraws Vaccine Mandate
Under the Biden Administration, the US Department of Labors Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Tuesday, January 25th that it will be withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard that was originally issued last November. If you recall the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) required covered employers (any employer with 100 employees or more) to develop, implement, and enforce a COVID-19 vaccination policy or adopt a policy requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing weekly and face masks for unvaccinated employees.
In a statement on the agency’s website the department stated "Although OSHA is withdrawing the vaccination and testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, the agency is not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule. The agency is prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard."
This withdrawal comes after the US Supreme Court’s decision in a 6:3 vote, affirming that OSHA did not have the necessary authority to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Despite the standard being struck down “OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,” the Labor Department wrote in the notice of its withdrawal. Without the nationwide regulation in place, business owners will once again be subject to comply with local and state mandates. In North Carolina, there is no statewide vaccine mandate or compliance standards currently.
The withdrawal of the OSHA standard will take effect Wednesday, January 26th.
Although the emergency rule is off the table for large employers, there are still things that business owners need to know. OSHA has noted that it is "prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent Covid-19 healthcare standard," and continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers. OSHA is still likely to propose a permanent, if narrower, rule.
Regardless of whether this actually happens, experts warn against ignoring Covid-19 safety issues. According to Brittany Barrientos, a partner at Stinson LLP, OSHA has signalled that it is likely to shift focus to enforcement of its National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause. In other words, issuing citations around face coverings, policies about workers coming to work sick, and other generalized Covid-19 safety issues.
It was announced today, January 13, that the US Supreme Court has blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's mandate-or-testing rule for large employers.
Experts predicted this decision would be handed down after oral arguments on January 7 citing agency overreach. The ruling will block enforcement of the rule while courts continue to consider the case, but it is not likely to resolve the issue for employers, according to Triad Business Journal.
Many companies have objected to mandates due to turnover concerns and administrative complications.
Read a full report on the ruling HERE