Understanding COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates - Blue Ridge Risk Partners

Understanding COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

November 8, 2021

Over the past several months, many American workers have been awaiting the finalized requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations per The Rehabilitation Act and Emergency Temporary Standard legislations.

Guidance was initially provided by the EEOC for all group sizes that Employers may require all employees physically at the workplace to be vaccinated, subject to reasonable accommodation requirements.  Meaning, that non-vaccinated employees can be treated differently than vaccinated employees (such as wearing masks or working in another area of the workplace).

Employers are also able to encourage employees and their dependents to be vaccinated, but not in a way that is to be considered coercive.  Any reported vaccination status is to remain confidential under HIPAA requirements as well.

While these guidelines by the EEOC set the stage, the 100+ Employer requirements were still a giant question mark.  Last Thursday, November 4th, OSHA released their long-awaited requirements for Large Employers.

So, lets break this down into what matters most:

  • Effective 11/4/21, Employers with 100 or more employees need to ensure that their workforce are vaccinated OR are tested weekly and wear proper face coverings.
  • Employers must have written vaccination and testing policies written and communicated to employees by 12/4/21. 
  • Three types of employees have an exemption to the overall rule:
    • Employees not reporting to a workplace with other individuals
    • Employees working from home full-time
    • Employees working exclusively outdoors
  • When determining the 100+ headcount, Employers will need to include all employees located in the United States together, not per worksite location.
    • Some variations may apply, and Employers will need to confirm where they fall.  Such as Franchises who can count employees separately, whereas staffing firms will need to count all employees, including those in various locations.
  • As this is a Temporary Standard, it is set to expire May 4, 2022.  With any legislation, this is subject to change.
  • Employees will need to provide their Employer with a copy of immunization records, COVID-19 vaccination record card, or any other valid administered document noting the name and date.
  • Non-Compliant Employers can be cited and penalized by OSHA in the amount of $13,653 per violation; with a $136,532 penalty for willful or repeated violations.

If your business falls into the 100+ criteria, you may be wondering what your next steps are.  OSHA has drafted a Compliance Template, which can easily be updated for distribution.  While a mass email to the workforce is acceptable, a distribution method with a confirmation (such as acknowledgement in a payroll portal) is highly recommended.

Should you have any questions on the coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations, a member of our Employee Benefits Team are able to assist.