On September 9th, President Biden signed two Executive Orders; one requiring COVID vaccines for federal employees and another ensuring adequate COVID safety protocols for federal contractors. The administration also announced plans to develop rules impacting private employers with more than 100 employees, including vaccine, testing, and paid leave requirements.
Summary: The Executive Order deems that to promote the health and safety of the Federal workforce, it is necessary to require COVID vaccination for all Federal employees, “subject to the exceptions required by law.” The quoted language suggests that reasonable accommodations will still be available, where possible, to those with a qualifying medical reason or disability, or a conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief. Furthermore, the Executive Order requires each Federal agency to implement a program to require COVID vaccination for all of its Federal employees. The task force will issue guidance within the next seven (7) days on agency implementation of this requirement for all agencies covered by the Order.
The President also signed a second Executive Order directing that this standard be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the Federal government. Federal agencies are also directed to require that federal contractors comply with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s safety guidelines by inserting relevant language into contracts.
Other Important Points:
- The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement this requirement (www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/). This requirement will extend to private employers, not just federal contractors, and is expected to impact 80 million workers.
- OSHA is also developing a rule that will require all employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off to permit workers to get vaccinated or recover from post-vaccination side effects. This requirement previously applied to certain healthcare employers, but the proposal would expand the requirement to all large employers.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMCS) are taking action to require COVID vaccines for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement (including, but not limited to, hospitals, dialysis facilities, and home health agencies). This action will apply to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS regulated settings, including clinical staff, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient care (www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/).