A three-judge panel from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted the stay on the OSHA vaccine-or-test mandate (the Emergency Temporary Standard, or ETS), which applies to employers with 100 or more employees. This decision is already being appealed, and the ETS could be put on hold once again depending on what the Supreme Court does. We will let you know if that happens.
As of now, lifting of the stay means that the ETS is in immediate effect and employers should prepare to comply. The first compliance deadline was December 6 for policies, notices, masking, vaccination status, etc., and employers were supposed to begin testing unvaccinated employees by January 4. However, OSHA recognizes that compliance with a past date is not possible and has said the following about enforcement:
“To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS. To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. OSHA will work closely with the regulated community to provide compliance assistance.”
We encourage you to review the materials which have been released by OSHA to help you understand your compliance obligations. Keep in mind that they may not have updated the deadlines in the materials yet.
For more information go to: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2.
11/17/2021 Update: On November 12th, OSHA’s new ETS requiring vaccinations or weekly testing was blocked again by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The current ruling is temporary. We will continue to update as we get more information.
OSHA published its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring COVID vaccination or testing for employers with 100 or more employees. Employers must start following the ETS requirements by December 5. However, the testing requirements don’t apply until January 4, 2022. The ETS is extensive, and HR Support Center will be updating the information in their platform with additional details as they become available. They will also be following the anticipated legal challenges to keep all subscribers up to date. Below are some of the highlights.
Interaction with Other Laws
OSHA states that its ETS trumps state or local requirements that limit an employer’s ability to require COVID vaccination, COVID testing, or face coverings. According to OSHA, such state and local bans are completely preempted (overruled), even for employers who aren’t subject to the OSHA ETS (i.e., those with fewer than 100 employees).
The ETS requires covered employers to choose between adopting a mandatory vaccination policy or adopting a policy allowing employees to choose to either get vaccinated or test weekly and wear a face covering indoors.
Covered employers must ensure that their employees have received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson by January 4. After that, all covered employers must ensure that employees who have not received the necessary shots produce a negative test on at least a weekly basis.
The ETS does not require employers to pay for the cost of the tests, although they may be required to do so by other laws.
Tests can’t be performed by the employee at home, unless an “authorized telehealth proctor” observes the employee take the test and reads the results.
Paid Time Off
Covered employers are also required to provide up to four hours of paid time off for employees to get vaccinated during work, including travel time. Employers cannot take this time out of an employee’s leave bank. The ETS doesn’t require employers to reimburse employees for transportation costs to get vaccinated, though another law might (for example, California requires employers to reimburse employees for mileage).
Employers must also provide two days of paid sick time to recover from vaccine-related side effects. Employers can require employees to use their accrued sick leave or PTO (but not vacation).
The OSHA ETS applies to employers with 100 or more employees. All employees in the United States are counted, including part-time and fully remote employees. Once an employer hits the 100-employee mark (on or after November 5), they remain subject to the ETS for as long as it remains in effect. Employers may be completely or partially exempt from this ETS, for example, if they are subject to the federal contractor Executive Order or the COVID healthcare ETS.
Generally, employees of a covered employer are subject to the ETS requirement to either get vaccinated or test weekly and wear a face covering inside. The following employees are exempt:
- Employees who work entirely alone (there are no other employees, clients, or customers present during their workday)
- Employees who work from home
- Employees who work exclusively outdoors
It’s possible (though not likely) for an employer to be “covered” under the ETS and for all of its employees to be exempt from the ETS requirement to get vaccinated or test weekly.
Employers are required to have a policy either requiring all employees to be vaccinated (subject to medical or religious exemptions) or allowing employees to choose between getting vaccinated or testing for COVID weekly and wearing a face covering indoors.
Empl oyers may choose to have one policy for certain workers and the other for different workers. As with any employment decision, the distinction should be based on a legitimate business reason.
Your policy must be written and have specific information set out in the ETS. Templates are available on the OSHA ETS resource page under Implementation.
The ETS is lengthy, with additional requirements and details. Further information will be available on our platform. We recommend that you review the resources provided by OSHA. In particular, the 28-minute webinar is very informative and should provide you with the information you need right now.
This post is provided by the HR Pros at the HR Support Center and Corporate Payroll Services. It is for information purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. When you need essential information on human resources issues, from benefits, hiring, and management, to culture, technology and regulations, HR Support Center is a resource on which you can rely. To learn more, visit www.cpsgo.com/hr-support-services/ or contact us at 770-446-7289 x2102.
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