As the battle continues to surge in the Country against COVID-19 and its variants, many Americans are being thrust into unknown territory regarding employment, school district policies, and healthcare. In July 2021, President Biden implemented a COVID-19 Action Plan, (the “Plan”), which would create a six-pronged, national strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19. These six prongs focus on defining:
- Vaccinating the Unvaccinated;
- Further Protections to the Vaccinated;
- Keeping Schools Open;
- Increase in Testing and Mask Requirements ;
- Economic Recovery Protection; and,
- Improvement of Care for Those Infected with COVID-19.
The first prong of the Plan, “Vaccinating the Unvaccinated,” has been a continuing focal point for the Biden Administration. In a hopeful attempt to increase vaccinations, President Biden previously urged schools, public and private sector employers, nursing homes, restaurants, and hospitals to create vaccination requirements amongst their policies. While the Administration’s plea certainly helped the effort for a rise in increase of vaccinations, it also led to a backlash from unvaccinated individuals. Many Americans have continuously sought to fight back against vaccination requirements for numerous reasons: circumstances of health, fear of long term effects from receiving the vaccine, and the argued right for body autonomy.
In hopes to avoid a plateau of vaccination numbers, President Biden recently enacted, on September 9, 2021, an Executive Order which will enforce a mandatory vaccine requirement for all federal branch workers as well as extending the mandate to all employees of federal contractors. Additionally, while not enforced under the recent order, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (“OSHA”), will create and adopt a modified rule requiring all employers, public or private, with one-hundred (100) or more employees to mandate vaccinations as part of their employment policies. The rule will further safeguard these employees, who are required to be vaccinated, the ability to receive paid time-off time to receive the vaccine as well as for post-vaccination illness. These modified rules will be implemented into an Emergency Temporary Standard by OSHA in the next coming weeks. Lastly, other enforcements within the recent order that individuals or businesses, (specifically contractors, event venues, and medical personnel), should be aware of are mandatory vaccination requirements in most medical venues and vaccination or proof of testing for large event venues.
With a tide of change looming closer and closer by tailoring COVID-19 protections for the Country, employers and employees should be on high alert. This new vaccination mandate holds legal authority through state and federal levels, but it leaves many unguided areas in respect to employee and employer rights and obligations. Employers should be made aware that such things as extended leave of absence, discrimination, accommodation requests, and privacy concerns will likely arise, and they should be prepared to acknowledge them. Employers should consider implementation of the mandate into their employee manuals or handbook as well as receive guidance on how to continue their obligations to employees pursuant under federal and state laws.
For employees, if vaccination is not an option due to circumstances regarding health, it is recommended to be mindful of the federal and state laws governing accommodations, protection from discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination due to unvaccinated status in conjunction with a protected class status, and eligibility to receive unemployment compensation.
Whether employee or employer, Mooney Law is available to provide guidance and assistance in your concerns related to COVID-19. We understand times are difficult and continuously changing. If you believe you have been affected or may be affected by the most recent mandate, seeking an experienced attorney in the realm of Employment Law matters may be in your or your businesses best interest. We, at Mooney Law, are dedicated to assisting employees and employers in their employment matters. To find out whether you have a claim or to discuss a legal concern, please contact Mooney Law to request a consultation at 717-200-HELP or 717-632-4656.