OSHA’s COVID-19 Rules Move Forward: What Employers Must Do Now
While the Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in, employers should move forward to comply with new deadlines, especially as Omicron spreads.
Late Friday evening, the federal court with jurisdiction over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency COVID-19 rules for employers allowed those rules to move forward. Employers with 100 or more workers have now been given a new set of deadlines in order to come into compliance.
By January 10, 2022, employers must:
- Have a vaccination policy
- Confirm the vaccination status of workers
- Provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from side effects
- Require unvaccinated workers to wear a face covering
By February 9, 2022, employers must be able to prove to OSHA that workers are vaccinated or testing negative for COVID-19 at least weekly.
While the requirements may still get a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court, the lesson in the litigation so far is that employers should take steps now to prepare. Indeed, OSHA has made it clear that even if an employer is not in full compliance, the agency will not issue a penalty if the employer shows "good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard."
Resources for Employers
We’ve updated our Sample Vaccination Policy for Employers with OSHA’s latest deadlines. Employers can also find our guides for responding to religious and medical exemption requests and our sample forms for those requests.
To help employers meet the OSHA requirements, our panel of experts answered 27 questions direct from the business community. Apart from the deadlines, these details have not changed as a result of any of the legal action.
Employers can find additional answers in OSHA’s collection of Frequently Asked Questions.
At our briefing for business leaders last week, our expert panelists also offered advice on how employers can track compliance with vaccination or testing requirements.
New challenges caused by Omicron
While the OSHA rules do not require any additional action for the Omicron variant, employers may want to consider further action to account for the on-the-ground reality of the virus. Last week’s briefing for business leaders also includes:
- What businesses need to know today about Omicron
- Testing workers, even those who are vaccinated
- How to maintain the privacy of workers who test positive while also making sure no one else at the workplace has been exposed to the virus
- Other mitigation steps, such as air purification and providing high-quality masks
- What role employers should play in addressing misinformation
- Whether boosters could become required to meet the definition of “fully vaccinated.”
And at any time, employers can watch the full presentation, with even more guidance for responding to this crucial phase of the pandemic.