Joe Biden’s administration has set January 4 as the deadline for large companies to ensure that their employees have been fully vaccinated or, if not, that the workers submit to testing at least once a week.
The president announced in September that his administration would seek the new requirement, as the Delta variant surged and large numbers of Americans remained unvaccinated.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines, unveiled on Thursday, apply to employers with 100 or more employees. A number of companies, including The Walt Disney Co. and Fox Corp., already have issued some sort of vaccination requirements for employees to return to the workplace.
The new rules also require employers to provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated and for sick leave if they experience side effects from the shots. The rules also require that employers ensure that unvaccinated employees wear a face mask in the workplace. The latter requirement goes into effect on Dec. 5.
The requirements for large private employers affect about 84 million employees, a senior administration official said.
Another requirement is that health care workers are fully vaccinated. This applies to about 76,000 health facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. There is not a testing option, but there are exemptions for those with medical reasons or religious exemptions.
The White House has cited figures showing that vaccination requirements can boost rates, to over 90 percent at some businesses.
A senior administration official said that the requirements are “well within OSHA’s authority under the law and consistent with OSHA’s requirements to protect workers from health and safety hazards, including infectious diseases.” It also preempts state requirements. Those who fail to comply could face maximum fines of up to $13,653 per employee, although those can vary based on the situation.
The vaccine rules have been hammered by right wing media pundits for months. The Daily Wire announced on Thursday that a lawsuit was filed on its behalf in the U.S. Court of Appeals. They also are seeking an emergency motion to stay the mandate.
Biden, though, has defended vaccine requirements by pointing to those implemented by an array of private companies. He has pointed those those of Fox News parent Fox Corp., which requires employees to show that they have been vaccinated or to submit to daily testing.
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