In early September 2021, Biden asked for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) which would require all employers who have more than a 100 employees to show either proof of vaccination or proof of weekly negative covid tests. This would have an impact on over 80 million employees in the private sector and possibly lead to changes and regulations in the public sector as well. Furthermore, this ETS would also require employers to provide paid time off for those who are seeking to get vaccinated and for the appropriate recovery time from the vaccination.
This move is in alignment with Biden’s push to get the majority of workplaces fully vaccinated. This follows an executive order issued by Biden in January which pushed an ETS and further enforcement guidelines for workplaces. In June 2021, OSHA required pandemic safety planning for most healthcare settings, but refused to extend it to other sectors of the economy. However, as the Delta variant continues to have widespread transmission rates, not only has the CDC recommended universal masking, the Biden administration is pushing harder for a more permanent requirement. The administration is now requiring federal agencies to take mandates further. In attempts to do so, Biden has issued two executive orders which would broadly apply to most federal employees and contractors. Federal agencies would have until October 8 to take the necessary steps to update their policies and comply with the guidelines.
All these changes are all towards the greater goal of the Biden administration to have OSHA leverage its regulations towards a universal vaccination mandate. OSHA makes its determination based on numerous factors including if workers are in grave danger due to agents that are particularly dangerous or harmful and if an emergency order is needed to protect them. If OSHA does decide to pass such a measure, it is likely to face numerous roadblocks before going into effect. OSHA is already receiving numerous letters from lobbyists and business groups opposing the mandate without additional employer input.