Employers of 100 or more workers should prepare to get ahead of looming vaccine requirements, in part by confidentially surveying staff to determine how many people might be affected. That was the advice of Alison Squiccimarro of the Law Offices of Paul Lange during a videotaped question-and-answer session with National Air Transportation Association senior v-p Ryan Waguespack.
While the final details have yet to be released, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week sent a draft emergency temporary standard (ETS) to the White House that will implement a Covid-19 vaccine mandate or weekly testing requirement for all private companies with 100 or more employees. The requirement could take effect as early as December 1.
Squiccimarro advised companies to anticipate that the rules will cover those that have employed 100 workers total—including part-timers—within the past 24 months. Companies that have not reached that total but anticipate doing so should also be prepared, she added.
The rules are believed to have a component for testing employees who have exemptions from vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
Some questions remain about the tests, such as who is responsible for paying for them, Squiccimarro said, but she added that full PCR testing would likely be required weekly. She noted that companies will need to set aside time for employees to get and/or recover from vaccinations. They also will need to determine whether to give time for testing or require employees to test on their own time. Test results must be confidential and should be kept separate from employee records, she added.
Less clear is what will happen as a patchwork of state restrictions requiring mandates arise. Some of these are going through the courts, and early decisions appear to be upholding mandates. “You need to be prepared to have a plan in place,” Squiccimarro said.
As part of that preparation, she advised companies should get a handle on how many employees are vaccinated, will need to be vaccinated, or have exemptions that may necessitate testing. “Figure out what the scope of your problem is," Squiccimarro said. "You can set your policy on real information.”
A company will need to decide how many accommodations it might make, whether for a few or a large percentage of the employee base, she added.
“You’ve got to be prepared for what’s coming,” Waguespack said.