There were some significant developments relating to COVID vaccine mandates in the workplace this Thursday that federal contractors and subcontractors as well as other companies that have at least 100 employees need to know about.
For Federal Contractors:
- The original deadline of December 8th for all employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated, absent a religious or medical exception, has been pushed back to January 4th.
- For government contractors with 100 or more employees, they must comply with the stricter federal contractor mandate rather than the less stringent new OSHA mandate (discussed below).
- Unlike the OSHA rules governing 100-plus employee non-contractor companies, there is no option for federal contractors to implement testing as an alternative to vaccination.
- But recent guidance from the government this week seems to signal a bit more flexibility will be allotted to federal contractors as they go about a good faith implementation of the mandate.
For Non-Federal Contractors with at least 100 Employees:
- Employees must get vaccinated by January 4th, but an employer has the option to also offer testing as an alternative to a blanket mandate. In such a case, an employee who opts for testing would need to do so on at least a weekly basis and wear a mask in the workplace. This is a critical difference between the OSHA rule and the above vaccine mandate applicable to federal contractors.
- Employees who work remotely or outdoors are not subject to this new OSHA rule. This is another critical difference between the new OSHA rule and the stricter federal contractor mandate, since even federal contractor employees who work at home are still subject to the vaccination requirement.
- Companies need to have written policies in place that lay out the option for testing, masking and other protective requirements for those employees who opt not to get vaccinated under such policy.
- Companies are not required to pay for weekly testing for unvaccinated employees unless there is some other requirement for them to cover this cost such as in an employment agreement, union contract, or as otherwise required under applicable state law.
- Companies need to provide up to 4 hours of paid leave for employees to get vaccinated and reasonable time if an employee needs it to recover from side effects.
- Part-time employees are counted toward meeting the 100-employee count to be subject to the OSHA rule, but independent contractors are not counted.
This is clearly a rapidly developing and evolving area of workplace law, so please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions as you navigate these vaccination mandates and related issues.