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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Vaccination Options and Responsibilities

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

NOTE: On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced that his administration is directing the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to:

  • Ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated; or
  • Require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.

No other details have been released nor has a compliance timeline been issued. XpertHR is closely monitoring this evolving development and will update resources as necessary.

With COVID-19 vaccinations available to all eligible individuals, employers are confronted with how, or if, to address the vaccination status of their employees. As with everything relating to COVID-19, many of these issues are complex and require consideration of various factors that affect the particular workplace.

Federal guidance, for example, provides that employers may generally require employees to get vaccinated, subject to certain exceptions. Employers, however, should have an understanding of the various issues with which they may have to grapple should they choose to implement a COVID-19 vaccination plan in their workplace.

In addition, it is critical to keep up with the developments relating to measures to increase overall vaccination rates and how those measures may affect the workplace. For instance, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) mandating vaccinations for employees in response to President Biden's announcement, an employer who may be covered under the ETS may want to consider taking certain steps in anticipation of such a mandate, including:

  • Thinking through official communications to employees;
    • Be clear and objective while providing perspective (e.g., ensure safety of employees);
  • Considering whether to require COVID-19 vaccinations or test unvaccinated employees in accordance with the ETS timeline;
    • What is appropriate for the workforce and workplace culture?
    • How many employees are currently fully vaccinated?
  • Ensuring COVID-19 policies (e.g., screening, testing, safety policies) are current with guidance from the CDC, OSHA and state and local laws and public health guidance;
  • Considering how to process proof of vaccination submissions and testing results; and
  • Making sure the process for medical and religious exemptions complies with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and is communicated to employees.

Below are several issues that employers may encounter as they determine whether to address COVID-19 vaccinations.