President’s Executive Orders Include New Mandates for Larger Employers

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On Thursday, September 9th, President Biden announced a series of executive orders to combat COVID-19.

The orders include the following:
• Employers with more than 100 employees will need to require that employees be vaccinated or verify weekly testing
• Employers with more than 100 employees need to provide paid time off for vaccinations and recovery
• Federal employees are required to get vaccinated within 75 days or risk termination (which would remove the option for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination)
• Federal employee vaccination requirement are extended to federal contractors
• Medicare and Medicaid funding recipients are required to fully vaccinate their staff
• Schools are urged to set up regular testing based on community spread
• Free COVID testing will be expanded

A document summarizing the orders can be found here.

On Friday, September 10th, Seema Nanda, Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Labor, explained to a group of chambers of commerce that the orders related to private employers will be implemented via an OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in a matter of weeks, not months. Once live, it is effective immediately, except for the 22 states that have a state plan (Pennsylvania is not among those 22 states). In those states, the state has 30 days to adopt an equally protective policy or implement the federal ETS. The public comment period will begin once the ETS is announced and thus effective. 

The Chamber has expressed concerns to the U.S. Chamber and Congressman Dan Meuser’s office about the additional burdens and costs to employers and raised questions about enforcement and testing. The legality of the President’s orders is also being questioned. The U.S. Chamber is compiling questions/concerns to share with the Department of Labor. Those questions can be sent to [email protected].

PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued a statement about various ambiguities in the plan.

“Our organization shares questions and concerns about this plan with the rest of the nation’s business community – including whether employers will have access to funding to help pay for expanded testing; how penalties for non-compliance will be enforced; and – perhaps most notably – whether liability protections exist for businesses acting in compliance with the latest round of OSHA standards,” Barr said.

The Chamber will provide additional details as they become available, though the Department of Labor did not indicate when those details might be released.