This is an update to our article of September 21, 2021: “President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan: What Private Sector Employers Need to Know About Workforce Vaccination Requirements.”
What is the status of the various federal mandates?
We are still waiting on the emergency temporary standard from OSHA, which will elaborate on the mandate applicable to employers of 100 or more employees requiring that all employees be either vaccinated or undergo periodic testing. That standard could be issued any day now.
Healthcare providers are also waiting on the specifics from CMS related to the mandate applicable to recipients of Medicare and Medicaid funds. Previous reports said this rule would be issued in October, meaning it could come in the next two days.
Federal government contractors are already under a deadline of December 8 to have all employees vaccinated. This mandate has been getting a lot of attention by virtue of its application to football coaches at universities who receive federal funds.
What is the impact of Governor Ivey’s Executive Order?
There really is none. Governor Ivey issued an Executive Order on October 25, 2021. That order can be found here. Executive Order No. 724 Her order does not attempt to derail any of the above federal initiatives, as she has no legal authority to do so. Her order simply declares her administration’s opposition to government mandates and encourages agencies of the state to resist them. Those following her lead could be in violation of federal law.
Is the new EEOC guidance on religious accommodations helpful?
Not really. Also on October 25, the EEOC issued additional guidance on accommodating religious objections to a mandatory vaccination policy. That guidance can be found here. https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/ This guidance really does not change what the EEOC has always said about accommodating religious beliefs in the workplace. The guidance simply applies those general principles to the Covid vaccine and testing policies. It also does not address to what extent accommodations and/or exemption will be allowed under the federal mandates discussed above. Those issues will have to be addressed by OHSA and CMS.
We will issue additional guidance once OSHA and CMS take further action.
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