NGFA delivers priorities for federal implementation of COVID-19 vaccine mandate 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week officially delivered the first draft of its emergency temporary standard (ETS) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. 

The standard implements the president’s Sept. 9 order for a regulation requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to mandate workers get fully vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19. Biden also asked for the rule to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. 

NGFA is a member of the “Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition” led by Conn Maciel Carey LLP. In an Oct. 18 meeting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and representatives from the Department of Labor and the White House, the coalition covered its top five priority issues:
1. The ETS must have a phased-in implementation with the soft vaccine mandate provisions not kicking in until January of 2022 at the earliest.
2. Employers should not be required to pay for time getting tested or the hard costs of testing.
3. The ETS should include flexibility for how employers are required to document vaccine-verification status and test results (including self-attestation).
4. Any documentation collected to comply with this rule should be exempt from the decades-long record preservation requirements for other employee medical records.
5. The rule needs to account for shortages of testing supplies and unavoidable delays in test results (i.e., suspend the soft vaccine mandate requirement during periods of demonstrable shortages and delays in testing capacity).

Individual coalition members including the NGFA, highlighted specific issues in their respective industries, including:
1. Consistency across the states (preemption of conflicting state laws and pushing the state OSH Plans to issue identical rules);
2. Flexibility by employers to continue implementing existing vaccination policies; and
3. A qualified exemption for industries including agriculture, truck drivers, warehouse operators, food manufacturers, and others critical to the nations critical infrastructure supply chain.

After stakeholder meetings conclude and OMB completes its review of the draft text, the preamble and regulatory text will be printed in the Federal Register. It is anticipated that the review will be completed and the regulatory text will be published within the next week. NGFA previously submitted a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Labor Secretary Walsh regarding the ETS.