By Jim Dudlicek
Director, Communications and External Affairs
OSHA recently announced its new emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 vaccination and testing. Though the Biden administration has suspended enforcement of the ETS amid legal challenges, the new standard potentially looms large for employers including independent grocers.
NGA hosted a recent members-only webinar to answer many of the questions independent grocers may have about how this ETS could impact their operations. The discussion was led by Conn Maciel Carey LLP partner Aaron Gelb and associate Dan Deacon.
Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
8 core requirements. Provide PTO for time getting vaccinated and paid sick leave for side-effect recovery; have a written vaccination, testing and face-covering policy; employ a soft vaccine mandate (i.e., proof of fully vaccinated status or a weekly negative test to report to work); require face coverings for unvaccinated workers; facilitate notice, medical removal and return-to-work for COVID cases; provide information to employees about the ETS and related issues; and report all work-related COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths regardless of time between exposure and outcome.
Who is covered? Employers with at least 100 company-wide employees, including part-time, seasonal and other direct-hires regardless of work location. Not covered: Workplaces covered by OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS for health care (through mid-December); workplaces covered by vaccine mandates for federal contractors, employees who work at home or outdoors.
Compliance timeline. By Dec. 6, employers must have a written vaccination policy, provide paid vaccination and recovery time, remove positive cases, require face coverings for unvaccinated employees and confirm vaccination status of workforce. By Jan. 4, begin the testing mandate.
But what about the stay of enforcement? Conn Maciel Carey advises employers to prepare for compliance. Most importantly: Develop written policy, and request and document vaccination status from employees.
Does the ETS recognize “natural immunity”? OSHA says: “While the agency acknowledges that the science is evolving, OSHA finds that there is insufficient evidence to allow the agency to consider infection-acquired immunity to allay the grave danger of exposure to, and reinfection from, SARS-CoV-2.”
NGA members can view a recording of this webinar here.