The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is advising investors to take a “wait and see” approach to President Joe Biden’s recent order that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing.
BRAC is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to seek clarification on the new rules, which could affect about 350 Capital Region companies and almost 56,000 employees and will be challenged in court.
“There are far more questions than answers,” says Trey Godfrey, BRAC’s senior vice president of policy.
One of the most common questions involves the 100-worker standard. Is that based on the number of actual employees, or the number of full-time equivalents? The answer could make a big difference for companies that are right around the threshold, Godfrey notes.
Another unanswered question: Will companies have to pay for required testing, or will the federal government pick up the tab? The mandate includes exceptions for workers seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination.
Other than health care providers, Capital Region companies generally have encouraged vaccination for their employees but have not required it. Godfrey says he’s not aware of any additional companies implementing mandates.
Within the next few weeks, OSHA is expected to institute an emergency temporary standard, which is a type of rulemaking authority allowable when it determines that workers are in danger because of a particular hazard and that an emergency standard is needed to protect them, Godfrey explains in a letter to BRAC investors. The ETS goes into effect as soon as it is published in the federal register and essentially operates as an interim final rule with authority to circumvent usual rulemaking processes. Barring legal overturn, the rules will remain in effect until superseded by a permanent standard.
BRAC in its letter to investors lists the following unanswered questions:
- What is considered documentation for proof of vaccination, and how will booster shots factor into compliance?
- Will the requirements only apply to vaccines that the FDA fully approves?
- Does the government plan to centralize vaccination tracking?
- What are the consequences of falsifying one’s vaccination status or test results?
- What is considered suitable documentation for a negative test result?
- Should employees choose not to vaccinate, is the company or employee responsible for securing and paying for testing?
- When will the requirements be formally issued?
- Do the new federal requirements include exemptions for religious beliefs and disabilities?
- Does the order cover independent contractors?
- Are there any acceptable alternatives, such as working from home?
- How will exemptions for religious or health reasons be handled?
- Is there adequate testing capacity to accommodate the weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated? And who would pay for required testing?
You can see BRAC’s fact sheet about the mandate here.