Biden announces federal vaccine mandate
The Biden administration will require private businesses with 100 or more employees to have their workers vaccinated against the coronavirus. The move is part of a series of action the administration is taking to curb a rise of infections nationwide.
The president is basing the mandate on emergency powers granted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to the Wall Street Journal:
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the coming weeks plans to issue an emergency temporary standard implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers. Businesses that don’t comply can face fines of up to $14,000 per violation.
The employers will also have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.
The Biden administration is relying on its powers under OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards code, which allows it to immediately enact a rule if “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards.”
That regulation is enacted for six months until a final rule that goes through usual rulemaking procedures can be approved. In the past, the agency has faced litigation over some of its emergency temporary standards.
Republican elected officials have promised to sue the federal government to block such mandates. As Cato’s Walter Olson notes, many of these same officials have embraced bans of their own aimed at preventing private businesses from enforcing vaccine mandates on their workers.
For a look at the powers OSHA has to create and enforce such a mandate, check out this long-ish article on just how much power Congress explicitly and willingly gave the agency.
And for a look at whether the courts might go along with OSHA enforcing the proposed mandate under the Emergency Temporary Standards code, check out this Congressional Research Service report.