Businesses anxiously await the fine print of the vax-or test rule

More than six weeks after promising a new vaccination-or-testing rule covering the millions of Americans at companies with 100 or more workers, President Joe Biden's most aggressive move yet to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is almost ready to see the light of day.

Businesses anxiously await the fine print of the vax-or test rule

A White House office in an obscure location is expected to approve the rule's fine print, detailing when and how companies must require employees to get vaccinated.

The new year may bring the full enforcement deadline. This could mean that penalties up to $14,000 per violation will not be imposed. Biden and his staff have been encouraging businesses for weeks to pretend that the rule is already in place and to impose vaccination requirements.

The Federal Register will publish the regulation. It was drafted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration in an emergency to protect worker safety. It will apply to approximately 80 million U.S. workers. It is a powerful tool that the White House views as a way to narrow down the 65 million Americans who are refusing to be given a chance.

Private sector employees will not face termination if their vaccines aren't obtained. This is in contrast to federal and healthcare workers who may not have an alternative. Some businesses might impose a more strict vaccination mandate. Businesses may allow employees to pay weekly COVID-19 testing.

Officials at the White House declined to comment on the publication date or give details about when businesses must comply.

Federal officials hosted over two dozen listening sessions for industry groups, businesses, and advocacy organizations in the last week. While some have supported the rule while others are strongly opposed, all are keen to find out more about the regulations.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with other organizations representing large employers, is concerned that the proposal's threshold - which applies to companies with more than 100 employees - could lead to workers moving to smaller jobs where they won’t be required to get vaccinated.

Marc Freedman (Vice President for Employment Policy at the Chamber of Commerce), stated that "we really stressed the concern regarding employers losing employees, as well as what that would mean in context of current supply chain challenges and the coming holiday season." "You might see some very serious disruptions."

Freedman was part of the chamber's conference call with administration officials. He said that the 100-worker threshold would also hinder job creation, giving employers with 90 or 95 employees an excuse not to grow.

United Airlines' experience and that of health-care providers who acted quickly to mandate vaccination suggest that few employees will be forced to quit their jobs due to a vaccine mandate. United states that about 200 of its 67,000 workers in the United States are at risk for being fired if they refuse to get vaccinated. Another 2,000 are still seeking religious or medical exemptions.

After a series of legal challenges from state employees and first responders' Unions, the deadlines for state government vaccination mandates came into effect in Washington state and Massachusetts this week.

Officials said that the Washington state patrol lost 127 staff members, including 67 troopers. This was due to the COVID-19 mandate for state employees. It is about 6% of its staff.

This mandate from the Northwest state also resulted in the firing of Nick Rolovich, Washington State football coach, and four of his assistants. They wouldn't be vaccinated.

Nearly 1,600 Massachusetts state employees hadn't proved that they had been vaccinated by the Sunday deadline. Republican Governor. Charlie Baker announced that 44,000 contractors and executive branch workers would have to be vaccinated. If they fail to do so, they could lose their jobs.

The National Association of Manufacturers believes that companies should be given credit, or an exemption from the rules, for taking steps early to ensure that workers are vaccinated. Manufacturers expressed concern that they might see higher quit rates due to the fact that many plants are in rural areas, where there is more opposition to vaccination.

Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations are pushing for the administration to allow employers to pay weekly COVID-19 testing.

Robyn Boerstling (NAM vice president) stated that "a lot of our members believe strongly that the vaccine can be widely available, it's free, so if someone chooses not to vaccinate potentially the onus of testing can and should lie on the employee who made the decision not to vaccinate." Employers should cover testing for employees who have a medical condition or "proven and valid" religious reason to request an exemption.

However, business groups aren't optimistic about the test-cost issue because OSHA has a history making employers pay for new regulations.

Retailers are concerned about when the new regulations will be in effect. This is as they prepare for the holiday season. They are trying to push the rule's effectiveness date forward into next year.

Many people who participated in discussions with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (which is currently reviewing the proposal) said that they didn't get any indications whether the administration would listen to their arguments. The participants described conference-call meetings, which were virtual due to the pandemic, in which White House staffers listened but did not respond.

The business community is yet to respond once the final rule has been published.

According to business officials, legal challenges are more likely from Republican-led states like Texas. Alfredo Ortiz (president and CEO of the conservative Job Creators Network) reiterated Tuesday his promise to sue the White House to stop the rule's implementation. Last month, two dozen GOP attorneys general pledged to use "every legal option" in order to stop the mandate.