OSHA Vaccine Mandate Struck Down by Supreme Court
California is one of the most progressive states in the entire country. Due to their extensive laws, employers must consider various factors to ensure that they are treating their dental practice employees right. Failure to do so could lead to stiff legal and financial penalties, and may make it harder for your practice to attract the talent you need.
On Thursday, January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Biden's proposed OSHA vaccine mandate for large businesses. The law would have required employees at private companies with over 100 team members to get a full COVID-19 vaccination or undergo a test every week.
The blocked mandate will impact practices across the United States. For example, a billing assistant at a dental practice doesn't, by federal law, have to test herself for COVID-19 every week. Read on to learn about the new requirements and how they will impact your team members.
The OSHA Vaccine Mandate As It Stands Right Now
As of now, the Supreme Court has blocked the proposed OSHA vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees and is not in effect. In other words, federal law doesn't require employees at, say, a large veterinary clinic to get the COVID-19 vaccination or undergo a test once a week. Local requirements at the state, county, or municipal levels of government, however, might override this federal decision, so practice owners should research requirements in their specific location.
The Biden administration said this mandate would have helped fight the pandemic. However, the court thought the mandate overextended the administration's authority.
What should you do if your employee refuses the COVID-19 vaccine? Get more advice from HR for Health here.
How Do These Changes to the OSHA Vaccine Mandate Affect Your Practice?
If you work in a practice with over 100 employees, but don't offer Medicare and Medicaid programs (see below), there are currently no legal requirements for employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or a weekly test. Practice owners, however, can encourage or require employees to get vaccinated or be tested if they wish (unless a state or local rule forbids this).
Updating your COVID-19 vaccination, testing, self-isolation, and quarantine procedures in employee handbooks can improve communication between you and your employees and stop the spread of the virus. HR for Health lets you create handbooks with downloadable templates for staying compliant. Learn more here.
The Complicated History of the OSHA Vaccine Mandate
The recent Supreme Court ruling is the latest development in the ongoing controversy of vaccine mandates. In September 2021, President Biden announced a plan for the Department of Labor to require all businesses with over 100 employees to test team members once a week or ensure full vaccination status. The plan, called the OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS), included financial penalties for companies that didn't comply.
In November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenged Biden's "fatally flawed" mandate, arguing that the Occupational Health and Safety Act doesn't authorize mandatory vaccinations. Other federal appeals courts also contested the rule, and the case moved to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In December, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended enforcement of the mandate until the new year.
The Department of Labor continues to support the OSHA ETS rule:
“I am disappointed in the court’s decision, which is a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country," says U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
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What Else You Should Know About the OSHA Vaccine Mandate
Despite the blocking of the above mandate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requires healthcare employees at facilities participating in government-funded healthcare services to be vaccinated. That rule has gone into effect nationwide.
The most recent guidance says team members at practices that participate in government-funded healthcare services (including nursing homes) must have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, February 14. Team members must have both doses of the vaccine by Tuesday, March 15.
Affected practices — such as a doctor's office that accepts Medicare-approved payments from patients — that don't abide by this rule could be terminated by Medicare and Medicaid programs. (Nursing homes are subject to financial penalties if they do not comply.)
The Supreme Court has blocked the OSHA vaccine mandate, meaning practices with over 100 employees don't have to require team members to be tested weekly or get vaccinated. This doesn't change the fact that you can still impose a vaccination mandate policy in your practice (unless state and local rules prevent you from doing this). There are also separate rules from the CMS.
Whether you are legally required to follow a vaccination policy in your practice or choose to implement one, HR for Health has a range of tools that can help. These tools include:
- Vaccination templates and declination forms.
- The ability to track absences such as partial absences when employees receive a vaccine. This can help you determine how to compensate employees for travel time.
- The opportunity to save documents such as vaccination mandates, proof of vaccination, and health and safety policies in a secure environment.
If you have questions about practice management, HR for Health can help. Schedule your HR consultation online, or call 877-779-4747 and select option one.
Disclaimer: The above information pertains to vaccine mandates and requirements from the federal government. There might be state or local vaccination or testing rules that will impact your practice.