Federal Covid Vaccine Mandate UPDATE


Yesterday OSHA published the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for employers of greater than 100 employees, this ETS will apply to Absher.  The ETS outlines the requirements for employers to adopt a policy that mandates all employees get vaccinated for COVID-19 by 1/4/2022 but allows employers to include in their policy an option for unvaccinated employees to elect to test weekly. Since Washington is not a Federal OSHA state, the rules that will apply to us will come from Washington Labor & Industries via WISHA (Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act). L&I has 30 days to issue their policy.  Our Washington rules could be stricter than the OSHA rules but, at this time, we don’t expect them to be. 

Please recall the email I posted on October 25th where I communicated details on the three separate mandates that apply to Absher. In brief summary there is one State mandate, one federal mandate that applies to federal contractors (which is very likely to apply to us in the future) and this newly released OSHA ETS requirement. Please reference back to that email for details on all of the mandates.  Also note that the date for the federal contractor mandate was pushed back to January 4th to align with the date of the OSHA ETS.

We are still reviewing the 600 plus pages that detail this ETS and will have a more complete understanding of the impact to our business and each of you in the near future. Please also understand that the State will adopt a version of this ETS that might impact how we implement the new requirements, so the situation remains fluid.

We supplied some answers to questions you might have:

Q: Will Absher adopt a complete vaccine mandate or allow for the optional weekly testing?

A:  While we want everyone to get vaccinated, our policy will allow for testing if it remains an option in the rules adopted for Washington and / or isn’t overruled by the Federal Contractor requirements.

Q: What is the definition of “vaccinated” under these rules?

A: Anyone who has received all doses required for their vaccine regimen (2 doses for Pfizer/Moderna, 1 for Johnson & Johnson) by 1/4/22 will be considered vaccinated and will not need to test.

Q: Who pays for the cost of weekly testing for unvaccinated employees?

A: Employees will be expected to cover the cost of weekly testing.

Q: Will I be paid for the time spent getting tested? 

A: Testing will not be compensated time.  However, as required by the ETS, Absher will pay for up to 4 hours to get vaccinated and reasonable time and paid leave to recover from side effects experienced following each dose.

Q: If I have been granted an approved disability or religious exemption, do I still need to test?

A: Yes, all unverified/unvaccinated employees will be required to test weekly.

Q: How long will this ETS be in place

A:  The ETS can be updated and is expected to be in place as long as COVID-19 is considered by OSHA to be a grave danger in the workplace.

As a reminder, if you are vaccinated, please be sure to submit your proof of vaccination to HR.  Under both State and Federal laws, we can only consider employees as vaccinated once they have been verified by our HR department.

Thank you and we’ll continue to update you with additional details,

Jeff Richards