“While no federal rule has been promulgated, we do have concerns about significant financial penalties that could be forced on employers who are already doing their best to navigate constantly changing rules and guidance,” Denzler said in an emailed statement Friday.
Jim Sullivan, a Washington, D.C.-based labor attorney and the former chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission during the Trump administration, said OSHA is expected to create an emergency standard and make the rule effective within weeks. He then expects it will be immediately challenged in court and “ultimately shot down.”
At this point, many questions remain about the costs to employers, the specific requirements and how the mandate might be enforced, Sullivan said.
“It’s just an effort by the administration to use OSHA as a mechanism to get people to require their employees be vaccinated,” Sullivan said. “I think what their intent is, is to have people just do it. And they’re not going to do it through enforcement.”
An August survey conducted by Littler, a labor and employment law firm, found that only 9% of employers are currently mandating vaccines for some or all of their employees, but nearly two-thirds are encouraging employees to get the vaccine.
Barry Hartstein, a Chicago-based attorney for Littler, said the Biden mandate will likely encourage more companies to take their policies from voluntary to mandatory.
“This is one more basis that may give those who are inclined to have mandatory vaccinations to say it’s time,” Hartstein said. “If they weren’t in favor of vaccinations, it may still be a wait-and-see approach.”
For employers still processing the proposed vaccine mandate, reactions were generally muted, but supportive.
Ford requires every employee to wear a mask inside its work facilities, but its vaccination policy is mostly voluntary, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.
“Ford continues to strongly encourage all employees who are eligible to get vaccinated,” Felker said in an emailed statement Friday. “We believe the vaccine plays a critical role in combating the virus and have already designated some roles where we require the vaccine. We will be assessing the new executive actions to determine what adjustments need to be taken to our current vaccination policy as we continue to prioritize the safety of our employees.”