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11/15/2021

Views on the Vaccine mandate

A hot topic generates a record level of reader response.

The Biden Administration's new rules on employee vaccinations is generating high doses of opinions, criticisms, and, most recently, lawsuits.

diagram, engineering drawing
Legal challenges are mounting against a vaccine mandate, but the end-results are unclear.

Under the ETS, covered employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.

The emergency temporary standard — read it here — covers employers with 100 or more employees – firm or company-wide – and provides options for compliance. 

The sweeping new rules have generated controversy and the ire of various business groups, which object to excessive costs and an exasperated labor situation. 

A recent HBSDealer poll on the topic generated a record number of votes – 705, at last count.

The plurality of respondents “strongly oppose” (45%) the measure.

Source: HBSDealer poll question; n=705

The legal challenges are playing out rapidly. As widely reported, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 12 blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from implementing its vaccine mandate, which was announced Nov. 4.

Readers Responod

HBSDealer readers shared their views on the ETM.

Kent Porter writes: “If we have to prove that our employees are vaccinated, against a virus that has a 1.62% mortality rate (from the New York Times) then why are we not asking for the vax status of these diseases as well (statistics from CBS News):
• Tetanus - 18.2% mortality, no. 26 most deadly;
• Meningococcal Meningitis, 15% mortality, no. 24 most deadly;
• TB - 15% mortality rate,  no. 23 most deadly;
• Smallpox - 30% mortality, no. 18 most deadly;
• Bird Flu - 60% mortality, no. 6 most deadly.
All of these have vaccinations available, yet we don't ask about these or require our employees to have these.  Why? I believe HIPPA prevents us from doing it."

Rob Gardiner, president of Damariscotta Hardware, writes: "While I oppose a mandatory vaccine for people, I think the way to entice more to get vaccinated is to incentivize it. Lower health care premiums or tax credits for employees."

The OSHA “Emergency Temporary Standard,” in the words of the 5th Circuit judges, "imposes a financial burden upon them by deputizing their participation in OSHA's regulatory scheme, exposes them to severe financial risk if they refuse or fail to comply, and threatens to decimate their workforces—and business prospects—by forcing unwilling employees to take their shots, take their tests, or hit the road.”

But that’s not the last word on the legal challenges to the new rule, which may play out in a different jurisdiction, and ultimately in the Supreme Court. And numerous associations and bodies, including the Society for Human Resource Management, suggest it's best for companies to prepare for the rules.

“Legal challenges to the ETS have been and will be made, but until these challenges are resolved, employers must prepare for compliance,” writes SHRM.

The National Retail Federation voiced its opposition: “Since the president’s announcement of the vaccine mandate for private industry, the seven-day average number of cases in the United States has plummeted by more than half,” it wrote. “Nevertheless, the Biden administration has chosen to declare an emergency and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season.”

(Read the full statement here.)

At the other end of the spectrum, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union wrote: “Too may essential and frontline workers’ lives continue to be on the line in this pandemic, and having a standard to protect workers across the board is critical.”

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealer Association is among the industry associations watching the situation unfold.

NLBMDA continues to have major concerns related to the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) including the impact on labor, access to testing kits, the burden of implementation on small businesses, and the associated costs,” said NLBMDA President & CEO Jonathan Paine. “We were pleased to see that OSHA and the White House took NLBMDA’s recommendation to omit remote workers and those working outdoors from the ETS requirements as well as to not require employers to pay for testing.”

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