By Theresa Rabbia
On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order in hopes to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the nation since early 2020. Specifically, this mandate requires all federal employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by December 8, 2021. President Biden has continued to take steps to boost vaccination rates. He is currently working on implementing a six-pronged plan with the hopes of finally defeating this pandemic that has taken the lives of over 700,000 Americans.
Specifically, President Biden is seeking to require all employers with over one hundred employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated, and if not, then to ensure their workers are being tested weekly. In order to incentivize this aspect of the plan, another part is to require employers to provide paid time off to their employees to receive the vaccine.
President Biden is working with The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop this rule. Some may ask the question as to how the government is able to enforce something like this upon privately owned business entities. OSHA is able to do this by issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).
The OSH Act of 1970 authorizes the secretary to implement ETS’s if the secretary determines “that employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger.” However, OSHA does not have jurisdiction over every state in the US. Ultimately, this emergency temporary standard will only affect private businesses with over one hundred employees in 29 states plus the District of Columbia and additional territories. However, states that are not governed by federal OSHA are still able to adopt the Emergency Temporary Standard.
As of October 13, 2021, the Emergency Temporary Standard has yet to take effect as it needs to be approved by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Once it is approved, it will be in effect immediately. Ultimately, this has the potential to affect over 80 million employees and could significantly reduce the number of positive COVID cases within businesses as the world is transitioning back to in-person work.
While the approval of this Emergency Temporary Standard will provide This potential vaccine mandate has received significant backlash from several Republican legislators and American citizens in general. Specifically, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas issued an executive order saying “no entity” is authorized to issue COVID-19 vaccine mandates. If the Emergency Temporary Standard is in fact approved, this executive order would contradict directly with it leaving the state of Texas with conflicting information. Governor Abbot contends that the vaccine is a personal choice and should never be forced upon unwilling citizens.
No matter what happens, it is safe to say that there will not be full support and compliance in every situation regarding this matter. As said many times before, we are living in unprecedented times, but these are the formative times that will shape legal precedent for decades to come.
 President Biden’s Executive Order Dated September 9, 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/09/executive-order-on-requiring-coronavirus-disease-2019-vaccination-for-federal-employees/