By January 4, any employer that does not comply with the requirements could face fines of nearly $14,000 for each employee not in compliance.
Private sector employers have been issued a new directive that gives them two months to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or tested weekly. The new directive comes in the wake of a new federal regulation that came into effect on Thursday and will affect over two-thirds of the country’s workforce.
According to a senior administration official, any employer that fails to meet the requirements by January 4, 2022, could face nearly $14,000 in fines for each employee who isn’t in compliance. In addition, unvaccinated employees will also be responsible for the cost of their weekly COVID-19 tests.
The regulation mandates employers to provide paid time off for their workers to get vaccinated and recover from the possible side effects. This will start on December 5, the same day unvaccinated employees must start wearing masks in their various workplaces.
This regulation is set to apply to an estimated 84 million workers, following an executive order from President Joe Biden in September which mandated businesses with a minimum of 100 workers to ensure they are fully vaccinated or adhering to weekly COVID-19 testing. The White House has made this move to encourage vaccination after hospitals reported a surge in coronavirus infections and a spike in deaths over the summer.
The new regulation targeting the private sector has gotten threats of lawsuits from republican attorneys generals and raised concerns amongst businesses about getting enough vaccinations workers in a job market that is already tight.
White House officials have also said that vaccine mandates voluntarily put in place by major companies are proving effective at making people get vaccinated. According to officials, United Airlines, one of the first companies to impose vaccine requirements, now has 99% of its workers vaccinated.
President Biden said in a statement on Thursday, “As we have seen with small and large businesses across all sectors of our economy, a large majority of Americans have chosen to get vaccinated. There have been no mass firings or worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite many people’s predictions and false assertions, the public has largely supported vaccination requirements.
States like Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa have filed lawsuits against the regulation, and the administration has expressed plans to fight them all. White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement: “The administration clearly is authorized to protect workers, and the mandate announced by the president is geared towards saving lives and curbing COVID-19 spread. The Department of Justice (DON) will be defining these laws better. This is a novel virus, and it has taken over 740,000 lives. This administration is trying to save lives with these mandates.”
In the announcement, the White House has also extended the timeline for federal contractors to get fully vaccinated, pushing the date from December 8 to January 4.
Health care workers will also be required to have their employees vaccinated by January 4 if they want to receive payments from Medicare and Medicaid programs as part of a separate executive order that Biden signed in September. Health care workers have no opt-out option, and the rule will apply to more than 17 million people, volunteers, trainees, and contractors even if they do not interact with patients.