Jan. 4 Vaccination Deadline Set for Private Sector Employers; NRF Pushes Back Against Mandate
The Biden administration said on Thursday that large companies (those with 100 or more employees) have until Jan. 4 to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated under a sweeping new coronavirus health measure that will cover 84 million private sector workers, including an estimated 31 million workers who are currently unvaccinated. The plan was first announced in September by President Biden, who directed the Labor Department to invoke its emergency powers over the safety of workplaces to require businesses to mandate vaccinations for most employees. Workers who refuse to get vaccinated must undergo weekly testing. Companies that fail to comply may be subject to fines, a White House official said. An OSHA penalty is typically $13,653 for every serious violation, but can be up to 10 times that amount if OSHA determines that the violation is willful or repeated.
Total Retail's Take: This measure will obviously have immediate impact on the retail industry, the country's largest private sector employer. The industry is still recovering from the impact the coronavirus has had on brick-and-mortar retail, and employers will now be challenged to comply with a vaccination mandate that figures to significantly impact businesses with large hourly workforces (e.g., store associates, warehouse staff). The National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry's largest trade association, released a statement blasting the government mandate.
“Over the past 19 months, retailers across the country have taken extraordinary measures to keep their employees, customers and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic," said the NRF's Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French. "As part of these efforts, retailers have distributed, encouraged, incentivized and, in some instances, mandated the vaccine. 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. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has chosen to declare an ‘emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season.
“As an industry that supports one in four American jobs, retailers have consistently requested that the administration take public comment on this new vaccine mandate. Last month, NRF met with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and stressed the importance of feasibility of implementation for employers. It's critical that the rule not cause unnecessary disruption to the economy, exacerbate the preexisting workforce shortage, or saddle retailers, which are already taking considerable steps to keep their employees and customers safe, with needless additional requirements and regulatory burdens.”