The Biden Administration Issues Several Executive Orders Requiring Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination
On September 9, 2021, the Biden Administration issued several Executive Orders which impact more than 100 million workers in an effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The two Executive Orders, Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees and Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors were highlighted during a Presidential press conference.
During his announcement, President Biden said that there are more than 80 million Americans, who are not vaccinated. As a result he stated that “it is essential that Federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public.” Additionally, the President stated he issued these orders “to promote the health and safety of the Federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service, it is necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.”
The orders will require that all Federal employees and employees of Federal Contractors mandate vaccination. The President stated that if businesses and individuals want to work with the federal government, they must be vaccinated. Under the order, The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force), will issue guidance to all covered agencies consistent with these Orders within seven (7) days.
The President also announced that the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) will be issuing emergency rules that will require employers of 100 or more employees to require vaccination or mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for all workers. Additionally, the President announced that he is expanding requirements for employers to provide paid leave to employees so that they can obtain the COVID-19 vaccinations. He provided no details on how much the paid leave requirement will be expanded.
Lastly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will be expanding the vaccination requirements for healthcare facilities that bill Medicare. Currently, the Biden Administration requires that all long-term care staff working for facilities that bill Medicare must be vaccinated against COVID-19. In the latest announcement, CMS stated that it will be expanding the mandatory vaccination requirements to other Medicare-certified facilities, including hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, and others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued sometime in October.
The President’s expanded COVID-19 plan follows numerous states, such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, and several others that have already enacted mandatory vaccination requirements for healthcare, county or municipal, and long-term care workers. Many of states that have enacted mandatory vaccination requirements provided for no vaccination exceptions, or made provisions for medical exceptions to the vaccination requirements.
We will not know the specific vaccine mandate requirements under these new rules until the Task Force, the U.S. DOL, and CMS publishes these emergency rules. It is important for employers to understand that they are still required to engage any employee seeking an accommodation from the mandatory vaccination requirements in the interactive process as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. We recommend employers follow a consistent documented process and seek legal advice when handling any accommodation requests.
We will continue to monitor developments with these new requirements. Be sure to contact the AAA if you have questions about these Executive Orders or need assistance in ensuring you are in compliance.