UPDATE: On Jan. 13, 2022, the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden's administration from enforcing the vaccinate-or-test mandate. The court is still allowing the administration to require COVID-19 vaccinations for most health care workers in the United States. Businesses, however, are no longer required to mandate vaccines or COVID-19 tests for employees.
The story originally published on Nov. 9, 2021 appears below.
The Biden administration on Nov. 4 released details of its highly anticipated vaccinate-or-test mandate for larger private employers. Under the rule, businesses with 100 or more employees have until Jan. 4, 2022, to ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week and wear a mask.
Following the release of the new rules, many people had questions, including LeeAnn, who emailed the VERIFY team wondering if businesses could face fines for not complying with the regulation.
Can businesses be fined for not complying with the Biden administration’s vaccinate-or-test mandate?
Yes, businesses covered by the vaccinate-or-test mandate can be fined for not complying.
WHAT WE FOUND
The vaccinate-or-test mandate is an “emergency temporary standard” issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – a regulatory arm of the Department of Labor.
During a call with the press, which was published Nov. 4 on the White House’s website, Biden administration officials answered questions about the enforcement of the new regulation.
A senior administration official told reporters that OSHA will enforce the rule through inspections as it does with other workplace-related policies. The official said inspections often come after OSHA receives a complaint, but that the agency also conducts some planned inspections.
“The penalties that would be issued as a result of those inspections, if we find some deficiencies in the program, are commensurate with any other penalties that we have in place for other standards,” the official said.
The total amount of fines a business could face for not following the rule would be dependent on the number of violations there were, as well as whether those violations were “willful.” OSHA describes willful violations as penalties in which “an employer has intentionally disregarded its obligations or exhibited a plain indifference to employee safety or health.”
According to OSHA’s website, the penalty for a serious violation is up to $13,653 per violation. The fine for a willful violation is up to $136,532 per violation. The Biden senior administration official also confirmed those are the fines businesses can face for not following the mandate.
OSHA says the new directive is necessary to protect workers “through the most effective and efficient control available – vaccination – and further protects workers who remain unvaccinated through required regular testing, use of face coverings, and removal of all infected employees from the workplace.”