A much-awaited ruling from the Supreme Court arrived Thursday, January 13, delivering the final decision about Biden’s proposed vaccine mandates. The mandates in question were:
- Employers with 100 or more employees require COVID-19 vaccinations
- Health care workers in Medicare- or Medicaid-funded facilities are required to be vaccinated.
The Court blocked the first mandate, but passed the second. This policy replaces any previous inconsistent state or local laws, including laws that ban or limit an employer for demanding vaccination, masks or testing.
What this means for employers
The Supreme Court found the first mandate, which was in partnership with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to be overstepping the authority Congress has allowed this organization. However, though the Court blocked the mandate, its decision does not make it illegal for employers to require vaccination if they so choose.
The mandate to impose a vaccination requirement on health care workers in facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs was in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Contrary to its decision about the first mandate, the Supreme Court ruled that this regulation aligns with the responsibility of the DHS and will help ensure the health and safety of patients.
How to navigate vaccination and masking policies
Whether you’re required by law to expect vaccination or decide to implement this requirement within your business, it helps to follow a few best practices for employees to adopt the required behaviors. You always run the risk of losing staff who decide to quit due to a vaccine requirement. However, a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that just five percent of unvaccinated employees, and just one percent of employees overall, decided to quit due to a vaccine mandate from their employer. Long story short, the situation isn’t as bleak as you may think.
Best practices can help smooth the transition for employees and make it as positive as possible, such as the following:
- Communicate clearly and often. It’s important to let your employees know what you expect of them, and by when they need to comply. Disseminate information to department leaders to review with their teams and send out company emails. Explain why you’re requiring vaccines, when employees need to be compliant by, where they can get vaccinated and what next steps are if they’d don’t.
- Show leadership support. It’s difficult to expect employees to follow guidelines if they don’t see leadership doing the same. Emails from senior leaders about the importance of vaccination and why they’ve chosen to get vaccinated can be helpful.
- Consult your legal counsel. Understand religious and medical exemptions, and the possibility of being sued. Take steps to work with your legal counsel to be sure you’re prepared before you issue a vaccine requirement.
- Communicate how testing will be covered. Regular COVID-19 testing has become part of the protocol of many companies. The federal government has recently issued a program that allows people to order up to four testing kits per household for free. Some pharmacies also offer free testing, while others charge. It can help to keep non-vaccinated employees compliant with testing requirements if you cover the cost of testing (beyond the free kits from the government)
- Provide PPE. Personal protective equipment helps prevent the spread of germs, and under the new mandate, masks are required for non-vaccinated employees in your workplace. By providing masks, you’ll help ensure compliance with employees wearing them.
To learn more, check out our Checklist for Complying with OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements!
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