What Happened With The Biden Administration Recently And Their Announcement On Vaccine Mandates?
The Biden Administration recently announced their intention to mandate vaccination in certain contexts with an Executive Order. The exact details of the mandate are still being worked out. However, as of right now, the Executive Order stands to mandate that certain employers with over 100 employees will be required to make vaccination a condition of employment.
Some may wonder why the 100-employee number is significant, or why it was chosen as the cut-off for this proposed mandate. The reason has to do with how Executive Orders work, and how the President is imbued with authority to make them.
Specifically, the President and the Executive Branch of the government get their authority to manage and execute mandates through laws that dictate and direct interstate commerce. The executive branch of the federal government really only has the right to intercede in these matters if they stand to affect interstate commerce. The Department of Labor has determined that businesses with 100 employees will more likely than not be conducting interstate commerce.
Interstate commerce in this context refers to things like which credit card a company accepts, or the ways in which a company may do business using the mail or the telephone. Using or accepting tools in a way that extends your business over state lines gives the federal government much more regulatory authority over your business.
Pointedly, some businesses with 100 or more employees—for instance, local school districts—are not generally subject to this mandate. This is because their business is conducted solely within a given state. Despite having 100 or more employees, they don’t necessarily deal with interstate commerce. This means that the federal government. Therefore, the federal government could mandate that, for instance, the Broward County School District get vaccinated, but that would be under the state governor’s purview if the school district does not conduct interstate commerce.
Another avenue that is being pursued by the Biden administration is executing the mandate through OSHA as a workplace safety issue. OSHA violations are federal matters, and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The fines are fairly high for an OSHA violation, so employers are taking this method of enforcement rather seriously. Potential OSHA violations and the ensuing fines have had a very strong impact on many employers. In fact, many have tried to get ahead of these potential violations and mandate vaccinations as a condition of employment on their own, rather than waiting for an Executive Order or mandate from Biden to pass.
The question that is now being posed is whether or not the Executive Branch or President has the power to make this sort of mandate or Executive Order. The fact is, whether or not such a mandate/EO passes, it will certainly be litigated by those who oppose it. It will be litigated first in the District Courts, and then up through the District Courts of Appeals, and ultimately all the way up to the particular Supreme Courts in each given state, and then onward to the United States Supreme Court.
The answer to where rights lie in all of this is quite complicated. On the one hand, Biden is really focusing in on workplace safety element of all of this, stressing that employees have the right not to be put in danger by coworkers who refuse to get vaccinated. On the other hand, there are individual protective rights as far as whether or not injecting a vaccine into a person’s body can be required as a condition of employment.
It should be an interesting next couple of months watching this all unfold. Personally, in terms of my views and my analysis of the situation, I think that the mandate will probably uphold in certain circumstances, and may not in other circumstances.
Obviously, for federal employees and people that work for the federal government, I think that the vaccine mandate is going to stand up. However, just because an employer has 100 or more employees does not mean that they will necessarily require vaccination as a prerequisite for employment.
We must remember that we have never seen anything like this in recent American historical memory, and that the situation changes every day. As such, there is a vey “wait-and-see” approach being taken in these matters.
I always recommend that people stay tuned and keep up to date on all new information. One of the best ways that you can keep up with all the latest information on COVID-19 and potential vaccine mandates is by visiting our website or calling our office on the phone for an update. Things do change rapidly, and the information you get today may not necessarily be good, useful, or relevant down the road. It is essential to remember that this is really a fluid situation that is still in the process of evolving and progressing.
What Is The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Position On Whether Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws Can Prevent An Employer From Requiring All Employees Who Physically Enter The Workplace To Be Vaccinated?
The EEOC position is generally that employers can mandate the vaccine as a condition of employment in the right circumstances. However, as is the case in many positions on this matter, there are exceptions to the general rule.
In the case of the EEOC’s position, there are two main exceptions: arguments for religious exemption, and arguments for medical exemption.
- Medical Exemption: Medical exemptions originate in the rights given to the American people by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has a number of laws that protect people who have what they define as a disability, which is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one, several, or most major life activities.
Where this comes into play with vaccine mandates is that you may be able to claim medical exemption from vaccines. Specifically, if you have a certain health condition that the vaccine may exacerbate, or if you are uniquely vulnerable to developing harmful side effects or new harmful syndromes or conditions because of the vaccine, you could apply for medical exemption from vaccines as a condition of employment under the ADA.
- Religious Exemption: Religious exemptions may apply to those who have sincerely held religious beliefs that interfere or conflict with a mandated issue. This is increasingly coming into play when it comes to supposed religious objections to the vaccine.
For instance, many people are now claiming religious exemption from vaccination as a condition of employment because the vaccine was allegedly tested using fetal cells, and the objectors allegedly object on the basis of their objection to abortion and/or stem cell usage.
There is also a myriad of other reasons why people claim to have a religious conflict with the vaccine mandate.
Employers who want—or are required—to mandate vaccination as a condition to employment are obligated to make accommodations for employees to request religious or medical accommodations. However, the requests are not automatically approved, and there are limitations as to which accommodation requests employers actually have to accept. So far, though, the general rule has been that exemptions should be granted UNLESS they pose a hardship or any more than a very minor cost to the employer.
For more information on Employment Laws & COVID Vaccination, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (954) 546-7608 today.