Companies with more than 100 employees have until Jan. 4, 2022 to comply with a vaccine mandate announced by the Biden administration.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking businesses to prepare a plan.
Employers must ensure that all workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If not, employees will have to undergo weekly testing and wear a face covering.
“We're pretty confident the administration clearly has the authority to protect workers and actions announced by the president are designed to save lives and stop spread of COVID,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary.
OSHA said this emergency temporary standard will protect more than 84 million workers from the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.
"If you take the fact that mandates work and vaccines absolutely save lives, the answer to your question is yes, it does save lives,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
According to OSHA, businesses must provide employees paid time off to get vaccinated and paid leave to recover from side effects. The standard does not require employers to pay for testing.
“Threshold of 100 employees or so just off the top of my head, I’d say in the Santa Maria Valley, we have about a dozen businesses that will be immediately impacted,” explained Glenn Morris, President of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.
In a statement, Home Depot said they are reviewing the details of the mandate to see how they will comply with the new standard.
“We’re communicating regularly with our associates to gather information on COVID-19 vaccination status, encourage vaccination, and provide information and resources to make it easier for our associates to get the vaccine,” added Margaret Smith, a spokesperson for Home Depot.
However, organizations like the National Retail Federation are calling this mandate burdensome as the holidays are coming up.
“It is critical that the rule not cause unnecessary disruption to the economy, exacerbate the preexisting workforce shortage or saddle retailers, who are already taking considerable steps to keep their employees and customers safe, with needless, additional requirements and regulatory burdens,” said David French, Senior Vice President for Government Relations with the National Retail Federation.
Locally, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is working to keep companies informed.
“We feel like that’s one of the values we can provide to the business community is to be that gateway and help curate all the information and sources that are coming out and package that up in a way that is trustworthy, accurate and timely,” Morris added.
OSHA is recommending employers plan ahead because they will have to ask every single employee what their vaccination status is and create a roster with that information.
OSHA said employees or employers who knowingly provide false information or fraudulent documents could face a $10,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in prison.
For details on how to comply, click here.