President Biden’s New Vaccine Mandate—What It Means for Employees

On Thursday, September 9, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order with new vaccine mandates covering millions of employees. Here are several ways the new regulations impact employees.

Who Is Covered?

  • All federal employees;
  • All federal contractors;
  • All employees of employers who employee 100 or more employees;
  • Nearly all employees who are healthcare workers at health facilities (only those that receive Medicare or Medicaid);
  • Many teachers (those working in Head Start and in schools run by the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Indian Affairs).

Some estimates are that this will impact more than 80 million workers in the U.S. and at least 1.4 million workers in Minnesota.

What Is Required?

  • Covered employees will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, or else be tested at least once per week.
  • Is it not clear when exactly all the mandates all go into effect. However, Minnesota OSHA has 30 days from September 9 to issue rules that will go into effect for Minnesota workers.
  • Federal employees have 75 days to be vaccinated.

What If My Employer Does Not Require Vaccination?

  • Covered employers are required to follow the federal mandates as well as related state regulations, such as those imposed by Minnesota OSHA. Any employer that fails to do so violates the law.
  • Employees can and should report violations of workplace safety laws, including OSHA and Minnesota OSHA regulations. Employers cannot retaliate against employees who report violations of law, including COVID-19 safety regulations.

What If I Choose Not to Get Vaccinated or Be Tested?

  • This is a common—and hotly debated—question. While there are several exceptions, generally, employers are legally allowed to terminate employees who choose to not be vaccinated.
  • The exceptions to vaccine mandate include on the basis of disability and for those seeking religious exceptions. The EEOC is a great resource for the details of those exemptions. However, it is important to highlight that the standards for seeking a medical or religious exemption are high.