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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.

Brian Rochel to Present on COVID-19 Employment Law Issues

On October 22, 2020, Brian Rochel will present “Employment Trends from the COVID-19 Battlefield,” along with Teresa Thompson of Fredrikson & Byron. Brian and Teresa will share their views as an employee-side lawyer and employer-side lawyer, respectively, on recent and upcoming topics related to COVID-19.

Click here to learn more and to register for the Webinar.

Brian Rochel Interviewed Regarding COVID-19 and Employment Law

On July 6, 2020, TKKR partner Brian Rochel was featured in an interview by Minnesota Public Radio about current legal protections employees have in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the article here.

Brian discussed the real fear many employees have that if they raise concerns related to COVID-19, they will be retaliated against, by being fired and forced to search for employment during the current difficult economic time. He also discussed how the legal protections related to COVID-19 are uncharted territory for Minnesota courts and the importance of discussing any potential issues with an employment lawyer.

Under Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s Peacetime Emergency Executive Order 20-54, employees are, among other things, protected against retaliation for reporting COVID-19 workplace concerns or refusing to work in conditions that they, in good faith, believe could potentially expose them to COVID-19.

All of these protections contain important caveats, so if you have questions about Executive Order 20-54, or COVID-19 at work, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer. If you are an employee who has experienced difficult circumstances with your employer related to COVID-19, we are here to help. Please contact Teske, Katz, Kitzer, and Rochel, PLLP. We advocate on behalf of employees facing discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblower related issues in the workplace.

Governor Walz’s Recent COVID-19 Order Gives Employees Important Rights

On May 13, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-54, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Among other things, the Governor’s executive order provides rights to Minnesota employees that all workers should be aware of.

First, the executive order prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who ask their employers questions or expresses concerns about COVID-19 (the Coronavirus), or their health and safety regarding the virus outbreak.

Second, the executive order generally prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who wear gloves, cloth, eye protection, or other protective gear in the course of their work.

Third, the executive order gives employees the right to refuse to work under conditions that they, in good faith, reasonably believe pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.

Fourth, the executive order gives employees the right to request the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (“DLI”) conduct an inspection of their workplace if they suspect a COVID-19 threat to health and/or safety is present.

Lastly, the executive order gives employees the right to seek reasonable accommodations related to COVID-19, including the ability to work from home, if possible.

All of these protections contain important caveats, so if you have questions about Executive Order 20-54, or COVID-19 at work, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer.

If you are an employee who has experienced difficult circumstances with your employer related to COVID-19, we are here to help. Please contact Teske, Katz, Kitzer, and Rochel, PLLP. We advocate on behalf of employees facing discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblower related issues in the workplace.