September 23, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 266


September 22, 2023

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September 21, 2023

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OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccine, Testing Mandates Back On – Effective Jan. 10, 2022

On December 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay of OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that had been imposed by the Fifth Circuit, putting the ETS’ employer vaccination and testing requirements for COVID-19 back into effect. Following the decision, OSHA announced a Jan. 10, 2022, effective date, but added it will not cite employers for noncompliance with the testing requirements prior to Feb. 9, 2022.  

Accordingly, employers can consider these dates as the new compliance deadlines: Jan. 10 for all ETS requirements except testing and Feb. 9 for testing requirements. Notably, OSHA will require employers to demonstrate good faith efforts to come into compliance. So employers covered by the ETS should begin taking steps to demonstrate compliance and documenting all such efforts.  

Right now, employers should conduct vaccination inquiries, create a roster of employee vaccination status, and decide whether to require vaccinations for all employees or allow weekly testing as an alternative.  

Employers should also consider reviewing options from payroll providers or HRIS software for the confidential storage and retrieval of vaccination and test information. Unionized employers need to consider their bargaining obligations over the discretionary aspects of the ETS, as well as over the effects of its nondiscretionary requirements. 

This court decision adds another twist in the winding litigation challenging President Biden’s federal vaccine mandates. Following the Dec. 17 decision, the parties challenging the ETS immediately filed emergency applications with the U.S. Supreme Court to reimpose the stay. Justice Brett Kavanaugh will review and make a decision on the applications, as he is the justice assigned to hear such petitions arising from the Sixth Circuit. Justice Kavanaugh will have the option to grant the applications and stay the ETS pending review by the full Supreme Court, refer them to the full court for a decision, or take no action pending review.

It is possible the Supreme Court will weigh in on the emergency applications quickly, so employers can expect updates in the coming days and weeks.  

© 2023 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 354

About this Author

Jackie Gessner Employment lawyer Barnes Thornburg

Jackie Gessner is an associate in the Indianapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg, where she is a member of the firm's Labor and Employment Law Department.

Prior to joining Barnes & Thornburg full time, Jackie was a summer associate and a legislative intern in the firm's Indianapolis office. She also served as a pro bono legal clerk in the Criminal Appellate Division of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General.

Upon graduating from Purdue University, Jackie interned with the Indiana State Senate and worked as a campaign manager for a 2010 Indiana...

Mark Kittaka, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Fort Wayne and Columbus, Labor and Employment Law Attorney

Mark S. Kittaka is a partner and the administrator of the Labor and Employment Law Department of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Fort Wayne, Indiana office. Mr. Kittaka’s practice covers all areas of labor and employment law including federal and state litigation concerning discriminatory practices and retaliation claims, including, but not limited to: Title VII race, sex, color, and religious discrimination claims; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (disability discrimination, reasonable accommodation, interactive process); Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); the Family and...

Donald P. Lawless, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Labor and Employment Law Attorney

Donald P. Lawless is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg’s Labor and Employment Law Department in Grand Rapids, Michigan and serves as Vice Chair of the firm's Higher Education Practice Group. He has 25+ years of experience working on behalf of employers to meet their labor and employment law objectives.

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