Federal COVID-19 Vaccination and Safety Requirements

OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

In response to the Jan. 13, 2022, U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay the enforcement of the vaccine-or-testing emergency temporary standard (ETS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is withdrawing the ETS effective Jan. 26, 2022, as an enforceable standard. The ETS will continue as a proposed rule for a potential permanent standard in the future. OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of employees. See COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS and What to Expect Now that OSHA Has Withdrawn Its Vaccine-or-Testing ETS.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Vaccination Requirements

After the CMS rule had been blocked (stayed) in 25 states, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to lift the stay on Jan. 13, 2022. The CMS rule is currently in effect in all states. See What Do the Supreme Court Rulings on Vaccine Directives Mean for Employers? and Health Care Worker Vaccination Deadlines Extended in Some States.

OSHA Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard

On June 21, 2021, OSHA adopted an ETS for health care employers that established new requirements to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 in all settings where any employee provides health care services or health care support services, with some exceptions. There is not a vaccination requirement for health care workers in this ETS, but many health care workers will be subject to the employee vaccination requirements in the CMS rule described above.

The health care ETS requires covered employers to create a written plan to identify and control COVID-19 workplace hazards and to implement certain measures to reduce workplace transmission of COVID-19. For an overview of the ETS requirements, see Summary COVID-19 Healthcare ETS.

On Dec. 21, 2021, the six-month time period expired in which OSHA was to complete the process of making the health care ETS a permanent standard. On Dec. 27, 2021, OSHA announced that the agency is continuing to work to create a final standard but is withdrawing the non-recordkeeping portions of the health care ETS at this time. The COVID-19 log and reporting provisions remain in effect.

OSHA’s statement indicates that as the agency “works towards a permanent regulatory solution, OSHA will vigorously enforce the general duty clause and its general standards, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Standards.”

Federal Contractor Vaccination Requirement

The Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors requires all covered contractor employees to be fully vaccinated no later than Dec. 8, 2021; however, this deadline has since been changed to Jan. 4, 2022. The order applies to new, extended, newly optioned or renewed contracts (or contract-like instruments) entered into on or after Oct. 15, 2021, and whose value exceeds $250,000.

The order was temporarily blocked nationwide on Dec. 7, 2021, and later limited in scope to specific states. The federal government has since announced it will not take action to implement or enforce the executive order, absent further written notice from the agency.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has updated its frequently asked questions for federal contractor compliance.

Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

After a federal district court judge blocked the federal employee vaccine requirement in January 2022, a federal appeals court reversed that decision on April 7, 2022, reinstating the vaccine requirement. The groups that challenged the vaccination directive asked the appeals court to rehear the case with a full panel of judges, and on June 27, 2022, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to an en banc hearing. Until this hearing is conducted, the vaccination requirement for federal employees will not be enforced. See Appeals Court Puts Brakes on Federal Employee Vaccine Requirement.

COVID-19 Vaccination—General


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