Federal COVID-19 Vaccination and Safety Requirements

OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its highly anticipated emergency temporary standard (ETS) on Nov. 5, 2021, requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure employees get vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19 and wear a mask. However, litigation began immediately and continues regarding the agency’s authority to issue the ETS.

A U.S. circuit court issued a nationwide stay on the ETS the next day; however, on Dec. 17, 2021, the stay was lifted by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the legal challenges and reinstated the stay of the ETS on Jan. 13, 2022. At this time the ETS requiring vaccination or weekly testing for employees of private employers with 100 or more employees is not in effect. See What Do the Supreme Court Rulings on Vaccine Directives Mean for Employers?

Employers can keep up to date with OSHA’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the agency’s website.

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 Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued guidance and a list of frequently asked questions for federal contractor compliance.

On Nov. 30, 2021, a federal district court in Kentucky temporarily blocked the directive that employees of federal contractors and subcontractors get vaccinated. The district court's opinion applies only to Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, which brought suit challenging the directive. See Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors Blocked in 3 States.

On Dec. 7, 2021, a federal district court in Georgia temporarily blocked the requirement nationwide. See Vaccine Directive for Federal Contractors Blocked Nationwide.

Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

On Jan. 21, 2022, the executive order requiring vaccination for federal employees was blocked by a federal district court in Texas. The Department of Justice will appeal, but for now, further compliance with this order is on hold. See Vaccine Requirement for Federal Workers Blocked.

COVID-19 Vaccination—General


Return to Work

For more information, see Osmosis' video explaining COVID-19.

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