(The Center Square) – Large employers in Illinois, and across the country, now have Jan. 4 to have employees comply with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is bracing for the fallout.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule for employers of more than 100 employees to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates or require weekly testing and masks is published Friday and in effect. There's a Jan. 4 deadline for full vaccination.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a news release. “We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19.”
“The emergency temporary standard does not require employers to pay for testing,” the agency said. “Employers may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements, or other collectively negotiated agreements. Employers are also not required to pay for face coverings.”
While some reports say the fines for noncompliance by an employer could be up to $14,000 per infraction, Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said it could be much more.
“I would imagine that some employer would say ‘well, let's’ wait for the full rule making so we really understand what’s going on,’ well if they get caught in that six-month window, the potential fine could be $136,000,” Maisch said.
Maisch also said the rule published and in effect Friday opens the door for a flood of COVID liability lawsuits against employers.
“It allows someone to go ahead and charge that their employer didn’t execute on the mandate as well as they should have and consequently they received COVID in the workplace,” Maisch said.
It’s expected there will be lawsuits opposing the rule.
One announced by The Daily Wire media outlet filed in the 6th Circuit seeks an emergency stay on the rule.
“Even if it had such power, Congress did not delegate it to OSHA, which is overtly trying to ram this unconstitutional, extra-statutory, and unprecedented mandate into immediate effect through emergency rulemaking to avoid public comment in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act,” said a statement from The Daily Wire.
But, OSHA is also taking public comment on possibly expanding the mandate to smaller employers.
Expanding the mandate even further will further compound labor shortages, Maisch said.
“The repercussions of what seems like a simple mandate, it's going to create havoc in the labor market that’s already really, really problematic,” Maisch said.
There are more than 5.8 million employees across all sectors in Illinois, many being impacted by the president’s mandate published and in effect Friday.