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GOP Lawmakers Demand OSHA Suspend Vaccination Mandate ‘Scheme’

Sept. 29, 2021, 8:18 PM

Republican House lawmakers with oversight of OSHA are calling for the agency to suspend its work writing an emergency temporary standard that would require Covid-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for 80 million workers.

“This scheme not only passes the buck to workers and job creators, but it also creates massive uncertainty, costs, and liabilities for many employers,” 23 GOP members of the House Education and Labor Committee said in their letter Wednesday to Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the agency had a reply.

President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 called on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard that would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their workforce be vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested weekly for the virus.

OSHA hasn’t released details on the standard’s likely provisions, such as who would pay for testing, whether employees working from home would be counted, and how worksites with multiple small employers would be counted.

The letter outlines Republican concerns that the Biden administration is depending on an emergency process to circumvent the usual notice-and-comment procedures for OSHA rulemakings. An emergency temporary standard can be enacted in a matter of months while usual permanent OSHA rules can take years to complete.

Business groups have asked to weigh in on the rulemaking process. The Coalition for Workplace Safety—which is led by groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, and National Association of Manufacturers—wrote to OSHA last week, asking the agency’s top official to reconsider what they described as the agency’s “decision” to exclude outside groups from the process.

In their letter Wednesday, the representatives said the DOL"does not plan to solicit any public input until after the ETS takes effect, despite the plethora of logistical, legal, and financial concerns we are hearing from businesses of all sizes in our Congressional Districts daily.”

Companies found to be violating the standard could be among those feeling the financial bite of a new OSHA fine structure proposed in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation measure Congress is considering, the Republicans said.

While the maximum fine for a serious OSHA violation is now $13,653, the reconciliation act would raise the maximum fine to $70,000. Violators designated as willful or repeat could face fines as high as $700,000 instead of $136,532.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com