C of C – New OSHA COVID ETS Terrifying for Montana Businesses
If your business has 100 or more employees, locally, regionally or nationally, the new OSHA ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) places a huge burden that may include thousands of dollars in fines for any employee who is not fully vaccinated against COVID 19, and it could get worse; much worse.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a video webinar on Friday to share the information for employers regarding the OSHA ETS.
One of the presenters, Neil Bradley said just because an employee may have already had COVID and recovered, OSHA does not count ‘natural immunity’ as a substitute for being ‘fully vaccinated’.
“OSHA is not accepting prior recovery and natural immunity from COVID as a substitute for vaccines,” said Bradley.” They’re telling people that they have to be vaccinated even if they've come through the disease and have natural immunity. I think this is interesting. You are considered fully vaccinated once you have the shots, even though they typically require some period of time after that to be considered fully in effect, but once you have the shots, you're considered fully vaccinated under the ETS.”
Dozens of states, including Montana, have filed lawsuits against the OSHA dictates. That makes no difference in the demand for full compliance.
“Just because a state objected to this or is trying to pass a law to counter this does not mean that this regulation is not an effect,” said spokesman Glenn Spencer. “It is in effect in those states that are challenging this regulation. Employers need to understand that the federal regulation would supersede any state attempts to counter it.”
Each violation carries a $14,000 fine from OSHA, unless the agency determines that the business or company is ‘not taking the regulation seriously’, the federal hammer will fall heavily on that business, said Chamber of Commerce spokesman Marc Freedman.
“At this point, I think the standard approach (of a $14,000 fine per violation) is going to be for employers. So if they come in and they find that you haven't met some of these requirements, they'll cite the employer as one entity and not rack up each individual employee that hasn't been captured. However, if the employee or demonstrates that they have not taken this regulation seriously, and OSHA feels that they need to make an example, they could add up each individual employee and call that a egregious penalty and add up each violation.”
But wait. It gets even better.
Bradley said the $14,000 fine could be higher, much higher, if President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ reconciliation package passes Congress.
“As part of the ‘Build Back Better’ reconciliation package, the OSHA penalties will increase dramatically. If this is passed and enacted, OSHA penalties will go up. The $14,000 level I mentioned earlier will become $70,000, and then other penalties scale up accordingly. So that jumps up very quickly. And if that is enacted and OSHA comes to and cites you for these violations, it will get very expensive very quickly.”
A note to employers from OSHA, said Bradley.
“Employers will need to develop a program that will verify the vaccination status of all of your employees. It will require you to obtain proof of that vaccination and it will require you to maintain records of vaccination status. Now, the overall thrust of this rule is to encourage employers to actually get all your employees vaccinated,” he said.
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