Last week, business groups asked the White House to delay President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private companies with 100+ employees “until after the holiday season.” Also, last week, labor unions asked the White House for additional worker protections beyond mandatory vaccinations.
By the end of the week, I expected that the White House would release additional information about the vaccine mandate’s scope and substance.
Nada. Well, not quite.
One of the big issues around the vaccine mandate is who will pay for the cost of weekly testing for employees who decide not to get vaccinated. I’m talking about the tests themselves.
Ben Penn at Bloomberg Law reports here that “[t]he Biden administration’s highly anticipated vaccine mandate rule for private-sector employers will allow businesses to force workers who refuse to get the Covid-19 shot to pay for required weekly tests and masks, two sources familiar with the matter said.”
Well, not always.
According to the article, “[e]mployers will be required to absorb testing and mask costs in cases where a worker qualifies for a [religious or health-related] exemption to vaccination under federal law, the sources said.”
Also, unionized employers may have to pay for tests where a collective bargaining agreement requires it.
The article also notes that “[u]nvaccinated workers will be required to wear masks while indoors and in close contact with coworkers, the sources said.”
We already know that, once the Biden mandate is finalized, employers must provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from the effects of any vaccination. But, who will have to pay for the time — not the cost of the test, but the time — non-exempt employees spend getting tested? The Department of Labor has already said that employers must pay for the testing time if the employer requires COVID-19 testing during the workday. But what if workers choose testing over vaccines?
The purpose of this mandate is to increase vaccination numbers. Paying employees to test instead undermines the goal of getting more people vaccinated. So, it would surprise me if the DOL will forces employers to pay employees for the time spent getting tested. (Your mileage may vary under state law).