Kate Tornone is the Editor-in-Chief of HR Dive, a sister publication of Construction Dive. Opinions are those of the author.
When President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government will soon require many employers to prescribe coronavirus vaccines for workers, there was a lot of manual labor over the legality of the rule.
Is it legal And if so, is it enforceable?
It does not matter.
The government is frustrated with the damage those who remain unvaccinated are causing, Biden said. The aim is to save lives and get the economy back on track as quickly as possible. And Biden has long held the position that employers can.
We have also known for some time that employers prescribe vaccines are probably legal, provided housing is provided for those who cannot be admitted because of a disability or genuine religious belief.
But while some companies have passed vaccine mandates in the past few weeks, others have hesitated. Various labor law attorneys have told HR Dive reporters that clients are interested in such guidelines but are concerned about legal challenges.
This newly announced standard is designed to do more than alleviate those concerns Enforcement Agency Assurances could.
It is designed to take the pressure off employers and allow them to point out a state requirement.
It was developed to create a level playing field in the competition for talent. Fewer employees will quit because of a mandate if competitors are subject to the same requirements.
And it’s designed to get employers to take mandates now – before OSHA can publish a standard and before there’s a major legal challenge.
The administration knows that employers are likely to have a solid legal footing in accepting mandates, and they have determined that the economic and public benefits that could be gained today are worth the risk of legal defeat if an OSHA standard is established may get more gun violence later.