One of employers’ most hard-learned lessons throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to expect the unexpected. And with cases of the virus unfortunately spiking as we’ve headed into the Fall, another unexpected order was recently handed down when President Biden announced that his administration is mandating vaccination or weekly testing at businesses with 100 or more employees.
Since the beginning, we’ve stressed that businesses – not government – are usually best suited to make these decisions. Over the last 18 months, employers have proven their commitment to ensuring healthy communities by innovating their business models and investing in the best practices that will help them financially survive this pandemic. Along with learning to “expect the unexpected,” employers have also learned that every new government mandate comes questions about how to achieve compliance.
The Biden administration’s latest vaccination and testing orders are no different. When the president announced the new mandates, PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr spoke on behalf of Pennsylvania’s entire business community in raising concerns about their impact on employers, including the all-important questions of:
- Who will pay for expanded testing, and will employers have access to funding to help with these costs?
- What will the penalties be for non-compliance, and how will those penalties be enforced?
- Will liability protections exist for businesses acting in compliance with the latest round of OHSA standards?
That last question – about liability protections – has been at the heart of the PA Chamber’s legislative agenda since this pandemic began. Businesses that are working to understand and follow these ever-changing operational expectations need to have safe harbor protections in place, so they can proceed with the peace of mind that they can’t be the target of an undue lawsuit if they’re doing all they can to operate safely.