White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday it’s not clear when a new rule from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requiring more than 80 million private sector workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine will go into effect.
President Joe Biden’s executive order, announced Sept. 9, is set to require all workers at private businesses with 100 employees or more to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or show a weekly negative test. It will also require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they suffer an adverse reaction post-vaccination.
Fines for companies that don’t comply with the law could total as much as $13,600, and Biden’s budget reconciliation package being considered in Congress includes a measure to increase OSHA vines by tenfold.
Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is overseeing the creation of an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement the new vaccine requirement. Following Biden’s announcement, officials have said the ETS is expected to be applied in the coming weeks.
Psaki reiterated on Wednesday, almost four weeks after the initial announcement, that no firm timeline has been set by the White House.
“We never gave an exact timeline,” she said. “So—maybe we should have been more specific at the time. Obviously, it takes some time and we want to make sure when we put these out they are clear and they provide the guidance necessary for businesses.”
She went on to say, “I can’t give you a timeline. OSHA is working on them. Hopefully we’ll know more in the coming weeks.”
The OSHA law on ETS states: “Under certain limited conditions, OSHA is authorized to set emergency temporary standards that take effect immediately and are in effect until superseded by a permanent standard. OSHA must determine that workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful, or to new hazards and that an emergency standard is needed to protect them.”
While the Biden Administration maintains that the mandates are legal under OSHA law, several Republican lawmakers and attorneys general have voiced opposition to the executive order, with many vowing to fight it in court.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective tools to prevent the disease, but getting the vaccine is and should be a choice,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement following Biden’s announcement. “These mandates are outrageous. They will never stand up in court. We must and will push back.”
Many private businesses and state governments have put their own vaccine mandates into effect ahead of the federal law, and some large companies have fired hundreds of workers who refuse to get the shot.
United Airlines says it is set to terminate 593 of its employees who have chosen to not comply with the company’s vaccine mandate. Almost 200 Minnesota healthcare workers sued their employers in a bid to block mandates at their facilities. And Thousands of New York health care workers have been put on unpaid leave following a Sept. 27 deadline in that state for health care workers to get vaccinated.
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.